Low accuracy in judgments of others' psychological well-being as seen from a phenomenological perspective


  • This study was supported by the University of Otago Research Committee and the New Zealand University Grants Committee. Appreciation is due to Gabrielle Maxwell for her support and advice during this project.

Requests for reprints should be addressed to Richard Kammann, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The generally low degree of agreement between self-ratings on personality traits and ratings by others may be interpreted from the viewpoint that self-reports reflect people's experience of themselves but not necessarily their behaviors. A detailed analysis of self and other ratings on subjective well-being as a central dimension of human experience is consistent with this phenomenological view. Ratings of well-being were not significantly correlated with rated behaviors either in self-ratings or in ratings by others. Screening subjects in terms of avowed consistency and observability on a trait did not improve self-other agreement for well-being, nor did it replicate the individual trait effects reported by Kenrick and Stringfield (1980). Judgments by others were found to have poor interjudge reliability and to reflect biases associated with projection of own well-being and a halo effect organized around the subject's perceived friendliness or likability. It was demonstrated that pooling the judgments of several observers should not and does not lead to accurate prediction of the phenomenal personality, and that accuracy may generally depend on the level of self-disclosure.