André Mata, Cláudia Simão & Rogério Gouveia
(2020) DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2020.1791950
Four studies show that people differ in their lay beliefs concerning the degree to which science can explain their mind and the minds of other people. In particular, people are more receptive to the idea that the psychology of other people is explainable by science than to the possibility of science explaining their own psychology. This self-other difference is moderated by the degree to which people associate a certain mental phenomenon with introspection. Moreover, this self-other difference has implications for the science-recommended products and practices that people choose for themselves versus others.
These studies suggest that people have different beliefs regarding what science can explain about the way they think versus the way other people think. Study 1 showed that, in general, people see science as better able to explain the psychology of other people than their own, and that this is particularly the case when a certain psychological phenomenon is highly associated with introspection (though there were other significant moderators in this study, and results were not consistent across dependent variables). Study 2 replicated this interaction, whereby science is seen as having a greater explanatory power for other people than for oneself, but that this is only the case when introspection is involved. Whereas Studies 1–2 provided correlational evidence, Study 3 provided an experimental test of the role of introspection in self-other differences in thinking about science and what it can explain. The results lent clear support to those of the previous studies: For highly introspective phenomena, people believe that science is better at making sense of others than of themselves, whereas this self-other difference disappears when introspection is not thought to be involved. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated that this self-other difference has implications in terms of the choices that people make for themselves and how they differ from the choices that they advise others to make. In particular, people are more reluctant to try certain products and procedures targeted at areas of their mental life that are highly associated with introspection, but they are less reluctant to advise other people to try those same products and procedures. Lending additional support to the role of introspection in generating this self-other difference, this choice-advice asymmetry was not observed for areas that were not associated with introspection.
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