It's common knowledge that people tend to fall short of complete accuracy when evaluating their own personality traits. Think about your misanthropic friend who writes in his online dating profile that he "loves people," or your exceptionally nervous aunt who has a habit of describing herself as "laid-back." People want to represent themselves positively, and this can get in the way of the truth.
A recent study has shown that not only are people's friends more able to accurately describe their character traits than they are, these character traits can also predict longevity with a startling degree of precision. Researchers analyzed data from a study that began in the 1930s and asked groups of twenty-something friends to rate each other on certain personality traits. They found that people's friends were able to describe their character traits to researchers with surprising accuracy, and that those who were rated highly on certain traits by their friends lived much longer than others.
The men in the study who eventually lived the longest were those whose friends rated them as highly conscientious. The researchers believe this may be due to their conscientiousness preventing some risky behaviors, such as not visiting doctors and eating poorly, that men are more prone to than women. The longest-lived women, in contrast, were rated highly by their friends on agreeableness and emotional stability — both crucial traits for thriving and maintaining good mental health in a heavily male-dominated society.
Professor Joshua Jackson of Washington University of St. Louis summed up the research this way: "Friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not."
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