Understanding Agency In Self And Other: A Meta-Cognitive Perspective
Information about intentions, aspirations, and introspections (i.e., agentic information) is more central to people's representation of themselves than to their representations of other people. In particular, people think of themselves, relative to other people, more as free agents, whose intentions and aspirations have the power to shape the course of their lives with minimal influence from extraneous sources. In six studies, I explore the nature of this self/other asymmetry and the factors that give rise to the conception of one's own decisions, relative to those of the average person, as more exogenous (i.e., as arising from more active, unconstrained choice). The first two studies provide evidence that, relative to how they view others' decisions, people see their own daily decisions more as the product of active choice. Studies 3A and 3B demonstrate that people see their own decisions, relative to the average person's, as freer from extraneous influence, and that this estimate for the self overestimates actual decision exogeneity. The final two studies test a proposed explanation for the illusion of exogeneity: The meta-cognitive experience of indecision. When simulating the decision-making of a known other, people experience less indecision than when they decide for themselves. They see others' decisions as starting from a more biased point and progressing faster than their own decisions. This difference in meta-cognitive experience provides one explanation for why people remain unaware of extraneous constraints on their own decisions, while maintaining relative accuracy about the extent to which these variables exert a direct impact on others.
self/other; agency; choice
Dunning, David Alan
Gilovich, Thomas Dashiff; Ferguson, Melissa J.; Goldstein, Michael H.
Ph.D. of Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis