Why can we predict other people’s behavior more accurately than our own?


When predicting other people’s behavior we always consider the context.

With our own behavior we like to believe that we won’t be affected by context.

Via BPS Research Digest:

Psychologists have identified an important reason why our insight into our own psyches is so poor. Emily Balcetis and David Dunning found that when predicting our own behaviour, we fail to take the influence of the situation into account. By contrast, when predicting the behaviour of others, we correctly factor in the influence of the circumstances. This means that we’re instinctually good social psychologists but at the same time we’re poor self-psychologists.


The students in the predicting role anticipated these situational effects (although they underestimated them) when considering the behaviour of their peers, yet they imagined that their own behaviour would be immune. They thought they’d give just as much money whether in a good or bad mood, and be just as likely to cheat, or not, regardless of whether they had the benefit of anonymity.

Another trend across all the studies was for people to overestimate their own altruism (judged against the average of how people actually behaved), but to estimate other people’s altruism more reliably. This is consonant with a mountain of past research showing that we tend to assess ourselves in an unrealistically favourable light.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful


Subscribe to the newsletter