Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

By Judith A. Hall; Frank J. Bernieri | Go to book overview

judge personality. Instead, it describes how accurate personality judgment happens, if and when it ever does.

Even this outline of the RAM is perhaps sufficient to point out three implications. First, accuracy is difficult. Unless the stages of relevance, availability, detection, and utilization are all traversed successfully, no accuracy will be attained at all. Moreover, imperfections at each step will combine multiplicatively (Funder, 1995, 1999). Second, the four stages of RAM identify four places where judgment can go wrong. Relevance, availability, detection, and utilization can all be and often are short-circuited for all sorts of reasons. Given these two considerations, it is really rather amazing that people manage to attain the considerable degree of accuracy that is often demonstrated. Third, the four stages of the RAM identify four places where judgment can be improved.

This final implication is perhaps the most important one. Traditionally, research to improve judgment has focused almost exclusively on the judge and his or her thinking processes. “Eliminate biases, acquire knowledge, think clearly, and don't be so defensive, ” judges are urged, among other suggestions. Notice, however, that in the context of the RAM these suggestions—worthy as they are—apply only to the last stage of personality judgment: utilization. There are three other places to improve accuracy as well.

For example, one might improve relevance by creating or promoting contexts in which people feel free to be themselves, to act as they really are. One might improve availability by observing one's target of judgment in a wide variety of situations, or in particularly informative ones. One might improve detection by eliminating distractions in the social environment. The point is that there are many ways to improve accuracy, only some of which involve “thinking better.” These possibilities open whole new areas both for research and application. The renewed exploration of these areas will be the ultimate payoff of the field of social perception's newly attained positivity, realism, and sophistication.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This research was supported in part by NIMH grant R01-MH42427.


REFERENCES

Allport, G. W. (1958). What units shall we employ? In G. Lindzey (Ed.), Assessment of human motives (pp. 239–260). New York: Rinehart.

Allport, G. W. (1966). Traits revisited. American Psychologist, 21, 1–10.

Ambady, N., Bernieri, F. J., & Richeson, J. A. (2000). Towards a histology of social behavior: Judgmental accuracy from thin slices in the behavioral stream. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 201–271.

Bernieri, F. J., Zuckerman, M., Koestner, R., & Rosenthal, R. (1994). Measuring person perception accuracy: Another look at self-other agreement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 367–378.

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