Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mind reading - How to seem telepathic

Here I attempt to summarize  an article by Eyai and Epley (on enabling mind reading by matching construal levels) by patching together bits of abstract and body text.  The results make the point that 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:
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 shown in a further experiment (experiment 4**) to be more effective in this context than perspective taking (putting oneself in other people's shoes).

*Experiment 1 involved predicting judgements of attractiveness. This experiment found subjects to be more accurate in intuiting how attractive they will be judged (by others viewing a recent photo of themselves) in the distant future than in the near future. Experiment 2 involved predicting overall impression of oneself that observers would gain from listening (in the near versus distant future) to a recording they made on various topics. Again, predictions were more accurate for the imagined distant future. Thus altering construal level (near versus distant future) can increase accuracy in two very common and important instances of mind reading in everyday life—intuiting how attractively one will be evaluated by others and intuiting others’ overall impressions of oneself.

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. **In Experiment 4, 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 ranging from 1 (not at all) to 9 (very), and observers received the construal manipulation. 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. Observers were more accurate in the near than in the distant condition.

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