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Self-Other Knowledge Asymmetries in Personality Pathology


  • This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH: Grant No. 1RO1-MH077840-01; Thomas Oltmanns) and the National Science Foundation (NSF: Grant No. BCS-1025330; Simine Vazire). We would also like to thank Andrew Erhart, Amber Graham, Sarah Heuckeroth, John Slochower, and Latoya Smith for their helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Erika N. Carlson, Department of Psychology, Campus Box 1125, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899. Email:



Self-reports of personality provide valid information about personality disorders (PDs). However, informant reports provide information about PDs that self-reports alone do not provide. The current article examines whether and when one perspective is more valid than the other in identifying PDs.


Using a representative sample of adults 55 to 65 years of age (N = 991; 45% males), we compared the validity of self- and informant (e.g., spouse, family, or friend) reports of the Five-Factor Model traits in predicting PD scores (i.e., composite of interviewer, self-, and informant reports of PDs).


Self-reports (particularly of Neuroticism) were more valid than informant reports for most internalizing PDs (i.e., PDs defined by high Neuroticism). Informant reports (particularly of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness) were more valid than self-reports for externalizing and/or antagonistic PDs (i.e., PDs defined by low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness). Neither report was consistently more valid for thought disorder PDs (i.e., PDs defined by low Extraversion). However, informant reports (particularly of Agreeableness) were more valid than self-reports for PDs that were both internalizing and externalizing (i.e., PDs defined by high Neuroticism and low Agreeableness).


The intrapersonal and interpersonal manifestations of PDs differ, and these differences influence who knows more about pathology.