I’ve been thinking about the Robber’s Cave experiment often lately. I hadn’t heard of the illusion of asymmetric insight though. It’s pretty dang interesting. We think other people are mostly on the surface and easy to understand, while we think we ourselves are mostly hidden and difficult to understand. Really – well that’s conceited. I’ll have to learn to stop thinking that right away.

The same researchers asked people to describe a time when they feel most like themselves. Most subjects, 78 percent, described something internal and unobservable like the feeling of seeing their child excel or the rush of applause after playing for an audience. When asked to describe when they believed friends or relatives were most illustrative of their personalities, they described internal feelings only 28 percent of the time. Instead, they tended to describe actions. Tom is most like Tom when he is telling a dirty joke. Jill is most like Jill when she is rock climbing. You can’t see internal states of others, so you generally don’t use those states to describe their personalities.

Hmm. I can’t see them, but I’m certainly aware of them. I wonder if I’m a little non-average here, not because I’m wiser or better but because I’m more nerdy – or because I’m just more interested in the difference between inner and outer than the average. I wonder, but I’m sure not going to claim it, because what could be more hopeless than to look at the findings of a psych experiment and say “yes but I’m not like that.” Only only only…it seems to me I do often have the iceberg thought about people. But maybe everybody does, yet still answers the questions that way.

Anyway – the point is, you can always be confident that you’re giving yourself and your friends a lot more credit than you’re giving the other team, and you should keep that at the front of your mind.


20 Responses to “Icebergs”