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The Social Benefits Of Getting Into Other People’s Heads

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How to understand other people better.

Being high in a quality called ‘mind reading motivation’ is linked to all sorts of social advantages, new research finds.

People high in mind reading motivation (MRM) tend to notice and observe small pieces of social information.

Dr Melanie Green, a study author, said:

“We’re not talking about the psychic phenomenon or anything like that, but simply using cues from other people’s behavior, their non-verbal signals, to try to figure out what they’re thinking.”

People high in MRM enjoy trying to work out what others are thinking and feeling.

This has all sorts of advantages for them including being better at teamwork and at cooperating.

They also seem to gain a more nuanced understanding of those around them, Dr Green explained:

“Those high in MRM seem to develop richer psychological portraits of those around them.

It’s the difference between saying ‘this person strives for success, but is afraid of achieving it’ as opposed to ‘this person is a great cook.'”

Dr Green continued:

“High MRM people are more drawn to and pay more attention to messages with an identifiable source — a spokesperson or an ad focusing on company values — that is, someone whose perspective they can try to understand.

On the other hand, low MRM people seem to pay more attention to ads that are more impersonal, like those that just discuss the product — a message that does not appear to come from a particular person or group.”

Dr Green concluded:

“We didn’t measure ability directly in our study of teamwork, but the research suggests that just the motivation to understand others, and presumably the behaviors that go along with that motivation, appear to lead to benefits.”

The study was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion (Carpenter et al., 2016).

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:

Dr Dean’s bio, Twitter, Facebook and how to contact him.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee