We credit Socrates with the insight that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and that to "know thyself" is the path to true wisdom. But is there a right and a wrong way to go about such self-reflection?
Simple rumination — the process of churning your concerns around in your head — isn't the answer. It's likely to cause you to become stuck in the rut of your own thoughts and immersed in the emotions that might be leading you astray. Certainly, research has shown that people who are prone to rumination also often suffer from impaired decision-making under pressure, and are at a substantially increased risk of depression.
Instead, the scientific research suggests that you should adopt an ancient rhetorical method favored by the likes of Julius Caesar and known as "illeism" — or speaking about yourself in the third person (the term was coined in 1809 by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the Latin ille meaning "he, that.") If I was considering an argument that I'd had with a friend, for instance, I might start by silently thinking to myself: "David felt frustrated that … " The idea is that this small change in perspective can clear your emotional fog, allowing you to see past your biases.
The findings are the brainchild of the psychologist Igor Grossmann at the University of Waterloo in Canada, whose work on the psychology of wisdom was one of the inspirations for my recent book on intelligence and how we can make wiser decisions.
Working with Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan in the United States, Grossmann has also looked for ways to improve these scores — with some striking experiments demonstrating the power of illeism. In a series of laboratory experiments, they found that people tend to be humbler, and readier to consider other perspectives, when they are asked to describe problems in the third person.
Read the full article at The Business Insider.