Personality Judgments Accuracy

Personality Judgments Accuracy Definition

The accuracy of personality judgments refers to an area of research in which people evaluate the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of themselves or others and the correctness of their evaluations are determined. The determination of accuracy, or correctness, is a constant challenge for researchers because it is often unclear what to use as the standard for truth. It is straightforward to verify people’s estimates of height and weight by using a tape measure and scale, but accuracy researchers must determine, for example, if a person’s friendliness rating of a coworker is accurate. The absence of a friendliness “tape measure” requires researchers to use a variety of measurement techniques that together provide a close approximation of the personality characteristic under investigation. Accuracy researchers typically compare a person’s friendliness rating to the coworker’s observed behavior or to personality ratings of the coworker by close acquaintances. If the person’s friendliness ratings predict the coworker’s behavior and agree with the close acquaintances’ ratings, the friendliness rating is likely to be accurate.

Context and Importance of Personality Judgments Accuracy

Personality Judgments AccuracyPeople make judgments about personality every day and in numerous settings. Clinical psychologists diagnose their clients, human resource managers evaluate prospective employees, and teachers assess the capabilities of their students. In these settings, the judgments that professionals make can either help or harm an individual’s life. The judgments that lay people make are equally life affecting, such as the decision to approach or to avoid a stranger. A faulty decision to trust a stranger may lead to physical harm. The misjudgment of a close friend may lead to unpleasant conflict or dissolution of the friendship. The personality judgments that people make of themselves and others can affect their own psychological and physical well-being.

Personality Judgments Accuracy Evidence

Research on the accuracy of personality judgments began by trying to identify the good judge of personality. This research focus represented a mix of theoretical interest and pragmatic concern. Researchers were curious why some people might be better than others at judging personality. From a pragmatic perspective, it was believed that being a good judge of personality was a prerequisite to being a successful clinical psychologist, personnel interviewer, or school counselor. The research evidence is inconsistent regarding the good judge of personality with one exception. Women tend to outperform men when judging the personality characteristics of others.

Despite these inconsistent findings, accuracy researchers continue to search for the good judge of personality and have broadened their research interests to include five additional factors that influence the accuracy and inaccuracy of personality judgments. Each factor will be discussed in turn.

First, judgability refers to how accurately people’s personalities can be judged by others. Individuals who are high on judgability are like open books, their personalities are easy to read, and they are accurately judged. Those who are low on judgability are closed and enigmatic, and are inaccurately judged by others. Research demonstrates that judgable people tend to score higher on measures of psychological adjustment than do less judgable people.

Second, increased acquaintance produces greater accuracy. Although this might seem fairly intuitive, only recently have researchers provided evidence to support this factor. Considerable evidence now indicates that longer acquaintance leads to greater accuracy because acquainted individuals share more plentiful and intimate information than do people less acquainted.

Third, some personality traits are more accurately judged than other traits. In terms of the Five Factor model of personality (i.e., Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness), research consistently points to Extraversion as the most accurately judged trait. Neuroticism is often the most difficult trait to judge. The difference in trait accuracy is due to observability indicating that traits that are easy to see tend to be most accurately judged. Extraverted behaviors such as talking and socializing are easy to see by observers whereas neurotic behaviors such as worrying and feeling anxious are much less observable and more difficult to judge.

Fourth, self-enhancement refers to the tendency for some individuals to hold unrealistically positive self-views. There is currently considerable debate about the topic of self-enhancement. One group of researchers believes that possessing an unrealistically positive self-view is unhealthy. These researchers argue that people should be realistic about their strengths and weaknesses, and only by acknowledging weaknesses can individuals correct them. The other group believes that holding unrealistically positive self-views is mentally healthy. This group argues that these positive beliefs, albeit unrealistic, protect the self-esteem of individuals when negative events occur and motivate individuals to be highly productive. The debate is forcing researchers to carefully consider the nature of mental health and psychopathology.

Fifth, accurate self-knowledge refers to the accuracy of people’s beliefs about their own personality and behavior. Despite the belief by many that they possess keen self-insight, Sigmund Freud demonstrated long ago that people do not always know the truth about themselves. Research on accurate self-knowledge indicates that individuals who know themselves well possess positive self-esteem, social skill, and good coping skills. These results are similar to those found for judgability and suggest that to be known by others, a person must also be known to himself or herself.

Implications of Personality Judgments Accuracy

Researchers have considerable knowledge about whom and what will be accurately judged, when it will occur, and who will make accurate personality judgments. This information has real-world implications for professionals and lay people alike. A goal of future accuracy research will be to put this knowledge to use. Research-based training may help clinicians better diagnose their patients, teach married couples to communicate more effectively, and help single people to select compatible dating partners.


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  3. Kenny, D. A. (1994). Interpersonal perception: A social relations analysis. New York: Guilford Press.