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Raw Concepts: The Maturity Paradox, Part 3

I recently came up with a concept I called the Maturity Paradox, and discussed it in this blog post and this one as well. The Maturity Paradox states that personality disordered people (like narcissists, histrionics, borderlines, etc.) are not only unable to be emotionally mature, but in addition are unable to assess the maturity levels of themselves and others, so they consistently overrate their own maturity levels while consistently underrating the maturity levels of others.

I was pretty proud of how clever I apparently was until lo and behold there apparently was already a study done by Daniel R. Ames and Lara K. Kammrath of Columbia University that came to similar conclusions. You can read it here. Here’s an excerpt:

In this paper, we examine the relationship between people’s actual
interpersonal sensitivity (such as their ability to identify deception and to infer intentions and emotions) and their perceptions of their own sensitivity. Like prior scholars, we find the connection is weak or non-existent and that most people overestimate their social judgment and mind-reading skills. Unlike previous work, however, we show new evidence about who misunderstands their sensitivity and why. We find that those who perform the worst in social judgment and mindreading radically overestimate their relative competence. We also find origins of these self-estimates in general narcissistic tendencies toward self-aggrandizement. We discuss evidence from two studies, one involving the Interpersonal Perception Task (the IPT-15) and another focusing on inferences about partners after a face-to-face negotiation exercise. In both cases, actual performance did not predict self-estimated performance but narcissism did…

Understanding what others think, want, and feel is essential to interpersonal sensitivity and, by extension, to social life. When people fail to read others’ minds, they form incorrect impressions, take ineffective or inappropriate actions, and generally fail to coordinate their behavior with the attitudes and behavior of those around them. But do people know when they misread minds or misjudge others? Mounting evidence suggests that people are often poor at estimating their own competence in domains ranging from logical reasoning to sense of humor (e.g., Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger, & Kruger, 2003). This effect apparently extends to interpersonal sensitivity where a number of researchers (e.g., Davis & Kraus, 1997; Ickes, 1993; Realo et al., 2003) have found weak or absent connections between people’s confidence in their empathic abilities and their actual success in inferring another person’s mental states.

In this paper, we consider self-assessments of interpersonal sensitivity and mind-reading. Bridging recent work in metacognition and empathic accuracy, we find that those who perform worst at reading minds greatly overestimate their ability. We also go beyond existing accounts by tracing these fallible estimates to what may be the most broad-based belief concerning one’s own comparative ability: narcissism. In two studies, we show that narcissistic tendencies toward self-aggrandizement have an important effect on a person’s assumptions of interpersonal sensitivity in various contexts.

It’s not as academic and some studies can be, but it’s not quite an easy, breezy read either. But if you’re interested, it does seem to validate the Maturity Paradox (should I be capitalizing that term? I’m not sure) and is pretty interesting stuff.

One Response to “Raw Concepts: The Maturity Paradox, Part 3”


  1. Wow, wow, wow…thanks for this site (as well as links to other helpful sites). EXACTLY what I am going through now…did I say exactly???