Thursday, April 13, 2006

Overconfidently mistaken

Some scary reading for sarcastic bods like myself: a study outlined in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (mentioned in the Icon section of last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald) found that most emailers grossly overestimate their ability to convey and detect subtle things like sarcasm and humour, and it's all thanks to egocentrism, "the inherent difficulty of detaching oneself from one's own perspective when evaluating the perspective of someone else".

Damn. How's this for depressing: "To the extent that people overestimate the obviousness of the fact that they are 'just kidding' when they poke fun or criticize, they may unwittingly offend." Bloody hell. When do I ever do anything OTHER than kid around, poke fun and criticize?

And don't think that familiarity with the person on the other computer will eliminate problems, either: "we found no evidence of increased communication effectiveness among acquaintances [in comparison to strangers]".

If you've got access to the online journal or the PsycARTICLES/Ovid database, you can check the gruesome story for yourself:

Kruger, Justin; Epley, Nicholas; Parker, Jason; Ng, Zhi-Wen, “Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 89(6), December 2005, pp. 925-936.

Alternatively, and if you're quiet, you can read it over here. It's a long but well-written account, and though I don't know anything about surveys or their results, the conclusions do seem convincing. Unfortunately.