Perceptual asymmetry is the root of most conflict

Tags: conflict empathy perception

"Perceptual asymmetry" describes the difference between our evaluation of our own motivations, feelings, and behaviors (introspection) versus what we can infer about other people's motivations, feelings, and behaviors (extrospection) [1].

Because we always know more about ourselves than we can infer about other people (through their body language and what they say), this causes an asymmetry in our perceptions. This asymmetry is the root cause of most of human conflict.

The best antidote to perceptual asymmetry is empathy.

This is the same thing described by the aphorism, "Too often we judge others by their worst examples, and ourselves by our best intentions".


  1. Medina, John. Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. Seattle: Pear Press, 2014.