Know thyself: How mindfulness can improve self-knowledge

paying attention to one's current experience in a non-judgmental way—might help us to learn more about our own personalities, according to a new article published in the March 2013 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Recent research has highlighted the fact that we have many blind spots when it comes to understanding our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Despite our intuition that we know ourselves the best, other people have a more accurate view of some traits (e.g., intellect) than we do. In some cases, blind spots in self-knowledge can have , such as poor decision-making, poor academic achievement, emotional and interpersonal problems, and lower .

In this new article, psychological scientist Erika Carlson of Washington University in St. Louis explores one potential strategy for improving self-knowledge: mindfulness.

Mindfulness—a technique often recognized for its positive effects on mental health—involves paying attention to your current experience (e.g., thoughts, feelings) and observing it in a non-judgmental manner.

According to Carlson, these two components of mindfulness, attention and nonjudgmental observation, can overcome the major barriers to knowing ourselves. She argues that the motivation to see ourselves in a desirable way is one of the main obstacles to self-knowledge. For instance, people may overestimate their virtuous qualities to ward off or boost self-esteem. However, non-judgmental observation of one's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, might reduce emotional reactivity—such as or low self-esteem—that typically interferes with people seeing the truth about themselves.

Lack of information is another barrier to self-knowledge—in some situations, people might not have the information they would need to accurately assess themselves. For instance, we have a hard time observing much of our nonverbal behavior, so we may not know that we're grimacing or fidgeting during a serious conversation. Mindfulness could also help in this domain, as research has shown that mindfulness training is associated with greater bodily awareness.

Drawing from cognitive, clinical, and social psychology, Carlson outlines a theoretical link between and self-knowledge that suggests focusing our attention on our current experiences in a nonjudgmental way could be an effective tool for getting to know ourselves better.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Halloween, fear and the brain

53 minutes ago

Children and adults alike are digging out those spooky costumes ready for a celebration. We've reached that time of year again: Halloween. October 31 is dedicated to remembering the dead.

Study examines psychology of workaholism

4 hours ago

Even in a culture that lionizes hard work, workaholism tends to produce negative impacts for employers and employees, according to a new study from a University of Georgia researcher.

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

21 hours ago

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ross_enten_eller
not rated yet Mar 24, 2013
Hi, the children at my school wanted to let you know about a little project we are working on at the moment and to see what you thought about it.

We were wondering if there was a place where you thought you could place this website?
Meditation & Mindfulness FOR children BY children.

meditationandmindfulnessforchildren.blogspot.co.uk

Created by children at The Dharma Primary School. The ONLY Buddhist Primary School in EUROPE.

The blog includes constant updates of the latest mindfulness activities (for home or school), child friendly websites relating to mindfulness, mindfulness news for children, picked by children. Building learning power through mindful mind skill activities. Philosophical questions on which to think about. How to meditate is a guide explaining the benefits and instructions and overcoming possible difficulties surrounding mediating as a young person (this is also provided as a podcast both on the website and on iTunes). We are also looking to develop a page to hel

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.