EMOTIONAL HEALTH
August 18, 2010

You Are the Way You See Others

How we see others says more about our own personalities than it does about theirs', a new study has shown.

How you see others may say more about you than it does about the people you're looking at, according to new research.

In the study, people who tended to describe others positively also tended to have a variety of positive personality traits. And people who tended to describe others negatively tended to score higher on negative personality traits.

Those who tended to describe others negatively were more likely to score higher on measures of antisocial behavior, depression and personality disorders.

Study subjects consisted of friends rating one another, college freshmen rating others who lived in their dormitory and fraternity and sorority members rating other members of their group. The subjects also filled out a variety of personality measures.

The Wake Forest University researchers found a strong association between judging others positively and seeing oneself as enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable. People who judged others positively also tended to be well-liked. And seeing others positively was associated with being satisfied with one's life.

In contrast, those who tended to describe others negatively were more likely to score higher on measures of antisocial behavior, depression and personality disorders.

This suggests that getting people to see others more positively could be beneficial to their health. And that a negative evaluation may be a factual one or may instead be a tip-off that the rater is disagreeable, unhappy or has a generally negative world view

There are jobs that place a premium on taking the dimmest possible view of others. Security positions are a good example of this. This study suggests that the traits that are so useful at this work may be a hindrance during non-working hours. And that people who consider themselves to be critical thinkers might be happier if they thought a bit less critically, especially about their fellow human beings.

The study also noted that how you perceive others appears to be a stable trait that changes little over time, at least over the one year course of the study. For people who'd like to change, this doesn't mean that it's impossible to do so, just that doing so will take a little effort.

An article on the study was published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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