Emily Pronin: The yardstick that we use is in one word, behavior, their actions. The process is, it’s almost like if you imagine a fork in the road, and it just goes two different ways. There are just two different paths here. There’s the path that we use for self-judgment, and there’s the path that we use for judging others. And in my view, the path that we use for judging others is, we look at their actions. The path that we use for judging ourselves is we look inwards.

Emily Pronin: And when I say look inwards, I mean, we look to things like our thoughts, feelings, intentions, motives… There’s an action, there’s a behavior. I did it or I didn’t. And that’s how other people will judge it. But in judging myself, I might look much more to my motives and my intentions… I would never intend to do that, so I guess I didn’t do it.

Emily Pronin: And so when we are interacting with other people, what we see is them, we see their actions, we see their expressions. But when we experience ourselves, we don’t really see that. Instead, what we perceive is what’s inside our heads. That’s the information that we’re flooded with. That’s the information that we can’t escape, is our thoughts and feelings and intentions, so that’s what we give so much weight to.

Shankar Vedantam: When it comes to our evaluations of other people, in some ways, we don’t have access to their thoughts and feelings, those are hidden from us and so we use what we have. And on the surface, this happens without any sort of conscious awareness that it’s happening, right? So I don’t realize I’m using a different yardstick to evaluate your behavior and a different yardstick to evaluate mine.