Self-insight into emotional and cognitive abilities is not related to higher adjustment


Despite the popularity of the Ancient Greek maxim ‘know thyself’, the importance of self-insight for adjustment, or effective psychological functioning, remains unclear. Here we examined four perspectives about how cognitive and emotional abilities and self-views about these abilities relate to adjustment. We administered tests of cognitive and emotional abilities and assessed self-views about these abilities. Participants then completed daily diaries for a week to report multiple self-reported indicators of adjustment. We analysed data using polynomial regression and response surface analysis. We found no support for benefits of self-insight. The conditions to infer support for linear or curvilinear associations between abilities or self-views about these abilities and adjustment were also not met. The findings suggest that giving employees and students feedback about their cognitive and emotional abilities in organizations and in schools may not enhance their adjustment. We discuss the limitations of our study and offer suggestions for future research.

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The stage 1 protocol for this Registered Report was accepted in principle on 21 June 2018. The protocol, as accepted by the journal, can be found at

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Fig. 1: Response surface graphs for main hypotheses.
Fig. 2: Response surface graphs for emotional abilities and self-views.
Fig. 3: Response surface graphs for cognitive ability and self-views.

Data availability

The materials and data for the main study and the pilot studies have been deposited at Harvard Dataverse,

To download the csv versions of the data that are required by the code, researchers need to select the ‘Original File Format (Comma Separated Values)’ option under ‘Download’. The code for analysis will not work if researchers download the tab versions of the data files instead.

Code availability

The R code for analysis for the main study and the pilot studies have been deposited at Harvard Dataverse,


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This research was funded by grant no. 500342 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We thank M. Barranti, E. Carlson and J. Hirsh for guidance on data analysis.

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J.C.H. jointly conceived the study with S.C., designed and conducted the pilot studies and main study, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. S.C. supervised the design and analysis of the pilot studies and main study, and wrote and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joyce C. He.

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He, J.C., Côté, S. Self-insight into emotional and cognitive abilities is not related to higher adjustment. Nat Hum Behav 3, 867–884 (2019).

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