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Nonverbal self-accuracy: Individual differences in knowing one's own social interaction behavior

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The present study investigated individual differences in nonverbal self-accuracy (NVSA), which is the ability to accurately recall one's own nonverbal behavior following a social interaction. Participants were videotaped during a social interaction with a stranger and then asked to recall how often they displayed five common nonverbal behaviors. Correlations between the self-reported recall of nonverbal behavior and judges' behavioral coding indicated that individuals can accurately recall their own nonverbal behavior at better than chance levels. Higher NVSA also was associated with more public self-awareness, less positive expressivity, more accurate recognition of anger in facial expressions, and higher neuroticism. The results suggest that NVSA is a measurable individual difference construct with potential implications for self-awareness in social interactions.
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Nonverbal self-accuracy: Individual differences in knowing one's own
social interaction behavior
Nora A. Murphy
a,
, Marianne Schmid Mast
b
,JudithA.Hall
c
a
Loyola Marymount University, Department of Psychology, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles,CA 90045, USA
b
University of Lausanne, Department of Organizational Behavior, Quartier UNIL-Dorigny, Bâtiment Internef, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
c
Northeastern University, Department of Psychology, 125 Nightingale Hall, 360 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 7 March 2016
Received in revised form 8 May 2016
Accepted 10 May 2016
Available online xxxx
The present study investigated individual differences in nonverbal self-accuracy (NVSA), which is the ability to
accurately recall one's own nonverbal behavior following a social interaction. Participants were videotaped dur-
ing a social interaction with a stranger and then asked to recall how often they displayed ve common nonverbal
behaviors. Correlations between the self-reported recall of nonverbal behavior and judges' behavioral coding in-
dicated that individuals can accurately recall their own nonverbal behavior at better than chance levels. Higher
NVSA also was associated with more public self-awareness, less positive expressivity, more accurate recognition
of anger in facial expressions, and higher neuroticism. The results suggest that NVSA is a measurable individual
difference construct with potential implications for self-awareness in social interactions.
© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords:
Nonverbal self-accuracy
Self-awareness
Nonverbal behavior
Anxiety
Interpersonal accuracy
1. Introduction
How well do people know their own nonverbal behavior in a social
interaction? While there is a history of examininghow well individuals
recall others' behavior or appearance following a social interaction (e.g.,
Hall, Murphy, & Schmid Mast, 2006), only a few studies have specically
investigated accuracy in recalling one's own nonverbal behavior.
Gosling, John, Craik, and Robins (1998) videotaped graduate students
in group discussions; the participants estimated how often they en-
gaged in certain behaviors during the discussion and trained observers
coded the participants' videotaped behavior. Comparing the self-esti-
mates with observer codings indicated that participants were accurate
in estimating their own rates of behaviors such as laughed out loud
and made humorous remark. In a series of four studies, Hall,
Murphy, and Schmid Mast (2007) demonstrated that participants
could accurately recall their own nonverbal behavior at better-than-
chance levels following a social interaction with a stranger. Participants
had the highest accuracy rates for recalling smiling and lowest accuracy
for recalling self-touch, though accuracy was signicant and better-
than-chance across all ve measured behaviors. Hall and colleagues
identied this skill as nonverbal self-accuracy (NVSA), which is thecor-
respondence between self-reported recall of behaviors and coding of
specic behaviors based on observation of interactions. Combined, the
previous studies suggest that individuals have some degree of accuracy
in recalling their own nonverbal behavior.
The implications of accurately (or inaccurately) remembering one's
own nonverbal behavior is related to several theoretical lines within
personality and social psychology. For instance, self-perception theory
suggests that individuals come to know their own emotions and atti-
tudes through the observation of their own behavior (Bem, 1972). In
other words, individuals' attitudesand emotions are shaped by their be-
havior. This perspective implies that individuals can accurately remem-
ber their own behavior. Similarly, self-presentation theory reasons that
individuals are motivated to and can successfully convey certain im-
pressions (Murphy, 2007; Schlenker, 1980). Nonverbal behavior plays
a critical role in self-presentation strategies (DePaulo, 1992) and, pre-
sumably, people need to have some awareness of their behavior if
they can successfully portray a desired impression.
Other constructs also suggest that knowing one's own behavior has
implications for social outcomes. Meta-accuracy research demonstrates
that individuals are better-than-chance in knowing the impressions
they make on others (Carlson & Kenny, 2012; Frauendorfer, Schmid
Mast, Murphy, & Darioly, 2016). That is, the belief about the impression
they are making matches the impression actually made (Carlson, Furr, &
Vazire, 2010). Presumably, in orderto be aware of the impression one is
making, one must have some insight into how one behaves. Vazire and
Carlson (2010) explain that the correspondence between self-percep-
tions and objective measures indicates that people are grounded in
some reality they are not completely clueless about their conveyed
Personality and Individual Differences 101 (2016) 3034
The authors declare no potential conicts of interest.
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: nora.murphy@lmu.edu (N.A. Murphy),
Marianne.SchmidMast@unil.ch (M. Schmid Mast), j.hall@neu.edu (J.A. Hall).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.05.023
0191-8869/© 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Personality and Individual Differences
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
impressions or behavior; otherwise, people likely would not successful-
ly function in the social world. However, typical meta-accuracy studies
involve impressions of personality traits or global behavior patterns
(e.g., is impulsive), rather than specic behavioral acts. We consider
NVSA to be a type of meta-accuracy at the behavioral level, as it indi-
cates the extent to which individuals have awareness of how they be-
have in an interaction. Indeed, self-observation was identied as one
possible source in meta-perception formation, whereby individuals re-
ect on their own behavior to estimate how they are seen by others
(Carlson& Kenny, 2012; Kenny, 1994). Thus, NVSA may be a component
of impression formation and meta-accuracy.
Another related construct to NVSA may be interpersonal accuracy
(IPA), which is an individual difference in the ability to accurately detect
others' states and traits (Hall, Schmid Mast, & West, 2016; Murphy,
2016). The ability to notice and/or recall another person's behavior, as
well as the ability to make correct inferences about others' states/traits
based on their behavior, are both components of IPA (Hall et al., 2006).
While interpersonal accuracy reects recalling or interpreting another's
state/trait via behavior, NVSA is the ability to recall one'sownbehavior,
perhaps a type of intrapersonal accuracy. We posit that conrming and
validating NVSA as an individual difference skill may have implications
for a variety of social theories and constructs including the aforemen-
tioned constructs of self-perception, self-presentation, meta-percep-
tion, meta-accuracy, and interpersonal accuracy.
Though Gosling et al. (1998) previously investigated the accurate re-
call of nonverbal behavior and Hall et al. (2007) established that NVSA
was a measurable construct, no other studies have further investigated
NVSA. The present study sought to replicate and conrm that NVSA is a
measureable individual difference and extend previous NVSA ndings
by investigating associations between NVSA and socio-emotional vari-
ables related to social interactions. In line with the Hall et al. ndings,
we expected to nd that NVSA would be signicantly above-chance
for the ve nonverbal behaviors measured: gaze, gesture, nod, self-
touch, and smile. Individual NVSA scores were predicted to be signi-
cantly above chance. (See Method for description of the two NVSA scor-
ing techniques.)
In terms of possible NVSA associations with social outcome vari-
ables, previous interpersonal accuracy research demonstrated that
higher accuracy is associated with a variety of social variables, such as
lower anxiety, less neuroticism, and better social skills (Davis & Kraus,
1997; Hall, Andrzejewski, & Yopchick, 2009; McClure & Nowicki,
2001). If NVSA is an individual difference in intrapersonal accuracy,
then perhaps NVSA shows relationships to social variables, much like
IPA is related to a variety of positive social outcomes. Based on this rea-
soning, we selected a host of social variables that might show relation-
ships to NVSA. All selected measures were chosen based on a priori
reasoning for possible associations with NVSA.
Accurately recalling one's own behavior presumably involves
awareness of and being attentive to one's own behavior so the following
were measured: public self-awareness, which is attentiveness to one's
appearance and mannerisms; private self-awareness, which is attentive-
ness to one's internal states (Govern & Marsch, 2001); and self-monitor-
ing, a skill inunderstanding thesocial rules of a given situation (Riggio &
Friedman, 1982). Emotion may play a role in accurately recalling one's
own behavior. For instance, perhaps emotion expressivity might be relat-
ed to NVSA such that if one is more emotionally expressive,perhaps it's
easier to recall one's own expressive behavior. Relatedly, previous re-
search demonstrates that various personality traits (e.g., higher emo-
tional intelligence, more empathy, less psychopathy) are associated
with reliable emotion recognition (Besel & Yuille, 2010; Edgar, McRorie,
& Sneddon, 2012; Prado, Treeby, & Crowe, 2015). Thus, we investigated
whether the individual difference of NVSA was associated with emotion
recognition. Emotion regulation, which includes habitual strategies
employed to cope with emotional conditions, was also measured with
the reasoning that if an individual is to regulate his/her own emotional
responses, perhaps s/he needs insight into his/her own nonverbal
behavior. Finally, because of their potential contributions to social out-
comes, the trait constructs of anxiety and neuroticism were also mea-
sured in all participants (e.g., Courbalay, Deroche, Prigent, Chalabaev,
& Amorim, 2015; Ksinan & Vazsonyi, 2016). Given the negative social
outcomes typically associated with high anxiety and neuroticism, we
were curious as to whether NVSA would relate negatively with these
constructs.
2. Method
This research was conducted in compliance with APA ethical stan-
dards in research and received IRB approval at Loyola Marymount Uni-
versity prior to any data collection.
2.1. Participants and dyad interactions
Participants were recruited from a university subject pool and re-
ceived partial course credit for participation; all participants completed
the study after providing informed consent. Ninety dyads involving 180
participants completed the study. Six dyads were dropped because
members of those dyads indicated knowing each other well. Only one
member of each dyad wasincluded in analysis due to the non-indepen-
dence of dyad interactions. The nal sample contained 84 participants
(58 women; M
age
= 18.94 years, SD = 1.14) with 61% in their rst
year of university. Just over half the participants (54%) reported their
ethnicity as Caucasian, 17% reporting Hispanic, and 29% reporting
other or did not report.
Participants were randomly assigned to be a participant target or in-
teraction partner in dyads. Members of each dyad were seated facing
each other at an approximately 45° angle in front of a tripod-mounted
video camera. Participants were video recorded for 5 min and told to
discuss any topic. After 5 min, the video recording ended and dyad
members were escorted to separate rooms to rate their own nonverbal
behavior in the social interaction and completed the following
measures.
1
2.2. Measures
The Situational Self-Awareness Scale (SSAS; Govern & Marsch, 2001;
α= 0.71) assessed three aspects of self-awareness: public self-aware-
ness, which is attentiveness to one's physical appearance and manner-
isms; private self-awareness, which is attentiveness to one's internal
states; and awareness of immediate surroundings, which is attentiveness
to environmental features. The Self-Monitoring Scale (SMS; Snyder,
1974;α=0.63)measuredself-monitoring, which is the extent to
which an individual adjusts to situational cues with social appropriate-
ness. The Berkeley Expressivity Questionnaire (Gross & John, 1995;α=
0.83) measured three aspects of emotion expressivity: positive expres-
sivity, which is the strength in expressing positive emotions; negative
expressivity, which is the strength in expressing negative emotions;
and intensity of impulses to express emotions, which is the inner impulse
to express emotions. Emotion recognition was measured with the Diag-
nostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2 Adult Faces (DANVA2;
Nowicki & Duke, 1994;α= 0.58), which assesses the accuracy of per-
ceiving four emotions from facial photographs. The DANVA2 results in
one overall emotion recognition score, as well as accuracy scores for
perceiving angry, fearful, happy, and sad expressions. The Emotion Reg-
ulation Questionnaire (Gross & John, 2003) assessed individual differ-
ences in the habitual use of two emotion regulation strategies:
1
The study also included an experimental manipulation where approximately half the
participants were instructed to appear likeable to their partner. Partners in the likeable
condition did not rate participants as any more likea ble or appealing than partners in
the control condition (tsb1.60, psN0.11). Thus, we concluded that the likeable manipu-
lation was not successful, and all presented data are collapsed across conditions.
31N.A. Murphy et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 101 (2016) 3034
cognitive reappraisal (α= 0.73), which is changing the way one thinks
about a situation to alter its emotional impact; and expressive suppres-
sion (α= 0.76), which is inhibiting emotionally expressive responses.
Trait anxiety was measured with the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory
(Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983;α= 0.93) and
neuroticism was assessed with an 11-item neuroticism measure
(Bolger & Schilling, 1991;α=0.80).
To measure recall of nonverbal behavior, participants rated how
much they displayed certain nonverbal behaviors during the interaction
including smile; nod your head (e.g., as if agreeing with partner); en-
gage in eye contact with your partner; touch parts of your body includ-
ing head, shoulders, arms, and legs (self-touch); and use hand gestures
(each rated from 1 = hardly ever to 9 = a great deal).
2.3. Coding of nonverbal behavior
Reliable judges coded the same ve nonverbal behaviors in the par-
ticipants that the participants self-rated: gaze, gestures, nods, self-
touch, and smiles. Gaze was coded as a continuous variable in seconds
while the remaining behaviors were coded as frequency counts. Alto-
gether, there were six judges (all female). Reliability was tested by hav-
ing two judges each code 10 participants; reliability for each behavior
was gaze r= 0.92, gesture r= 0.82, nod r= 0.70, self-touch r=0.81,
and smile r= 0.73. Each judge was assigned one behavior to code in
all participants, except for gaze which was split between two coders.
In some instances, the specied behavior could not be coded for a par-
ticipant (e.g., hat obscured participant's eyes), which accounts for the
slightly varying dfs in analyses.
2.4. Scoring of nonverbal self-accuracy (NVSA)
As in Hall et al. (2007), NVSA was calculated in two ways. NVSA
group scores were calculated by correlating each participant's rating of
his/her behavior with the measured coded behavior for each of the
ve behaviors. This results in one correlation per behavior for the
group. For example, the NVSA group score for nodding was calculated
by correlating each participant's self-rated nodding with the number
of nods for that participant as coded by the external judge, across all par-
ticipants. Thus, the resulting nodding NVSA group score is one correla-
tion for the entire group reecting the group's NVSA for nodding. The
group scores were calculated for each of the ve nonverbal behaviors
resulting in ve separate NVSA group scores.
NVSA individual scores are a reection of each participant's own indi-
vidual accuracy score across all behaviors. To calculate individual scores,
rst, the z-scores for each measured behavior as coded by external judg-
es was calculated across all participants; z-scores were used because be-
haviors were not all coded on the same metric. These z-scores for each
participant reected how much the participant engaged in a particular
behavior relative to the other participants in the sample. Then, for
each participant, his/her own corresponding z-scored coded behaviors
were correlated with his/her self-ratings of behaviors all behaviors
(i.e., ve z-scored coded behaviors with ve self-rated behaviors for
each participant), resulting in one NVSA individual score per partici-
pant. Higher individual scores reect better NVSA across all behaviors
per participant. Because NVSA individual scores were on the rmetric,
which is not normallydistributed, these scores were Fisher transformed
for any subsequent analyses and then returned to the rmetric for
presentation.
3. Results and discussion
The NVSA group scores (Ms and 95% CIs) are plotted in Fig. 1.NVSA
group accuracy was signicantly above chance (psb0.05) for all behav-
iors except nods. With the exception of the nod results, these ndings
conrmed our predictions and replicated previous ndings by Hall et
al. (2007) regarding NVSA group accuracy. However, while nod group
accuracy in the present study was lower (r= 0.06) than the average
nod group accuracy found in Hall et al. (r= 0.21, 8 independent sam-
ples in 4 studies), these two correlations are not signicantly different.
As shown in Fig. 1, there was some variability in the group accuracy
levels, with scores ranging from 0.06 to 0.44, depending on the mea-
sured behavior. Such results suggest that accuracy in recalling specic
behaviors may be dependent on the behavior recalled. Yet, at a group
level, NVSA ndings demonstrate that self-accuracy is achievable at bet-
ter-than-chance levels across distinct nonverbal behaviors.
In regards to NVSA individual accuracy scores, the distribution of
NVSA individual accuracy scores revealed one participant outlier at N3
SD below the mean; this participant was removed from analyses involv-
ing individual accuracy scores. The average NVSA individual accuracy
score (M= 0.29, SD = 0.68) was signicantly above zero, t(82) =
4.01, pb0.01, d= 0.44. Men (M=0.20,SD = 0.72) and women
(M=0.33,SD = 0.66) did not signicantly differ in NVSA individual ac-
curacy scores, t(81) = 0.89, p=0.38,d=0.21.
Because a number of the measured variables have known gender ef-
fects, gender was investigated as a possible covariate. Gender (male =
0, female = 1) was signicantly correlated with the following: positive
expressivity, r= 0.28; negative expressivity, r=0.25;intensityofim-
pulses to express emotions, r= 0.51; happiness recognition, r=0.28;
and expressive suppression, r=0.41 (Ns=83,allpsb0.05). Thus,
gender was controlled for in the remaining analyses involving these
variables. Because anxiety and neuroticism were highly correlated
with one another (r= 0.74), these scores were standardized and aver-
aged to create a single neuroticism variable. A correlation matrix with all
measured variables is presented in Table 1. The results for NVSA, shown
in the top row, reveal that individual scores were signicantly correlat-
ed with greater public self-awareness, indicating that NVSA increased if
participants reported paying more attention to their own appearance
and mannerisms, as well as lower positive expressivity, better overall
emotion recognition, better anger recognition, and higher neuroticism.
Each of these signicant correlations was of small-to-medium magni-
tude; (all | rs| between 0.23 and 0.27, with the strongest relationship be-
tween NVSA and anger recognition). The relationship between NVSA
and better overall emotion recognition was clearly driven by the anger
recognition scores, as the total overall scores are a sum of the anger,
fear, happiness, and sadness subscores, and anger was the only subscore
that signicantly correlated with NVSA individual accuracy. People high
in NVSA may be especially sensitive to interpersonal cues of disapprov-
al, possibly consistent with their greater neuroticism and negativity in
terms of their expressive style.
Conrming previous results, NVSA individual scores were signi-
cantly above-chance. Indeed, the average NVSA individual accuracy
score (r= 0.29) was remarkably close to the average NVSA individual
accuracy scores (r= 0.28) across the eight samples in Hall et al.
0.44
0.36
0.06
0.32
0.26
-0.20
0.00
0.20
0.40
0.60
0.80
1.00
Gaze Gestures Nods Self Touch Smiles
rbetween self-rated behavior and
measured behavior
Fig. 1. Groupnonverbal self-accuracy. Gaze, gestures, and smiles Ns = 81. Nods and self-
touch Ns = 80. Accuracy was signicantly above zero (pb0.05) for all behaviors except
nods. Error bars represent 95% CIs.
32 N.A. Murphy et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 101 (2016) 3034
(2007). Combined with the group accuracy ndings, the ndings sug-
gest that individuals can accurately recall their nonverbal behavior in
a social interaction. We believe these results establish the construct of
NVSA as an individual difference that can be quantied.
Overall, the results paint a portrait of a person with high NVSA as an
anxious, highly self-aware of his/her own mannerisms (i.e., public self-
awareness) individual who is less willing to express positive emotions
and sensitive to detecting anger in others. Unexpectedly, NVSA was
not signicantly correlated with self-monitoring or private self-aware-
ness, which are constructs related to self-focus. Though we speculated
that NVSA may be akin to interpersonal accuracy skills, which typically
have associations with positive social traits and outcomes (Hall et al.,
2009), NVSA was associated with negative socialvariables (e.g., neurot-
icism). Thus, perhaps NVSA is an individual difference reecting an
over-focus on oneself and evaluation apprehension, rather than a posi-
tive constructive interpersonal skill such as interpersonal accuracy. Fu-
ture research could investigate whether traits that indicate excessive
self-focus, such as narcissism and social anxiety, are related to NVSA. Fu-
ture research could also investigate the separate contributions of NVSA
and the personality trait of public self-awareness in social interaction
outcomes.
The present research involved zero-acquaintanceship interactions
where the participants did not know their interaction partner and the
interactions were fairly short (5 min). The original Hall et al. (2007)
NVSA studies also involved unacquainted pairs in short interactions
(b15 min). Based on the present data, it is unclear whether NVSA is
achievable in different contexts such as longer interactions, interactions
between acquainted individuals, or group discussions. Interpersonal ac-
curacy research suggests that context may inuence accuracy levels
(Murphy, 2016). For example, self-presentation concerns affected the
accurate perception of certain personality traits in others (e.g.
Murphy, 2007; Wall, Taylor, & Campbell, 2016). At a theoretical level,
self-perception theory emphasizes that the context in which behaviors
take place can affect a person's self-perception (Bem, 1972). In regard
to nonverbal accuracy, the aforementioned Gosling et al. (1998) study,
which also investigated accurate recall of behavior, had group interac-
tions of six members working towards a common goal (fair allocation
of merit bonuses for ctitious employees). Those authors concluded
that there was wide variation in accuracy of self-reported behavior
and their results suggest that NVSA may be context-specic. Yet, while
Gosling et al. measured a variety of behaviors, most of these were not
completely nonverbal in nature; many measured behaviorswere global
assessments or verbally based (e.g., Took charge of things at the meet-
ing,”“reminded group of time limit). Thus, it is unclear as to whether
differences in methodology (recall of specicnonverbalbehaviorvs.re-
call of global or verbal behaviors) or differences in context (dyad inter-
actions vs. group interactions; self-presentation concerns) could
account for differences in NVSA. Future research could investigate and
perhaps disentangle the effects of group size, behaviors measured, or
acquaintanceship on NVSA.
One potential limitation is that participants reported howmuch they
engaged in the ve nonverbal behavior using rating scales whereas the
trained coders used duration for measuring gaze and frequency counts
for the other four behaviors. Thus, the metrics of the variables that
were correlated together to produce indices of accuracy were not exact-
ly the same. We used this method because we thought thatto the extent
participants had accuracy in reporting their behavior, such accuracy
would be based on their global impressions of how much they did the
behaviors, not on their recollectionof actual frequency counts and dura-
tions. We believe that this lack of symmetry in the metrics is not a con-
ceptual problem, as both the self-rating and counting/timing
approaches capture the same underlying dimension of quantity. Also,
this is the same methodology used in the studies reported in Hall et al.
(2007),and both those studies and the present one produced sensibly
interpretable results. Therefore we do not think there is much, if any,
possibility that the correlations were not actually reecting accuracy
of nonverbal recall.
Another potential limitation in the present study was the relatively
narrow sample distribution of college students, constricting possible
generalizations to a larger population. It is unknown whether NVSA ex-
ists beyond young adulthood and/or in more diverse samples. However,
given that NVSA has now been established and replicated across multi-
ple college samples (Hall et al., 2007), the results establish the measur-
ability of NVSA as an individualdifferenceand provide the possibility of
exploring NVSA in more diverse populations.
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Table 1
Correlation matrix of nonverbal self-accuracy and measured variables.
Measured variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1. Nonverbal self-accuracy 0.250.09 0.00 0.02 0.240.04 0.08 0.230.270.17 0.06 0.00 0.08 0.18 0.23
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+
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+
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+
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⁎⁎ p0.01.
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34 N.A. Murphy et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 101 (2016) 3034
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Book
Cambridge Core - Communications - The Social Psychology of Perceiving Others Accurately - edited by Judith A. Hall
Chapter
This concluding chapter reviews emerging themes and commonalities woven throughout the preceding chapters. What do we know about interpersonal accuracy (IPA)? We know that people can be interpersonally accurate and that there are many measures of IPA. We know that situational settings and interpersonal context matter in IPA and people can be trained to improve their IPA. But questions remain. How accurate is accurate? What is the role of motivation in IPA? How do we distinguish between target and perceiver effects in IPA? And where exactly do we stand in terms of IPA theory? I conclude with several suggestions about possible future directions for IPA researchers, including further research on the social outcomes and mechanisms of IPA. Ultimately, I remain enthusiastic about how far we have come in understanding IPA and excited about future IPA endeavors.
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