Naïve Realism

Naïve realism, in social psychology, refers to the human intuitive sense that we observe or perceive the world in an unbiased way and objectively—“as it is”—instead of knowing that we are seeing the world from our own perspective, that is, as a subjective construction of the world and as an interpretation of the actuality.

This phenomenon has two significant implications: One, that others are perceiving and seeing the world in the manner as we are seeing it, as long as others are exposed to same information and are thinking rationally. Two, we tend to believe that others who are seeing the world differently must be the ones who are biased, uniformed, ignorant, unreasonable, or distorted. Famous line of George Carlin summarises the concept, “Have you ever noticed that everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

The term naïve realism was first introduced by social psychologist Lee Ross and his colleagues in 1990s. The Handbook of Social Psychology acknowledged naïve realism as one of “four hard-won insights about human perception, thinking, motivation and behavior that … represent important, indeed foundational, contributions of social psychology.” Naïve realism provides a theoretical foundation for many other cognitive biases, which refers to systematic errors in thinking, and decision making.

Ross, L., Lepper, M., & Ward, A. History of Social Psychology: Insights, Challenges, and Contributions to Theory and Application. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gillbert, G. Lindzey, & A. E. Jongsma (2010) Handbook of Social Psychology. Vol. 1. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley


Think Positive in Self Regulation through Private Speech — Motivation


Thinking positive will get you a long way in the world of today. Succeed to be happier and healthier with a positive attitude in self-regulation through private speech. Make better constructive decisions when you think positive before deciding on how to handle any situation. When people make…

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Can a Narcissist Love?

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Anyone who’s loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They’re torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but can’t seem to do either. Some swear they’re loved; others are convinced they’re not. It’s confusing because sometimes they experience the caring person they love, whose company is a pleasure, only to be followed by behavior that makes them feel unimportant or inadequate.

Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?

Romance vs. Love

Narcissists may show passion in the early stages of dating. But that sort of passion, according to Jungian analyst Robert Johnson, “is always directed at our own projections, our own expectations, our own fantasies … It is a love not of another person, but of ourselves.” Such relationships provide positive attention and sexual satisfaction to support a narcissist’s ego and self-esteem.

For most narcissists, their relationships are transactional. Their objective is to enjoy uncommitted pleasure (Campbell et al., 2002). They’re playing a game, and winning is the goal. They’re engaging and energetic and possess emotional intelligence that helps them perceive, express, understand, and manage emotions (Dellic et al., 2011). This helps them manipulate people to win their love and admiration. They brag to be respected, loved, and gratified. Additionally, their good social skills allow them to make a good initial first impression.

They can show great interest in romantic prospects and seduce with generosity, expressions of love, flattery, sex, romance, and promises of commitment. Amorous narcissists (Don Juan and Mata Hari types) are adept and persuasive lovers and may have many conquests, yet remain single. Some narcissists lie and/or practice love-bombing by overwhelming their prey with verbal, physical, and material expressions of love.

Narcissists lose interest as the expectation of intimacy increases or when they’ve won at their game. Many have trouble sustaining a relationship more than six months to a few years. They prioritize power over intimacy and loathe vulnerability, which they consider weak (Lancer, 2014). To maintain control, they avoid closeness and prefer dominance and superiority over others. Game-playing thus strikes the perfect balance to both get their needs met and keep their options open to flirt or date multiple partners (Campbell et al., 2002).

A sudden breakup can be traumatic to their ex, who is bewildered by their unexpected change of heart — proposing one minute, and then exiting the next. They feel confused, crushed, discarded, and betrayed. If the relationship had continued, eventually they would have seen through the narcissist’s seductive veneer.

Some narcissists are pragmatic in their approach to relationships, focusing on their goals. They may also develop positive feelings toward their partner, but more based on friendship and shared interests. If they marry, they lack the motivation to maintain their romantic façade, and employ defenses to avoid closeness. They become cold, critical and angry, especially when they’re challenged or don’t get their way. They’re likely to support their spouse’s needs and wants only when it’s inconvenient and their ego is satisfied. After devaluing their partner, they need to look elsewhere to prop up their inflated ego.

How is love defined?

Real love is not romance, and it’s not codependency. For Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, it’s “to will the good of another.” In The Psychology of Romantic Love (1980), Nathaniel Branden states that “To love a human being is to know and love his or her person.” It’s a union of two individuals, which requires that we see another person as separate from ourselves. Further, in The Art of Loving (1945), Erich Fromm emphasizes that love entails effort to develop knowledge, responsibility, and commitment. We must be motivated to know another’s wants, needs, and feelings and provide encouragement and support. We take pleasure in their happiness and try not to hurt them.

When we love, we show active concern for their life and growth. We try to understand their experience and worldview, though it may differ from ours. Caring involves offering attention, respect, support, compassion, and acceptance. We must devote the necessary time and discipline. Romantic love can evolve into love, but narcissists aren’t motivated to really know and understand others (Ritter et al., 2010).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissists “lack empathy and have difficulty recognizing desires, subjective experiences, and feelings of others” (p. 670). Research shows that they have structural abnormalities in brain regions associated with emotional empathy (Schulze et al., 2013). Hence, their ability to appropriately respond emotionally and express care and concern is significantly impaired.

Narcissists have s several hurdles to loving. First, they neither see themselves nor others clearly. First, they experience people as extensions of themselves, rather than separate individuals with differing needs, desires, and feelings. Second, they overestimate their own emotional empathy (Ritter et al., 2010). Third, their defenses distort their perceptions and interactions with others. They brag and withdraw to control closeness and vulnerability, project onto others unwanted, negative aspects of themselves, and they use denial, entitlement, and narcissistic abuse, including blame, contempt, criticism, and aggression, to ward off shame. Perfectionistic narcissists callously put down others and may attempt to destroy adversaries in order to sustain their illusion of perfection (Lancer, 2017). All these issues impair narcissists’ capacity to accurately take in another person’s reality, including that person’s love for them. In fact, narcissists emotional intelligence helps them manipulate and exploit others to get what they want, while their impaired emotional empathy desensitizes them to the pain they inflict.

Can we measure love?

Love is difficult to measure, but research shows that people feel love expressed by: 1) words of affirmation, 2) spending quality time, 3) giving gifts, 4) acts of service, and 5) physical touch (Goff, et al. 2007). Another study revealed that participants also felt loved by a partner who: 1) showed interest in their affairs; 2) gave them emotional and moral support; (3) disclosed intimate facts; 4) expressed feelings for them, such as “I’m happier when I’m near you”; and 5) tolerated their demands and flaws in order to maintain the relationship (Swenson, 1992, p. 92).


People who love narcissists are starved for many of these expressions of love. Sometimes, narcissists are remote, dismissive, or aggressive; other times, they show care and concern and are helpful. It’s not that narcissists are incapable of feeling or even intellectually understanding someone’s feelings. The problem appears to be rooted in childhood trauma and physiological deficits that impact emotional assessment, mirroring, and appropriate empathic expression. (Unconscious or unexpressed: “I love you, but”); Expressed: “I’m too busy to come to the hospital,” sounds pretty cold, but may not reflect the narcissist’s love for the person hospitalized. When the importance of a visit is explained to them, they might make the trip.

They may show love when they’re motivated. Their love is conditional, depending upon impact on the narcissist. My book Dealing with a Narcissist explains in detail how to navigate and beneficially use this in relationships with narcissists, addicts, or anyone highly defensive. Because narcissism exists on a continuum from mild to malignant, when it’s severe, selfishness and inability to express love become more apparent when greater demands are placed on a narcissist. Dating or long-distance relationships that have fewer expectations are easier.

Bottom line: Wondering whether a narcissist loves you is the wrong question. Although it’s wise to understand a narcissist’s mind, like Echo in the myth of Narcissus, partners overly focus on the narcissist to their detriment. Instead, ask yourself whether you feel valued, respected, and cared about. Are you getting your needs met? If not, how is that affecting you and your self-esteem and what can you do about that?


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Branden, N. (1980). The Psychology of Romantic Love.  Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.

Campbell, W.K, Finkel, E.J., & Foster, C.A. (2002). Does self-love lead to love for others? A story of narcissistic game playing, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 340-354. Retrieved from

Delic, A., Novak, P., Kovacic, J., & Avsec, A. (2011). Self-reported emotional and social intelligence and empathy as distinctive predictors of narcissism” Psychological Topics 20(3), 477-488.  Retrieved from

Fromm, E., (1956). The Art of Loving. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

Goff, B. G., Goddard, H. W., Pointer, L., & Jackson, G. B. (2007). Measures of expressions of love. Psychological Reports, 101, 357-360.

Johnson, R. A. (1945). We, Understanding the psychology of Romantic Love. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers.

Lancer, D.A. (2017). “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism. Los Angeles: Carousel Books.

Lancer, D.A. (2014). Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. Center City: Hazelden Foundation.

Ritter, K., et al. (2010). Lack of empathy in patients with narcissistic personality disorder, Psychiatry Research. Retrieved from

Schultze, L., et al. (2013) Gray matter abnormalities in patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Psychiatric Research, 47(10), 1363–1369.

Swenson, C. (1972). The Behavior of Love. In H.A. Otto (Ed.) Love Today (pp. 86-101). New York: Dell Publishing.

© Darlene Lancer 2018


Man's hand in crocodile's mouth

3 Types of Overconfidence

The differences between overplacement, overestimation, and overprecision

A man's sillouetteCompared to the average person, how good is your driving? Are you better or worse than other car drivers?

If you believe you fall within the better half of drivers, you are in good company. Recurrent studies show that the vast majority of people believe they have superior driving skills compared to others. For example, a recent survey showed that more than two thirds of Americans believed they were better than average. These findings are astounding, because they simply do not add up. The concept of an average refers to a typical number, score or skills level in an existing population. Assuming that driving skills range from poor to excellent, with most drivers falling somewhere in between, it is statistically almost impossible that two thirds of drivers are better than average. This implies that US drivers are overconfident in their own skills.

Is overconfidence a problem?

While a lack of confidence can prevent people from pursuing opportunities, an excess of confidence may have even graver consequences. Overconfidence has been described as the “mother of all biases,” because it leads people to underestimate their own weaknesses and take disproportionately high risks. An unjustified belief in the own driving superiority, for example, could tempt people to disrespect fellow drivers and overtake other vehicles in risky manoeuvres. Ultimately, such behaviour could endanger the driver as well as all other road users. Spotting overconfidence and adjusting personal beliefs is therefore crucial.

However, pinpointing and measuring overconfidence can be surprisingly tricky. One reason for this is the existence of three different types of confidence, which may have separate psychological origins.


The driving example from above falls within the category of overplacement, which generally describes any situation where people mistakenly believe that they are better than others. Additional examples include students recurrently predicting above-average test results and individuals having unrealistically high expectations for job interviews compared to fellow applicants.

Overplacement appears to be related to an ego-centric world view or narcissistic self-love. Interestingly, it often seems that people with the lowest abilities show the highest levels of overplacement. A possible explanation is that they lack the most basic competencies needed for social comparison and accurate self-judgments. The phenomenon—also referred to as the Dunning Kruger effect—has been suggested to explain the poor decision making of certain leading politicians.


A second type of overconfidence refers to the mismatch between people’s objective skills and their subjective perceptions of those skills. Put simply: People believe they are better than they actually are. Overestimation is independent of the performance of other people and simply refers to the gap between a person’s judgement of their own skills and reality. One example includes athletes overestimating their own capabilities and consequently pushing themselves beyond reasonable limits. In fact, this may be the cause of frequent accidents during dangerous “selfie-stunts” like this yogi’s outright foolish attempt to balance upside down off an 82ft balcony before falling and breaking 110 bones. Another common example are people participating in publicly humiliating talent shows despite their obvious lack of any relevant skill. Despite its often detrimental consequences, overestimation is believed to be rooted in a self-serving bias: Through wishful thinking, overconfident individuals exhibit more positive attitudes towards challenging situations, and this can help to promote their performance.


The final type of overconfidence is overprecision, which refers to a person’s exaggerated certainty that their answer is correct. It can be assessed with knowledge questionnaires, which require participants to indicate their certainty in an answer with a percentage. Repeated results suggest that most individuals have too much faith in their own judgements, thus indicating high levels of overprecision. One explanation could be the social status and power commonly associated with people’s expressions of faith in their own statements. Overprecise politicians, for example, may appear more decisive, competent and even attractive than competitors who accurately report doubts and uncertainties. In those cases, overprecision would present an advantage for persuading voters and winning their trust.

The complexity of overconfidence

Despite the frequent references to overconfidence in everyday language, the term lacks a unitary meaning or even a single underlying cause. Furthermore, the type of overconfidence also determines how people react to different types of tasks. With regard to overestimation, for example, previous experiments found reliable evidence of a “hard-easy” effect: People were particularly likely to overestimate their performance on difficult compared to easier tasks. In the context of overplacement, however, quite the opposite was found. Considering oneself superior to other people was more common in the context of easier tasks compared to difficult ones.

If you or a friend are struggling with overconfidence, a first step may be to try to identify its origin. Is it rooted in an ego-centric personality, wishful thinking or an attempt of self-promotion? And how is this ulterior motivation going influence daily judgements and decisions? Only a differentiated look at the problem will help to fully understand and eventually tackle it.

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