What is it about?

Assumed similarity, the convergence between one's self-view and perceptions of others, has been shown for several characteristics. But does "true" assumed similarity exist? That is, do people truly see their own characteristics being shared by others? Or is assumed similarity simply attributable to benevolent perceivers judging others in more positive (benevolent) ways? We critically test these two competing accounts in two large studies on person perception among unknown others.

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Why is it important?

Our results show that the convergence between how people perceive themselves and how they perceive others is indeed partly attributable to the content of the charac­ter­is­tics being judged: People do perceive others as sharing some of their characteristics. However, these assumed similarity effects are only apparent for charac­ter­is­tics that are strongly linked to individuals' value system, such as honesty. Thus, true assumed similarity exists, but only for value-related traits. These findings have important implications for understanding accuracy and bias in person perception.

Perspectives

Writing this article was a wonderful experience! Starting as an adversarial collaboration, it was a highly pleasant and truly enlightening journey with two great colleagues. The paper also showcases an exemplar of open science: Data from Study 2 was collected by another team of authors, who provided us free access to their unpublished parts of the data and supported us whenever we needed help - once again, big thanks to Daniel Leising and his team! We very much hope that this paper will stimulate future research on the phenomenon of assumed similarity and on person perception more generally.

Isabel Thielmann
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

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This page is a summary of: Trait-specificity versus global positivity: A critical test of alternative sources of assumed similarity in personality judgments., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000420.
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