Let’s start at the beginning: How do people achieve insight into their own beliefs, attitudes, emotions, desires, personalities, and motivations? Although common sense makes this question seem ludicrous, many social psychologists have sought to answer the question of how—and how well—people gain self-knowledge.
Think about this: Don’t you know what you think because you think it? And don’t you know how you feel because you feel it? Look through popular books on how to achieve self-insight, and you’ll find the unambiguous answers to these questions to be yes. Whether the prescribed technique is yoga, meditation, psy- chotherapy, religion, dream analysis, or hypnosis, the advice is basically the same: Self-knowledge is derived from introspection, a looking inward at one’s own thoughts and feelings.
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If the how-to books are correct, it stands to reason that no one can know you as well as you know yourself. Thus, people tend to assume that for others to know you at all, they would need information about your private thoughts, feelings, and other inner states—not just your behavior. But is this really the case? Most social psychologists are not sure that this faith in introspection is justified.