IARR Dissertation Award 2010 for dr. Monique Pollmann
May 18, 2010 - Summary of the dissertation
The present dissertation investigates how people make predictions about other people's traits and feelings. In six experimental studies and one longitudinal study we investigate which strategies people use to predict others and whether the use of these strategies leads to biased and/or accurate predictions. We argue that bias and accuracy are two conceptually different constructs that both give valuable insights into the processes that guide person perception.
In the first series of studies we show that people's predictions about others are based on different strategies for different targets. People rely on projection when predicting similar others and rely on stereotype information when predicting dissimilar others. Furthermore, the extent to which people rely on projection to predict similar others depends on the order in which predictions are made, with self-other predictions leading to less projection than other-self predictions. These findings give valuable insights into the processes that underlie person perception.
In the second series of studies we show that people use the same strategy to predict others' emotional experiences that they use to predict their own emotional experiences. People tend to make biased predictions about their own future emotional experiences, and we show that people's predictions about others' future emotional experiences are similarly biased. People's predictions are nevertheless somewhat accurate because people are able to predict which emotions they will experience to what extent. Furthermore, we show that the predictions of two people predicting the same person correspond to each other. This interpersonal accuracy can be very functional because it promotes understanding between people.
In the third empirical chapter we investigate the consequences of accurate person perception at the interpersonal level. We show that people have fairly accurate knowledge about their partner's traits, preferences, and behaviors. Nevertheless, accurately knowing one's partner is not related to relationship well-being; those who have very accurate partner knowledge are not more satisfied than those who have less accurate partner knowledge. However, we found that the feeling of understanding one's partner and being understood by one's partner “independent of actual understanding“ is related to relationship satisfaction. Together the seven studies presented in this dissertation show that people's perceptions of others are both biased and accurate. People often base their predictions about others on heuristics, which leads to biased perceptions. Because we all use the same heuristics, however, chances are high that we nevertheless understand each other.