Self-knowledge and testing

Perhaps one of the most underappreciated skills that a person can have is, in my opinion, self-knowledge. I say this because I have found myself many times asking questions along the lines of: “do I want this?”, “do I enjoy this?”, “what do I want?”.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel like people are not taught to know themselves. We are taught facts, procedures, rules, varying degrees of morality… We are taught that we should want some things and not others, that some things are good and some are bad… But are we ever taught to stop for a moment and discover whether we enjoy what we are doing, whether we resonate with what has been taught to us, whether we know where we stand and where we want to go?

Perhaps not… Or perhaps not enough and not often enough…

So what do I mean when I speak of self-knowledge? Some might suggest that it is an awareness of oneself, including for instance our mood and our objectives, at the present moment. Others might suggest that it involves accurate recollection of one’s own past, including important events and the feelings associated with them. These might well be facets of a definition of self-knowledge. More importantly, however, I posit that self-knowledge is an understanding of our own preferences, our values, those things that make us happy, those things that make us mad, and the like.

It has occurred to me that it would be of great benefit to many of us as well as for the field of psychology to study self-knowledge extensively and attempt to answer some daunting philosophical questions. Can self-knowledge contribute to happiness and other positive outcomes? Conversely, can lack of self-knowledge contribute to being unhappy and other negative outcomes? Is self-knowledge truly important or is its importance culture-dependent?

The development of a self-knowledge test would pose quite an interesting problem. Would the test be a self-report test, a projective test, an implicit association test? An interview maybe? Or perhaps a battery of tests could be developed to measure self-knowledge? Many important technical considerations would come into play if such a task were undertaken. Should self-knowledge scales have different norms for different age groups, for both genders, and for other such categories? How would a definition of self-knowledge be operationalized?

Surely, the development of such a branch of investigation would be a long and arduous process. There would need to be many rounds of refining theories on the matter, developing ways to verify them, collecting evidence for or against them, and repeating the whole process many times. The fact that this process has been undertaken with many concepts, such as intelligence, self-esteem, and personality just to name a few, tells me that repeating it with self-knowledge ought to be feasible. And, in my opinion, despite the challenging nature of developing self-knowledge measurement methods, the potential benefits of such an endeavour would make it worthwhile.