Asymmetry in Judgments of Personality: Others Are Less Differentiated Than the Self


  • Preparation of this manuscript was supported by a Ballard Seashore Dissertation Year Fellowship from the University of Iowa Graduate college to Andrew Beer.

regarding this article should be addressed to Andrew Beer, Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina Upstate, 221 Smith, 800 University way, Spartanburg, SC 29303. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Previous evidence suggests that judges rely more heavily on implicit personality theories when they rate relatively unfamiliar others. One further implication of this evidence is that correlations among traits should be stronger in other ratings than in self-ratings, particularly when (a) judges lack trait relevant information and/or (b) motivational accuracy is low. We tested these predictions by comparing self- versus other ratings on the Big Five in two studies. Study 1 used previously published data to demonstrate clear self/peer differences in the average relations between Big Five dimensions (excluding Extraversion). Study 2 was based on self- versus other ratings in 12 samples. Overall, the intercorrelations among Big Five traits (excluding Extraversion) tended to be significantly stronger in peer ratings than in self-ratings. The most consistent effect involved the relation between Neuroticism and Agreeableness (overall r=−.43 and −.29 in the peer ratings and self-ratings, respectively). In addition, as expected, the degree of relation among traits varied depending upon the type of target being rated (i.e., spouse vs. dating partner vs. friend vs. stranger). Implications of these findings are discussed.