Consequences of Everyday Judgments of Personality
People judge the personalities of each other and of themselves all the time, and these judgments have important consequences.
Other people’s judgments of an individual can affect that person’s opportunities and can create self-fulfilling prophecies or expectancy effects. Therefore, it is important to examine when and how judgments are accurate.
The Accuracy of Personality Judgment
Recent research has evaluated the accuracy of personality judgments in terms of consensus and predictive validity. Judgments that agree with judgments from other sources (such as other people) or that are able to predict the target person’s behavior are more likely to be accurate than judgments that do not agree with each other or cannot predict behavior.
First impressions of personality can be surprisingly accurate. Valid information about some attributes of personality can be found in the face, tone of voice, mode of dress, and even the condition of someone’s bedroom. However, such judgments are more accurate for some traits than others, and tend to become more accurate with more extended acquaintanceship.
Research has examined four variables that seem to affect the likelihood of accurate personality judgment: (1) the good judge, or the possibility that some judges are more accurate than others; (2) the good target, or the possibility that some individuals are easier to judge than others; (3) the good trait, or the possibility that some traits are easier to judge accurately than others; and (4) good information, or the possibility that more or better information about the target makes accurate judgment more likely.
This research leads to the Realistic Accuracy Model (RAM) of the process of accurate personality judgment, which describes accuracy as a function of the relevance, availability, detection, and utilization of behavioral cues.
RAM implies that accurate personality judgment is difficult, helps to explain the four moderators of accuracy, and suggests some ways in which one might be able to judge others more accurately.
Judgments of personality rendered by ordinary people in daily life are more frequent and more important than those made by psychologists, so it matters whether they are accurate.