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How to Seem Telepathic: Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal

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How to Seem Telepathic: Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal

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People can have difficulty intuiting what others think about them at least partly because people evaluate themselves in more fine-grained detail than observers do. This mismatch in the level of detail at which people construe themselves versus others diminishes accuracy in social judgment. Being a more accurate mind reader requires thinking of oneself at a higher level of construal that matches the observer's construal (Experiments 1 and 2), and this strategy is more effective in this context than perspective taking (Experiments 3a and 3b). Accurately intuiting how others evaluate themselves requires the opposite strategy-thinking about others in a lower level of construal that matches the way people evaluate themselves (Experiment 4). Accurately reading other minds to know how one is evaluated by others-or how others evaluate themselves-requires focusing one's evaluative lens at the right level of detail.
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Psychological Science
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797610367754
2010 21: 700 originally published online 31 March 2010Psychological Science
Tal Eyal and Nicholas Epley
How to Seem Telepathic : Enabling Mind Reading by Matching Construal
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Magical versions of mind reading are the stuff of science fic-
tion, but intuitive versions of mind reading are the stuff of
everyday life. People routinely wonder about what others
think (e.g., “Is she telling the truth?”), and perhaps especially
wonder what others think about them (e.g., “Does she find me
intelligent, attractive, trustworthy?”). These inferences are
often made with a great deal of confidence, but surprisingly
little accuracy (Epley, 2008; Ickes, 2003; Kenny & DePaulo,
1993; Realo et al., 2003). The correlation, for instance,
between how much people think others in a group like them
and how much others actually like them may be no better than
chance (Andersen, 1984; Kenny & DePaulo, 1993). Although
considerable research has investigated why people have diffi-
culty intuiting other minds (e.g., Nickerson, 1999), very little
has been aimed at identifying strategies that might make peo-
ple systematically better at such mind reading. The research
we report in this article does exactly that.
We suggest that people can have difficulty knowing how
they are evaluated by others (often called metaperception;
Kenny & DePaulo, 1993) at least partly because they construe
themselves differently than they construe others. In particular,
existing research demonstrates that people tend to evaluate
themselves in relatively fine-grained, low-level, and contextu-
ally based detail, whereas they tend to evaluate others in more
generalized, high-level, and abstract detail (Chambers, Epley,
Savitsky, & Windschitl, 2008; Jones & Nisbett, 1972;
Liberman & Trope, 2008; Pronin, Gilovich, & Ross, 2004;
Semin, 2004). A person is likely to evaluate his or her own
attractiveness, for instance, by focusing on fine-grained details
of hair placement, facial expressions, or clothing, whereas oth-
ers evaluate the same person by attending to more general
characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, or overall presenta-
tion. Similarly, a teacher is likely to evaluate his or her lecture
by considering specific words, phrases, or details on visual
materials, whereas audience members are likely to evaluate
the overall content and general delivery style. If people evalu-
ate themselves in more fine-grained detail than they evaluate
others, and rely on egocentric knowledge to intuit others’ eval-
uations (Gilovich, Medvec, & Savitsky, 2000; Kenny &
DePaulo, 1993; Nickerson, 1999; Royzman, Cassidy, &
Baron, 2003), then mismatched construal can create inaccu-
racy. Enabling accuracy may therefore require aligning con-
strual of the self and others.
These self-other differences in construal appear to arise
from at least two sources: differences in knowledge and differ-
ences in psychological distance. First, people tend to have
more detailed information about themselves, such as specific
past behaviors or private intentions and thoughts, than they
Corresponding Author:
Tal Eyal, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, 84105, Israel
E-mail: taleyal@bgu.ac.il
How to Seem Telepathic: Enabling Mind
Reading by Matching Construal
Tal Eyal1 and Nicholas Epley2
1Ben-Gurion University and 2University of Chicago
Abstract
People can have difficulty intuiting what others think about them at least partly because people evaluate themselves in more
fine-grained detail than observers do. This mismatch in the level of detail at which people construe themselves versus others
diminishes accuracy in social judgment. Being a more accurate mind reader requires thinking of oneself at a higher level of
construal that matches the observer’s construal (Experiments 1 and 2), and this strategy is more effective in this context
than perspective taking (Experiments 3a and 3b). Accurately intuiting how others evaluate themselves requires the opposite
strategy—thinking about others in a lower level of construal that matches the way people evaluate themselves (Experiment 4).
Accurately reading other minds to know how one is evaluated by others—or how others evaluate themselves—requires
focusing one’s evaluative lens at the right level of detail.
Keywords
mind reading, construal level, perspective taking, social perception
Received 3/17/09; Revision accepted 9/11/09
Research Article
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Enabling Mind Reading 701
have about others (Chambers et al., 2008; Gilovich et al.,
2000; Jones & Nisbett, 1972; Liberman, Trope, & Stephan,
2007; Pronin, 2008; Semin, 2004). A person knows, for
instance, that his hair looks much better today than it did yes-
terday, or that he is in worse shape than he would like to be. A
person’s potential date is likely to know none of this. Expertise
enables fine-grained distinctions and low-level comparisons
that novices cannot make, such that people can metaphorically
evaluate themselves through the fine-grained lens of a micro-
scope, whereas others evaluate them through the bigger-
picture lens of the naked eye. Second, as objects and events
become more psychologically distant—further away from the
present self in space, time, or social relation (Liberman &
Trope, 2008)—they tend to be construed in higher levels of
abstraction. Other people are more psychologically distant
than the present self, and therefore tend to be construed at a
higher level of abstraction than people construe themselves.
These two explanations suggest that people are not only able
to evaluate themselves in lower-level detail than observers are,
but because of social proximity are also more naturally
inclined to do so.
We propose that accurately reading other minds requires
perceiving the world through the same lens of construal that
others are using. The following experiments tested this hypoth-
esis both for intuiting how one is viewed by others (Experi-
ments 1, 2, and 3a) and for intuiting how others view
themselves (Experiment 4). We also examined whether differ-
ences in construal mediate differences in accuracy (Experi-
ment 1). Using both situational manipulations and dispositional
measures, we compared the effectiveness of matching con-
strual level with the effectiveness of an alternate strategy: per-
spective taking (Experiments 3a and 3b).
Experiment 1: Attractiveness
People think about themselves at a higher level of construal,
focusing on more general features, when they think about
themselves from a temporally distant perspective (e.g., the dis-
tant future) than when they think about themselves from a
temporally near perspective (e.g., the near future; Liberman &
Trope, 2008; Pronin et al., 2004). We therefore predicted that
people will be more accurate intuiting how attractive they will
be judged by others in the distant future than in the near future.
Method
Participants (N = 106 University of Chicago undergraduates)
were randomly assigned to be targets or observers. Targets
learned that the experiment was an investigation of how people
think their attractiveness will be rated by others, and posed for
a picture that was displayed on a computer screen. They
learned that an opposite-sex participant would evaluate their
attractiveness later that day (near condition) or several months
later (distant condition). Targets were asked to write down
how they thought the observer would describe the photograph
and then anticipated the observer’s attractiveness rating, on a
scale from 1 (not at all) to 9 (very). Each observer saw a tar-
get’s photograph, wrote a description of the target, and rated
the target’s attractiveness on the same scale.
Results and discussion
Accuracy. A regression analysis predicting observers’ ratings
from targets’ anticipated ratings yielded a significant interac-
tion with construal condition, β = 2.42, prep = .88; targets were
more accurate in the distant condition, r(26) = .51, prep = .97,
than in the near condition, r(27) = .23, prep = .67 (see Table 1).
The absolute difference between anticipated and actual ratings
was also significantly smaller in the distant condition than in
the near condition, t(51) = 3.08, prep = .98, d = 0.86.
Construal. To assess whether differences in construal medi-
ated differences in accuracy, we asked two naive raters to code
participants’ written descriptions for construal level on the
basis of a theoretically relevant distinction between contextu-
alized and decontextualized information (Nussbaum, Trope, &
Liberman, 2003). Contextualized details represent fine-
grained, low-level features (e.g., “hair tied in a pony tail,”
“looks tired”), whereas decontextualized details represent
general, high-level features (e.g., “Asian,” “wears glasses”).
After identifying the distinct details in each description, the
coders classified each detail as decontextualized, contextual-
ized, or “other.” Interrater agreement was high (95%), and dis-
agreements were resolved by discussion.
Table 1. Primary Dependent Measures From Experiments
1, 2, 3a, and 4
Anticipated versus
actual evaluations
Experiment and condition Correlation
Absolute
difference
Experiment 1
Low-level construal (near future) .23 2.19 (1.50)
High-level construal (distant future) .51** 1.15 (0.91)
Experiment 2
Low-level construal (near future) .31 2.05 (1.80)
High-level construal (distant future) .49* 1.43 (1.25)
Experiment 3a
Low-level construal (near future) .24 2.42 (1.33)
High-level construal (distant future) .55* 1.17 (1.25)
Perspective taking .10 2.00 (1.53)
Experiment 4
Low-level construal (near past) .36* 1.65 (1.08)
High-level construal (distant past) .14 2.17 (1.47)
Note: Experiments 1, 2, and 3a tested the relationship between targets’
predictions of how observers would rate them and observers’ actual ratings.
Experiment 4 tested the relationship between targets’ ratings of themselves
and observers’ predictions of these self-evaluations.
*p < .05. **p < .01.
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702 Eyal, Epley
As predicted, targets generated a smaller proportion of con-
textualized details in the distant condition (M = .39) than in the
near condition (M = .50), t(51) = 2.00, prep = .88, d = 0.55, and
observers generated a smaller proportion of contextualized
details (M = .38) than decontextualized details (M = .62) about
the target, t(52) = –3.59, prep > .99, d = 1.00. These differences
in construal on the part of the targets mediated the differences
in their accuracy (see Fig. 1; Sobel Z = 2.02, prep = .88).
In Experiment 2, we examined the generalizability of
Experiment 1 by testing whether people would be more accu-
rate intuiting how favorably they would be evaluated follow-
ing a short introduction when they construed themselves at a
higher level of abstraction.
Experiment 2: General Evaluations
Method
Participants (N = 82 Ben-Gurion University undergraduates)
were randomly assigned to be targets or observers. Targets
were asked to describe themselves for 2.5 min, speaking into a
microphone, and were told to talk about a range of topics (e.g.,
studies, hobbies, family, and future plans). Targets learned that
observers would listen to their presentation and form an over-
all impression of them later that day (near condition) or sev-
eral months in the future (distant condition). They predicted
observers’ overall impression on a scale ranging from –4 (neg-
ative) to +4 (positive). Observers listened to the targets’ self-
descriptions and reported their overall impressions of the
targets on the same scale.
Results and discussion
A regression analysis predicting observers’ ratings from tar-
gets’ anticipated ratings yielded a significant interaction with
construal condition, β = 2.87, prep = .96; targets were more
accurate in the distant condition, r(21) = .49, prep = .92, than in
the near condition, r(21) = –.31, prep = .74. The absolute differ-
ence between anticipated and actual ratings was also smaller
in the distant condition than in the near condition (see Table 1),
although this difference was nonsignificant, t(40) = 1.29,
prep = .74, d = 0.36. The findings of Experiments 1 and 2 sug-
gest that altering construal level can increase accuracy in at
least two very common and important instances of mind read-
ing in everyday life—intuiting how attractively one will be
evaluated by others and intuiting others’ overall impressions
of oneself.
Experiments 3a and 3b:
Comparing Strategies
One intuitive strategy for understanding other minds, sug-
gested by parents and conflict-resolution experts alike, is to
deliberately put oneself in other people’s shoes. Although per-
spective taking has many benefits in social interaction (e.g.,
Batson, Early, & Salvarani, 1997; Galinsky & Moskowitz,
2000), research suggests that systematically increasing mind-
reading accuracy may not be among them (Ickes, 2003; Ickes,
Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia, 1990; Myers & Hodges, 2009;
Stinson & Ickes, 1992).
Experiments 3a and 3b examined the relative effectiveness
of matching construal level and perspective taking. We pre-
dicted that matching construal level would be more effective
in the context of intuiting other people’s evaluations of one-
self, primarily because altering construal level more directly
influences the mechanism that we believe creates inaccuracy.
Perspective taking should increase mind-reading accuracy
only to the extent that it highlights new information about a
stimulus or event that people fail to consider from their own
egocentric perspective (Epley, Keysar, Van Boven, & Gilov-
ich, 2004; Keysar & Barr, 2002; Piaget, 1959; Thompson &
Hastie, 1990). Differences in construal level, however, are
produced by top-down influences that alter the way people
encode the very same stimulus. Such top-down influence on
construal generally occurs without people’s awareness, creat-
ing naive realism—people’s intuitive belief that they perceive
the world accurately and that others are therefore likely to per-
ceive it similarly (Ross & Ward, 1996). Differences associated
with construal level—such as in Experiments 1 and 2—are
unlikely to be affected by perspective taking to the extent that
there is little awareness that the construal level of another per-
son’s perspective differs from one’s own.
We conducted Experiments 3a and 3b to test if we could
replicate the results of Experiment 1 using an experimental
manipulation (3a) and an individual difference measure (3b)
of construal level, and also to compare the effect of construal
level with that of a standard experimental manipulation (3a)
and an individual difference measure (3b) of perspective
taking.
Proportion of
Contextualized
Details Generated
by Target
(Mediator)
Targets’
Accuracy
(Dependent
Variable)
Construal
Condition
(Independent
Variable)
β = 0.27
prep = .88
β = 0.25 (0.16)
prep = .85 (.68)
β = –0.41 (–0.35)
prep = .99 (.95)
Fig. 1. Mediational analysis for Experiment 1. Values in parentheses represent
the strength of direct or simple relationships between the variables; values
outside parentheses represent the strength of the relationships between two
variables when the other variable in the model is controlled.
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Enabling Mind Reading 703
Method
Participants. University of Chicago undergraduates participated
in both Experiment 3a (N = 110) and Experiment 3b (N = 60).
Experiment 3a procedure. The procedure for Experiment 3a
was identical to that of Experiment 1, except for the addition
of a third, randomly assigned condition: the perspective-taking
condition. Participants in the perspective-taking condition
were asked to “think about the other student who will see your
picture,” who “may view this picture from a different perspec-
tive than you do,” and to “adopt the other student’s perspective
as if you were that person, looking at your picture through his/
her eyes” (instructions based on Batson et al., 1997; Galinsky
& Moskowitz, 2000; Stotland, 1969).
Experiment 3b procedure. The procedure for Experiment 3b
was identical to that of Experiment 1, except that instead of
manipulating construal level, we measured participants’ ten-
dency to construe themselves in low-level (fine-grained) or high-
level (general) details (using the Behavior Identification Form,
BIF; Vallacher & Wegner, 1989) and their tendency for perspec-
tive taking (using the perspective-taking subscale from the Inter-
personal Reactivity Index, IRI; Davis, 1983). In the BIF, 24
midlevel actions (e.g., locking a door) are listed. For each action,
a lower-level identification (e.g., putting a key in the lock) and a
higher-level identification (e.g., securing the house) are pro-
vided, and participants choose which alternative is a better
description for them. The score is the total number of higher-
level alternatives chosen. In the IRI, participants indicate how
well each statement describes them (e.g., “When I’m upset at
someone, I usually try to ‘put myself in his shoes’ for a while”).
Results and discussion
In Experiment 3a, targets’ anticipated ratings were signifi-
cantly correlated with observers’ actual ratings in the distant
condition, r(18) = .55, prep = .94, but not in the near condition,
r(18) = –.24, prep = .61, or the perspective-taking conditions,
r(19) = –.10, prep = .38. The absolute difference between antic-
ipated and actual ratings was also significantly smaller in the
distant condition than in the near condition, t(34) = 2.91, prep =
.97, d = 0.81, and was smaller in the distant condition than in
the perspective-taking condition, although this effect was non-
significant, t(35) = 1.81, prep = .84, d = 0.50.
In Experiment 3b, individual differences in construal level
(BIF) were correlated with participants’ accuracy, r(30) = .38,
prep = .91, whereas differences in perspective taking (IRI) were
not, r(30) = .09, prep = .41.
These two experiments replicate the main conclusion from
Experiment 1: Individuals who think of themselves at higher lev-
els of construal are better able to intuit another person’s impres-
sion of them than are those who think of themselves at lower
levels of construal. Moreover, Experiment 3b demonstrates that
construal level need not be experimentally manipulated for this
effect to occur; individuals who are naturally inclined to think of
themselves at a higher level of construal show the same effect.
These experiments also suggest that altering the way people con-
strue themselves may be a more effective strategy for increasing
accuracy than is explicitly encouraging perspective taking when
the self is the target of judgment. We interpret this result tenta-
tively, suggesting only that intuiting other people’s impressions
may sometimes require more than simply trying to put oneself in
their shoes. A broader investigation of the contexts in which par-
ticular strategies increase accuracy in social judgment is beyond
the scope of the present research, but we return to this issue in the
General Discussion.
Experiment 4: Predicting Self-Evaluations
In Experiment 4, we considered one more critical prediction con-
cerning the importance of matching construal level. People care
not only about how they are evaluated by others, but also about
how others evaluate themselves. Therapists are paid to intuit their
patients’ self-evaluations, but parents, partners, and friends care
about their loved ones’ self-assessments as well. If people evalu-
ate themselves by considering relatively fine-grained details, then
intuiting another person’s self-evaluation should require a strat-
egy that is the very opposite of the one that was effective in
Experiments 1 through 3. In particular, leading observers to con-
strue a target in low-level, fine-grained detail should enable them
to more accurately intuit that person’s self-evaluation.
Method
University of Chicago undergraduates (N = 62) participated in
a procedure similar to that of Experiment 1, except that targets
rated how attractive they found themselves, using a scale rang-
ing from 1 (not at all) to 9 (very), and observers received the
construal manipulation. We did not obtain written descrip-
tions. Observers were told that the pictures were taken earlier
in the day (near condition) or a few months earlier (distant
condition), and rated how attractive they thought the targets
found themselves to be, using the same scale. Each picture
was shown to one observer in each construal condition.
Results and discussion
Because we manipulated construal within observers, we con-
ducted a Fisher r-to-Z analysis to compare correlations, rather
than a regression analysis as in Experiments 1 and 2. As pre-
dicted, observers’ were more accurate in the near condition,
r(31) = .36, prep = .88, than in the distant condition, r(31) =
–.14, prep = .65, Z(30) = 1.94, prep = .88. The absolute differ-
ence between observers’ and targets’ ratings was also margin-
ally smaller in the near condition than in the distant condition,
t(30) = –1.91, prep = .86, d = 0.69 (see Table 1). These results
suggest that matching construal level between a target and an
observer, rather than simply increasing the level of construal,
enables accuracy.
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704 Eyal, Epley
General Discussion
People can have difficulty knowing how they are evaluated by
others, but little research has identified how to systematically
increase accuracy. One barrier to accuracy is that people con-
strue themselves differently than others do, evaluating them-
selves by considering low-level and contextualized details,
whereas others consider higher-level and general features.
Reducing this barrier should therefore increase accuracy. The
five experiments reported here support this hypothesis. Partici-
pants accurately intuited how they were evaluated by others
when they took a big-picture look at themselves, considering
more general features that match an observers level of con-
strual (Experiments 1, 2, 3a, and 3b). Participants accurately
intuited how others evaluated themselves, however, when they
used a more microscopic lens and considered the low-level and
contextual details that people consider when evaluating them-
selves (Experiment 4).
Identifying a barrier to accuracy not only identifies strat-
egies for improvement, but also identifies when particular
strategies are likely to be helpful and when they are not. A
difference in construal level between oneself and another
person arises when the self or the other person is the target
of judgment, and this difference is likely to be especially
large when the difference between the self and the other is
also especially large (e.g., in the case of two strangers).
When the self or another person is not the target of judg-
ment, or when the gap in construal level of self versus others
is likely to be smaller (e.g., between very close friend),
altering construal level is likely to be a less effective strat-
egy for increasing accuracy in social judgment. And in
domains where the main barrier to understanding another
mind is not differential construal of the same stimulus but
rather attention to very different stimuli, strategies that draw
attention to new information—such as perspective taking—
may be more effective for accurately intuiting other people’s
thoughts. For instance, people tend to overestimate how
harshly they will be judged for committing an embarrassing
blunder because they focus too much on the blunder itself
and pay too little attention to all of the other information that
observers will consider when evaluating them. Asking peo-
ple to consider an observer’s perspective highlights this
additional information, and increases accuracy (Epley, Sav-
itsky, & Gilovich, 2002).
A complete understanding of how different strategies affect
mind-reading accuracy will require more empirical attention,
beyond the experiments we have presented here. We suggest,
however, that identifying the barriers that diminish people’s
ability to accurately intuit others’ mental states will be critical
for understanding the likely impact of different strategies. As
we have shown here, matching construal level helps to over-
come one barrier to getting into the minds of others. This strat-
egy will not turn other minds into open books, but it should,
under the right circumstances, make other minds somewhat
easier to read.
Acknowledgments
We thank Gabriela Gondim, Annie Haung, Megan Kolasinski,
Jasmine Kwong, Entzu Lin, Carlos Lozano, Erin Luboff, and Laura
Meek for conducting these experiments.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Funding
The Booth School of Business and the Templeton Foundation pro-
vided financial support for this work.
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... As another simple example of a common everyday mindreading test, consider an experiment we conducted in which one person was asked to predict how attractive he or she would be rated by two members of the opposite sex based on a photograph (Eyal & Epley, 2010). College undergraduates participated in this experiment, presumably among the people most familiar with thinking about how attractive others would find them to be, and who had also received some feedback for better or worse over the course of their lives on this particular dimension. ...
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... If anything, perspective taking tended to decrease accuracy, albeit significantly only in a meta-analysis of all 25 experiments. In another condition of an experiment described earlier where people were trying to predict how attractive they would be rated by another person, perspective taking again did not systematically increase accuracy (if anything, it again decreased accuracy; Study 2, Eyal & Epley, 2010; see also Loewenstein, Issacharoff, Camerer, & Babcock, 1993). Perspective taking encourages people to use information they can generate about another person when imagining themselves as the other person. ...
Chapter
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... At first glance, it might appear surprising that no real life encounter was needed to elicit the phenomenon of projection. Previous research indicates that people project their own attributes more likely onto close rather than distant others (Ames, 2004;Eyal & Epley, 2010;Murray et al., 1996). However, these results do not rule out that social cues may be sufficient to elicit projection onto persons with whom one never interacted directly. ...
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Projection is the tendency to falsely attribute one's own feelings, motives, or intentions onto others. Despite its rich theoretical roots and great value in clinical practice, projection is underexplored in empirical research, which may be partly due to the ongoing challenge of adequately measuring projection. The present research shows that individual differences in the ability to self-regulate emotions (i.e., action versus state orientation) predict projection (i.e., blaming others for one's own mistakes). Specifically, we asked participants to choose from attractive as well as unattractive options and then assessed the extent to which they falsely attribute their own unattractive choices as assigned or recommended by another person. In three studies (N1 = 111; N2 = 68, 79% female; N3 = 108, 87% female), poor emotion regulators (i.e., state-oriented participants) blamed others for their own unattractive choices under naturally occurring (Studies 1 & 2) and experimentally induced negative affect (Study 3). This tendency towards projection was absent among people with high abilities to self-regulate emotions (i.e., action-oriented participants).
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... The applications that teach positive psychology to students include two levels: The first level is the integration of positive psychology topics within the current courses and curriculum by teachers. The second level is providing independent courses on positive psychology for students by teachers (Eyal & Epley, 2010). ...
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... To the extent that a social behavior is perceived as relatively warm, those initiating it could be pleasantly surprised by how positively others respond to them. Creating more calibrated expectations would then require increasing the alignment in construal [54], such as by encouraging someone who is anticipating a social interaction to focus their attention on how warm, kind, and friendly their behavior is likely to seem to another person [38,46]. ...
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... At least one other strategy has been used in studies whose real-world prevalence remains unknown. Specifically, Eyal and Epley (2010) find that participants make more accurate social judgments when instructed to match the construal level-the level of detail with which people think about themselves-of their SPT target. ...
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Arguably, social perspective taking—the process through which perceivers discern the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of a target—facilitates interpersonal interactions more than any other human capacity. Thus, this capacity is foundational for relationships, mental health and well-being, behaviors, and much more. Despite its importance to the human experience and substantial research into its precursors and outcomes, little is known about the social perspective taking process itself. How does a social perspective taking attempt actually unfold? We pArguably, social perspective taking—the process through which perceivers discern the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of a target—facilitates interpersonal interactions more than any other human capacity. Thus, this capacity is foundational for relationships, mental health and well-being, behaviors, and much more. Despite its importance to the human experience and substantial research into its precursors and outcomes, little is known about the social perspective taking process itself. How does a social perspective taking attempt actually unfold? We propose that perceivers engage in a process consisting of up to four phases: perception of the target, motivation to engage in social perspective taking, strategy selection, and evaluation of their attempt. Scholars have emphasized two primary outcomes of this process—social perspective taking effort and accuracy. We review the literature in support of these phases, noting the relative maturity of each contributing line of research. In doing so we hope to provide a framework for understanding how existing studies relate to one another, prioritize future investigations, and offer preliminary thoughts into which parts of the process might be most promising for research aimed at improving social perspective taking.ropose that perceivers engage in a process consisting of up to four phases: perception of the target, motivation to engage in social perspective taking, strategy selection, and evaluation of their attempt. Scholars have emphasized two primary outcomes of this process—social perspective taking effort and accuracy. We review the literature in support of these phases, noting the relative maturity of each contributing line of research. In doing so we hope to provide a framework for understanding how existing studies relate to one another, prioritize future investigations, and offer preliminary thoughts into which parts of the process might be most promising for research aimed at improving social perspective taking.
... This experience might be explained by the social and psychological distance likely to be created between a person harmed and someone responsible for that harm, particularly when the responsible person is removed from a community and detained. Social and psychological distance can lead to people having difficulty intuiting what others think (Eyal and Epley, 2010). In this case, Sarah's construal of Joe was that he may harbour feelings of anger (he did not say was the case), which was concerning for her. ...
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... Whereas individuals tend to think of themselves in more detail, they tend to construe others in less detail. However, to be empathically accurate, individuals need to construe targets at the same level of detail as the targets construe themselves (Eyal & Epley, 2010). ...
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Empathy is a multifaceted trait. One facet is cognitive empathy, the ability to accurately infer others' thoughts and feelings (also referred to as empathic accuracy). It is associated with markers of positive adjustment, such as satisfaction with social relationships, in earlier phases of the lifespan. In previous research, empathic accuracy was less pronounced in older than in younger adults. We review evidence for such age differences and argue for the importance of ecological validity in age-comparative research. Furthermore, we discuss factors that may contribute to empathic accuracy, such as cognitive abilities or (assumed) similarity with a social partner, and discuss their potentially differential role in different age groups. We especially highlight the role of motivation (e.g., the age-relevance of a task). Assuming that older adults sometimes are less empathically accurate, there is little evidence that this particularly compromises older adults' social lives and overall adjustment. Moreover, a lack of longitudinal research raises the question whether age differences point to an age-related trajectory or to cohort differences. Thus, promising avenues for future research include the use of cohort-sequential, ecologically valid, and motivating paradigms to understand in which situations empathic failures impair older adults in their daily lives.
... (2) Users often perceive their own attractiveness in a different manner than others [3]. Therefore, it is possible that the users will have a negative reaction to an explanation that describes reasons for their attractiveness which do not match their own perception. ...
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Automated platforms which support users in finding a mutually beneficial match, such as online dating and job recruitment sites, are becoming increasingly popular. These platforms often include recommender systems that assist users in finding a suitable match. While recommender systems which provide explanations for their recommendations have shown many benefits, explanation methods have yet to be adapted and tested in recommending suitable matches. In this paper, we introduce and extensively evaluate the use of "reciprocal explanations" - explanations which provide reasoning as to why both parties are expected to benefit from the match. Through an extensive empirical evaluation, in both simulated and real-world dating platforms with 287 human participants, we find that when the acceptance of a recommendation involves a significant cost (e.g., monetary or emotional), reciprocal explanations outperform standard explanation methods, which consider the recommendation receiver alone. However, contrary to what one may expect, when the cost of accepting a recommendation is negligible, reciprocal explanations are shown to be less effective than the traditional explanation methods.
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The present study sought to investigate perspective taking as a means to decrease harmful affective conflict within teams. Previous research has demonstrated that teams often experience unhealthy affective conflict along with the healthy debate that is encouraged in team discussions, when team members misinterpret such debate as personal attacks. By utilizing Olsen and Kenny's dyadic SEM approach (2016) to simultaneously explore all hypothesized actor and partner effects, the present study identified perspective taking and team member schema accuracy as mechanisms that can prevent such misinterpretations and thereby decrease harmful affective conflict among team members. Perspective taking was assessed using a novel higher-order factor approach to capture the complexity of the cognitive process, rather than the traditional single measure self report scale. Results indicated an actor effect such that increased perspective taking led to greater team member schema accuracy. Team member schema accuracy had a negative actor effect and a negative partner effect on affective conflict, which in turn had a negative actor effect on team effectiveness. Additionally, training team members to engage in perspective taking behaviors led to increased team member schema accuracy compared with teams that did not receive training, providing an effective practical solution for the reduction of affective conflict in work teams.
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To communicate effectively, people must have a reasonably accurate idea about what specific other people know. An obvious starting point for building a model of what another knows is what one oneself knows, or thinks one knows. This article reviews evidence that people impute their own knowledge to others and that, although this serves them well in general, they often do so uncritically, with the result of erroneously assuming that other people have the same knowledge. Overimputation of one's own knowledge can contribute to communication difficulties. Corrective approaches are considered. A conceptualization of where own-knowledge imputation fits in the process of developing models of other people's knowledge is proposed.
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To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Chapter
Publisher Summary It is possible for one person to experience an emotion when he or she perceives that another person is experiencing an emotion. The relationship between action and the sharing of feelings is obviously not a simple or direct one. It is possible to study so subtle and important a phenomenon as empathy in the laboratory and to examine some of the determinants of empathy. The process leading to empathy can be understood in terms of cognitive variables such as the mental set that the person has when he or she observes the other. The form or type of social relationships between one person and another influences the amount of empathy, presumably because the form of the social relationship influences the manner of perceiving the other and thinking about him or her. Individual differences in reactions to social situations, in perceiving the other, and in thinking about him or her must be considered in predicting how much empathizing will occur. These individual differences appear to be determined in part by the birth order of the person.
Article
Although often confused, imagining how another feels and imagining how you would feel are two distinct forms of perspective taking with different emotional consequences. The former evokes empathy; the latter, both empathy and distress. To test this claim, undergraduates listened to a (bogus) pilot radio interview with a young woman in serious need. One third were instructed to remain objective while listening; one third, to imagine how the young woman felt; and one third, to imagine how they would feel in her situation. The two imagine perspectives produced the predicted distinct pattern of emotions, suggesting different motivational consequences: Imagining how the other feels produced empathy, which has been found to evoke altruistic motivation; imagining how you would feel produced empathy, but it also produced personal distress, which has been found to evoke egoistic motivation.