Studies reveal that people are much better at predicting the actions of others than they are at identifying their own motives.
You may understand strangers (and their motives) better than you understand yourself--at least, this is the claim of a white paper published by the British Psychological Society last month.
In a study conducted by Cornell University's David Dunning, a group of university students were asked to predict how many of their peers would buy a daffodil for charity--and to then predict the likelihood of making that same purchase themselves.
On average, the students said they expected 56 percent of their peers would purchase a flower--while 83 percent of the group said they would personally make a purchase for charity. But when it came down to it, only 43 percent of the group bought the flowers.
How could such a large percentage of the group so accurately predict other people's behavior (while completely overestimating their own)?
According to Dunning, most people harbor false beliefs about their own competence, character, place in the social world and future. In other words, people are bad at judging their own character. People want to think of themselves as the exception to the rule, Dunning explains.
Which, in the case of the charity flowers, may have caused participants to percieve themselves as more generous or giving than their peers--whether they actually were or not.
In business, this means you might be much better at understanding customer or employee motives than you think. But, in terms of leadership, you could also that you're your own worst enemy.
FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle. @FrancescaFenzi