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The self presentation theory and how to present your best self
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What does self presentation mean?
What are self presentation goals, individual differences and self presentation.
How can you make the most of the self presentation theory at work?
We all want others to see us as confident, competent, and likeable — even if we don’t necessarily feel that way all the time. In fact, we make dozens of decisions every day — whether consciously or unconsciously — to get people to see us as we want to be seen. But is this kind of self presentation dishonest? Shouldn’t we just be ourselves?
Success requires interacting with other people. We can’t control the other side of those interactions. But we can think about how the other person might see us and make choices about what we want to convey.
Self presentation is any behavior or action made with the intention to influence or change how other people see you. Anytime we're trying to get people to think of us a certain way, it's an act of self presentation. Generally speaking, we work to present ourselves as favorably as possible. What that means can vary depending on the situation and the other person.
Although at first glance this may seem disingenuous, we all engage in self-presentation. We want to make sure that we show up in a way that not only makes us look good, but makes us feel good about ourselves.
Early research on self presentation focused on narcissism and sociopathy, and how people might use the impression others have of them to manipulate others for their benefit. However, self presentation and manipulation are distinct. After all, managing the way others see us works for their benefit as well as ours.
Imagine, for example, a friend was complaining to you about a tough time they were having at work . You may want to show up as a compassionate person. However, it also benefits your friend — they feel heard and able to express what is bothering them when you appear to be present, attentive, and considerate of their feelings. In this case, you’d be conscious of projecting a caring image, even if your mind was elsewhere, because you value the relationship and your friend’s experience.
To some extent, every aspect of our lives depends on successful self-presentation. We want our families to feel that we are worthy of attention and love. We present ourselves as studious and responsible to our teachers. We want to seem fun and interesting at a party, and confident at networking events. Even landing a job depends on you convincing the interviewer that you are the best person for the role.
There are three main reasons why people engage in self presentation:
Tangible or social benefits:
In order to achieve the results we want, it often requires that we behave a certain way. In other words, certain behaviors are desirable in certain situations. Matching our behavior to the circumstances can help us connect to others, develop a sense of belonging , and attune to the needs and feelings of others.
Example: Michelle is a new manager . At her first leadership meeting, someone makes a joke that she doesn’t quite get. When everyone else laughs, she smiles, even though she’s not sure why.
By laughing along with the joke, Michelle is trying to fit in and appear “in the know.” Perhaps more importantly, she avoids feeling (or at least appearing) left out, humorless, or revealing that she didn’t get it — which may hurt her confidence and how she interacts with the group in the future.
To facilitate social interaction:
As mentioned, certain circumstances and roles call for certain behaviors. Imagine a defense attorney. Do you think of them a certain way? Do you have expectations for what they do — or don’t — do? If you saw them frantically searching for their car keys, would you feel confident with them defending your case?
If the answer is no, then you have a good idea of why self presentation is critical to social functioning. We’re surprised when people don’t present themselves in a way that we feel is consistent with the demands of their role. Having an understanding of what is expected of you — whether at home, work, or in relationships — may help you succeed by inspiring confidence in others.
Example: Christopher has always been called a “know-it-all.” He reads frequently and across a variety of topics, but gets nervous and tends to talk over people. When attending a networking event, he is uncharacteristically quiet. Even though he would love to speak up, he’s afraid of being seen as someone who “dominates” the conversation.
It’s not enough for us to declare who we are or what we want to be — we have to take actions consistent with that identity. In many cases, we also have to get others to buy into this image of ourselves as well. Whether it’s a personality trait or a promotion, it can be said that we’re not who we think we are, but who others see.
Example: Jordan is interested in moving to a client-facing role. However, in their last performance review, their manager commented that Jordan seemed “more comfortable working independently.”
Declaring themselves a “people person” won’t make Jordan’s manager see them any differently. In order to gain their manager’s confidence, Jordan will have to show up as someone who can comfortably engage with clients and thrive in their new role.
We may also use self presentation to reinforce a desired identity for ourselves. If we want to accomplish something, make a change, or learn a new skill , making it public is a powerful strategy. There's a reason why people who share their goals are more likely to be successful. The positive pressure can help us stay accountable to our commitments in a way that would be hard to accomplish alone.
Example: Fatima wants to run a 5K. She’s signed up for a couple before, but her perfectionist tendencies lead her to skip race day because she feels she hasn’t trained enough. However, when her friend asks her to run a 5K with her, she shows up without a second thought.
In Fatima’s case, the positive pressure — along with the desire to serve a more important value (friendship) — makes showing up easy.
Because we spend so much time with other people (and our success largely depends on what they think of us), we all curate our appearance in one way or another. However, we don’t all desire to have people see us in the same way or to achieve the same goals. Our experiences and outcomes may vary based on a variety of factors.
One important factor is our level of self-monitoring when we interact with others. Some people are particularly concerned about creating a good impression, while others are uninterested. This can vary not only in individuals, but by circumstances. A person may feel very confident at work , but nervous about making a good impression on a first date.
Another factor is self-consciousness — that is, how aware people are of themselves in a given circumstance. People that score high on scales of public self-consciousness are aware of how they come across socially. This tends to make it easier for them to align their behavior with the perception that they want others to have of them.
Finally, it's not enough to simply want other people to see you differently. In order to successfully change how other people perceive you, need to have three main skills:
1. Perception and empathy
Successful self-presentation depends on being able to correctly perceive how people are feeling , what's important to them, and which traits you need to project in order to achieve your intended outcomes.
If we don’t have a compelling reason to change the perception that others have of us, we are not likely to try to change our behavior. Your desire for a particular outcome, whether it's social or material, creates a sense of urgency.
3. A matching skill set
You’ve got to be able to walk the talk. Your actions will convince others more than anything you say. In other words, you have to provide evidence that you are the person you say you are. You may run into challenges if you're trying to portray yourself as skilled in an area where you actually lack experience.
How can you make the most of the self presentation theory at work?
At its heart, self presentation requires a high-level of self awareness and empathy. In order to make sure that we're showing up as our best in every circumstance — and with each person — we have to be aware of our own motivation as well as what would make the biggest difference to the person in front of us.
Here are 6 strategies to learn to make the most of the self-presentation theory in your career:
1. Get feedback from people around you
Ask a trusted friend or mentor to share what you can improve. Asking for feedback about specific experiences, like a recent project or presentation, will make their suggestions more relevant and easier to implement.
2. Study people who have been successful in your role
Look at how they interact with other people. How do you perceive them? Have they had to cultivate particular skills or ways of interacting with others that may not have come easily to them?
3. Be yourself
Look for areas where you naturally excel and stand out. If you feel comfortable, confident, and happy, you’ll have an easier time projecting that to others. It’s much harder to present yourself as confident when you’re uncomfortable.
4. Be aware that you may mess up
As you work to master new skills and ways of interacting with others, keep asking for feedback . Talk to your manager, team, or a trusted friend about how you came across. If you sense that you’ve missed the mark, address it candidly. People will understand, and you’ll learn more quickly.
Try saying, “I hope that didn’t come across as _______. I want you to know that…”
5. Work with a coach
Coaches are skilled in interpersonal communication and committed to your success. Roleplay conversations to see how they land, and practice what you’ll say and do in upcoming encounters. Over time, a coach will also begin to know you well enough to notice patterns and suggest areas for improvement.
6. The identity is in the details
Don’t forget about the other aspects of your presentation. Take a moment to visualize yourself being the way that you want to be seen. Are there certain details that would make you feel more like that person? Getting organized, refreshing your wardrobe, rewriting your resume, and even cleaning your home office can all serve as powerful affirmations of your next-level self.
Self presentation is defined as the way we try to control how others see us, but it’s just as much about how we see ourselves. It is a skill to achieve a level of comfort with who we are and feel confident to choose how we self-present. Consciously working to make sure others get to see the very best of you is a wonderful way to develop into the person you want to be.
BetterUp Associate Learning Experience Designer
Impression management: Developing your self-presentation skills
How to make a presentation interactive and exciting, what is self-preservation 5 skills for achieving it, how to give a good presentation that captivates any audience, 8 clever hooks for presentations (with tips), how self-knowledge builds success: self-awareness in the workplace, self-management skills for a messy world, how to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really), how to promote yourself without being annoying, similar articles, how self-compassion strengthens resilience, what is self-efficacy definition and 7 ways to improve it, what is self-awareness and how to develop it, what i didn't know before working with a coach: the power of reflection, manage your energy, not your time: how to work smarter and faster, building resilience part 6: what is self-efficacy, why learning from failure is your key to success, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..
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Self-presentation refers to how people attempt to present themselves to control or shape how others (called the audience) view them. It involves expressing oneself and behaving in ways that create a desired impression. Self-presentation is part of a broader set of behaviors called impression management. Impression management refers to the controlled presentation of information about all sorts of things, including information about other people or events. Self-presentation refers specifically to information about the self.
Self-Presentation History and Modern Usage
Early work on impression management focused on its manipulative, inauthentic uses that might typify a used car salesperson who lies to sell a car, or someone at a job interview who embellishes accomplishments to get a job. However, researchers now think of self-presentation more broadly as a pervasive aspect of life. Although some aspects of self-presentation are deliberate and effortful (and at times deceitful), other aspects are automatic and done with little or no conscious thought. For example, a woman may interact with many people during the day and may make different impressions on each person. When she starts her day at her apartment, she chats with her roommates and cleans up after breakfast, thereby presenting the image of being a good friend and responsible roommate. During classes, she responds to her professor’s questions and carefully takes notes, presenting the image of being a good student. Later that day, she calls her parents and tells them about her classes and other activities (although likely leaving out information about some activities), presenting the image of being a loving and responsible daughter. That night, she might go to a party or dancing with friends, presenting the image of being fun and easygoing. Although some aspects of these self-presentations may be deliberate and conscious, other aspects are not. For example, chatting with her roommates and cleaning up after breakfast may be habitual behaviors that are done with little conscious thought. Likewise, she may automatically hold the door open for an acquaintance or buy a cup of coffee for a friend. These behaviors, although perhaps not done consciously or with self-presentation in mind, nevertheless convey an image of the self to others.
Although people have the ability to present images that are false, self-presentations are often genuine; they reflect an attempt by the person to have others perceive him or her accurately, or at least consistent with how the person perceives himself or herself. Self-presentations can vary as a function of the audience; people present different aspects of themselves to different audiences or under different conditions. A man likely presents different aspects of himself to his close friends than he does to his elderly grandmother, and a woman may present a different image to her spouse than she does to her employer. This is not to say that these different images are false. Rather, they represent different aspects of the self. The self is much like a gem with multiple facets. The gem likely appears differently depending on the angle at which it is viewed. However, the various appearances are all genuine. Even if people present a self-image that they know to be false, they may begin to internalize the self-image and thereby eventually come to believe the self-pres
entation. For example, a man may initially present an image of being a good student without believing it to be genuine, but after attending all his classes for several weeks, visiting the professor during office hours, and asking questions during class, he may come to see himself as truly being a good student. This internalization process is most likely to occur when people make a public commitment to the self-image, when the behavior is at least somewhat consistent with their self-image, and when they receive positive feedback or other rewards for presenting the self-image.
Self-presentation is often directed to external audiences such as friends, lovers, employers, teachers, children, and even strangers. Self-presentation is more likely to be conscious when the presenter depends on the audience for some reward, expects to interact with the audience in the future, wants something from the audience, or values the audience’s approval. Yet self-presentation extends beyond audiences that are physically present to imagined audiences, and these imagined audiences can have distinct effects on behavior. A young man at a party might suddenly think about his parents and change his behavior from rambunctious to reserved. People sometimes even make self-presentations only for themselves. For instance, people want to claim certain identities, such as being fun, intelligent, kind, moral, and they may behave in line with these identities even in private.
Self-presentation is inherently goal-directed; people present certain images because they benefit from the images in some way. The most obvious benefits are interpersonal, arising from getting others to do what one wants. A job candidate may convey an image of being hardworking and dependable to get a job; a salesperson may convey an image of being trustworthy and honest to achieve a sale. People may also benefit from their self-presentations by gaining respect, power, liking, or other desirable social rewards. Finally, people make certain impressions on others to maintain a sense of who they are, or their self-concept. For example, a man who wants to think of himself as a voracious reader might join a book club or volunteer at a library, or a woman who wishes to perceive herself as generous may contribute lavishly to a charitable cause. Even when there are few or no obvious benefits of a particular self-presentation, people may simply present an image that is consistent with the way they like to think about themselves, or at least the way they are accustomed to thinking about themselves.
Much of self-presentation is directed toward achieving one of two desirable images. First, people want to appear likeable. People like others who are attractive, interesting, and fun to be with. Thus, a sizable proportion of self-presentation revolves around developing, maintaining, and enhancing appearance and conveying and emphasizing characteristics that others desire, admire, and enjoy. Second, people want to appear competent. People like others who are skilled and able, and thus another sizable proportion of self-presentation revolves around conveying an image of competence. Yet, self-presentation is not so much about presenting desirable images as it is about presenting desired images, and some desired images are not necessarily desirable. For example, schoolyard bullies may present an image of being dangerous or intimidating to gain or maintain power over others. Some people present themselves as weak or infirmed (or exaggerate their weaknesses) to gain help from others. For instance, a member of a group project may display incompetence in the hope that other members will do more of the work, or a child may exaggerate illness to avoid going to school.
People self-present in a variety of ways. Perhaps most obviously, people self-present in what they say. These verbalizations can be direct claims of a particular image, such as when a person claims to be altruistic. They also can be indirect, such as when a person discloses personal behaviors or standards (e.g., “I volunteer at a hospital”). Other verbal presentations emerge when people express attitudes or beliefs. Divulging that one enjoys backpacking through Europe conveys the image that one is a world-traveler. Second, people self-present nonverbally in their physical appearance, body language, and other behavior. Smiling, eye contact, and nods of agreement can convey a wealth of information. Third, people self-present through the props they surround themselves with and through their associations. Driving an expensive car or flying first class conveys an image of having wealth, whereas an array of diplomas and certificates on one’s office walls conveys an image of education and expertise. Likewise, people judge others based on their associations. For example, being in the company of politicians or movie stars conveys an image of importance, and not surprisingly, many people display photographs of themselves with famous people. In a similar vein, high school students concerned with their status are often careful about which classmates they are seen and not seen with publicly. Being seen by others in the company of someone from a member of a disreputable group can raise questions about one’s own social standing.
Self-presentation is most successful when the image presented is consistent with what the audience thinks or knows to be true. The more the image presented differs from the image believed or anticipated by the audience, the less willing the audience will be to accept the image. For example, the lower a student’s grade is on the first exam, the more difficulty he or she will have in convincing a professor that he or she will earn an A on the next exam. Self-presentations are constrained by audience knowledge. The more the audience knows about a person, the less freedom the person has in claiming a particular identity. An audience that knows very little about a person will be more accepting of whatever identity the person conveys, whereas an audience that knows a great deal about a person will be less accepting.
People engaging in self-presentation sometimes encounter difficulties that undermine their ability to convey a desired image. First, people occasionally encounter the multiple audience problem, in which they must simultaneously present two conflicting images. For example, a student while walking with friends who know only her rebellious, impetuous side may run into her professor who knows only her serious, conscientious side. The student faces the dilemma of conveying the conflicting images of rebellious friend and serious student. When both audiences are present, the student must try to behave in a way that is consistent with how her friends view her, but also in a way that is consistent with how her professor views her. Second, people occasionally encounter challenges to their self-presentations. The audience may not believe the image the person presents. Challenges are most likely to arise when people are managing impressions through self-descriptions and the self-descriptions are inconsistent with other evidence. For example, a man who claims to be good driver faces a self-presentational dilemma if he is ticketed or gets in an automobile accident. Third, self-presentations can fail when people lack the cognitive resources to present effectively because, for example, they are tired, anxious, or distracted. For instance, a woman may yawn uncontrollably or reflexively check her watch while talking to a boring classmate, unintentionally conveying an image of disinterest.
Some of the most important images for people to convey are also the hardest. As noted earlier, among the most important images people want to communicate are likeability and competence. Perhaps because these images are so important and are often rewarded, audiences may be skeptical of accepting direct claims of likeability and competence from presenters, thinking that the person is seeking personal gain. Thus, people must resort to indirect routes to create these images, and the indirect routes can be misinterpreted. For example, the student who sits in the front row of the class and asks a lot of questions may be trying to project an image of being a competent student but may be perceived negatively as a teacher’s pet by fellow students.
Finally, there is a dark side to self-presentation. In some instances, the priority people place on their appearances or images can threaten their health. People who excessively tan are putting a higher priority on their appearance (e.g., being tan) than on their health (e.g., taking precautions to avoid skin cancer). Similarly, although condoms help protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy, self-presentational concerns may dissuade partners or potential partners from discussing, carrying, or using condoms. Women may fear that carrying condoms makes them seem promiscuous or easy, whereas men may fear that carrying condoms makes them seem presumptuous, as if they are expecting to have sex. Self-presentational concerns may also influence interactions with health care providers and may lead people to delay or avoid embarrassing medical tests and procedures or treatments for conditions that are embarrassing. For example, people may be reluctant to seek tests or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, loss of bladder control, mental disorders, mental decline, or other conditions associated with weakness or incompetence. Finally, concerns with social acceptance may prompt young people to engage in risky behaviors such as excessive alcohol consumption, sexual promiscuity, or juvenile delinquency.
- Jones, E. E., Pittman, T. S. (1982). Toward a general theory of strategic self-presentation. In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self (Vol. 1, pp. 231-260). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Leary, M. R. (1996). Self-presentation: Impression management and interpersonal behavior. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Leary, M. R., Tchividjian, L. R., & Kraxberger, B. E. (1994). Self-presentation can be hazardous to your health: Impression management and health risk. Health Psychology, 13, 461-470.
- Schlenker, B. R. (1980). Impression management: The self-concept, social identity, and interpersonal relations. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
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Erving Goffman (1922—1982)
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The conscious or unconscious control of the impression that one creates in social interactions or situations. It is one of the important forms of impression management, namely management of one's own impression on others through role playing. The phenomenon is encapsulated in Shakespeare's famous observation in As You Like It: ‘All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts’ (II.vii.139–42). It was popularized by the Canadian-born US sociologist Erving Goffman (1922–82) in his influential book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). See also ingratiation, self-monitoring, social constructionist psychology.
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On This Page:
- Impression management refers to the goal-directed conscious or unconscious attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object, or event by regulating and controlling information in social interaction.
- Generally, people undertake impression management to achieve goals that require they have a desired public image. This activity is called self-presentation.
- In sociology and social psychology, self-presentation is the conscious or unconscious process through which people try to control the impressions other people form of them.
- The goal is for one to present themselves the way in which they would like to be thought of by the individual or group they are interacting with. This form of management generally applies to the first impression.
- Erving Goffman popularized the concept of perception management in his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , where he argues that impression management not only influences how one is treated by other people but is an essential part of social interaction.
Impression Management in Sociology
Impression management, also known as self-presentation, refers to the ways that people attempt to control how they are perceived by others (Goffman, 1959).
By conveying particular impressions about their abilities, attitudes, motives, status, emotional reactions, and other characteristics, people can influence others to respond to them in desirable ways.
Impression management is a common way for people to influence one another in order to obtain various goals.
While earlier theorists (e.g., Burke, 1950; Hart & Burk, 1972) offered perspectives on the person as a performer, Goffman (1959) was the first to develop a specific theory concerning self-presentation.
In his well-known work, Goffman created the foundation and the defining principles of what is commonly referred to as impression management.
In explicitly laying out a purpose for his work, Goffman (1959) proposes to “consider the ways in which the individual in ordinary work situations presents himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kind of things he may or may not do while sustaining his performance before them.” (p. xi)
Goffman viewed impression management not only as a means of influencing how one is treated by other people but also as an essential part of social interaction.
He communicates this view through the conceit of theatre. Actors give different performances in front of different audiences, and the actors and the audience cooperate in negotiating and maintaining the definition of a situation.
To Goffman, the self was not a fixed thing that resides within individuals but a social process. For social interactions to go smoothly, every interactant needs to project a public identity that guides others’ behaviors (Goffman, 1959, 1963; Leary, 2001; Tseelon, 1992).
Goffman defines that when people enter the presence of others, they communicate information by verbal intentional methods and by non-verbal unintentional methods.
According to Goffman, individuals participate in social interactions through performing a “line” or “a pattern of verbal and nonverbal acts by which he expresses his view of the situation and through this his evaluation of the participants, especially himself” (1967, p. 5).
Such lines are created and maintained by both the performer and the audience. By enacting a line effectively, a person gains positive social value or “face.”
The verbal intentional methods allow us to establish who we are and what we wish to communicate directly. We must use these methods for the majority of the actual communication of data.
Goffman is mostly interested in the non-verbal clues given off which are less easily manipulated. When these clues are manipulated the receiver generally still has the upper hand in determining how realistic the clues that are given off are.
People use these clues to determine how to treat a person and if the intentional verbal responses given off are actually honest. It is also known that most people give off clues that help to represent them in a positive light, which tends to be compensated for by the receiver.
Impression Management Techniques
- Suppressing emotions : Maintaining self-control (which we will identify with such practices as speaking briefly and modestly).
- Conforming to Situational Norms : The performer follows agreed-upon rules for behavior in the organization.
- Flattering Others : The performer compliments the perceiver. This tactic works best when flattery is not extreme and when it involves a dimension important to the perceiver.
- Being Consistent : The performer’s beliefs and behaviors are consistent. There is agreement between the performer’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
Self-presentation can affect the emotional experience . For example, people can become socially anxious when they are motivated to make a desired impression on others but doubt that they can do so successfully (Leary, 2001).
In one paper on self-presentation and emotional experience, Schlenker and Leary (1982) argue that, in contrast to the drive models of anxiety, the cognitive state of the individual mediates both arousal and behavior.
The researchers examine the traditional inverted-U anxiety-performance curve (popularly known as the Yerkes-Dodson law) in this light.
The researchers propose that people are interpersonally secure when they do not have the goal of creating a particular impression on others.
They are not immediately concerned about others’ evaluative reactions in a social setting where they are attempting to create a particular impression and believe that they will be successful in doing so.
Meanwhile, people are anxious when they are uncertain about how to go about creating a certain impression (such as when they do not know what sort of attributes the other person is likely to be impressed with), think that they will not be able to project the types of images that will produce preferred reactions from others.
Such people think that they will not be able to project the desired image strongly enough or believe that some event will happen that will repudiate their self-presentations, causing reputational damage (Schlenker and Leary, 1982).
Psychologists have also studied impression management in the context of mental and physical health .
In one such study, Braginsky et al. (1969) showed that those hospitalized with schizophrenia modify the severity of their “disordered” behavior depending on whether making a more or less “disordered” impression would be most beneficial to them (Leary, 2001).
Additional research on university students shows that people may exaggerate or even fabricate reports of psychological distress when doing so for their social goals.
Hypochondria appears to have self-presentational features where people convey impressions of illness and injury, when doing so helps to drive desired outcomes such as eliciting support or avoiding responsibilities (Leary, 2001).
People can also engage in dangerous behaviors for self-presentation reasons such as suntanning, unsafe sex, and fast driving. People may also refuse needed medical treatment if seeking this medical treatment compromises public image (Leary et al., 1994).
There are several determinants of impression management, and people have many reasons to monitor and regulate how others perceive them.
For example, social relationships such as friendship, group membership, romantic relationships, desirable jobs, status, and influence rely partly on other people perceiving the individual as being a particular kind of person or having certain traits.
Because people’s goals depend on them making desired impressions over undesired impressions, people are concerned with the impressions other people form of them.
Although people appear to monitor how they come across ongoingly, the degree to which they are motivated to impression manage and the types of impressions they try to foster varies by situation and individuals (Leary, 2001).
Leary and Kowalski (1990) say that there are two processes that constitute impression management, each of which operate according to different principles and are affected by different situations and dispositional aspects. The first of these processes is impression motivation, and the second is impression construction.
There are three main factors that affect how much people are motivated to impression-manage in a situation (Leary and Kowalski, 1990):
(1) How much people believe their public images are relevant to them attaining their desired goals.
When people believe that their public image is relevant to them achieving their goals, they are generally more motivated to control how others perceive them (Leary, 2001).
Conversely, when the impressions of other people have few implications on one’s outcomes, that person’s motivation to impression-manage will be lower.
This is why people are more likely to impression manage in their interactions with powerful, high-status people than those who are less powerful and have lower status (Leary, 2001).
(2) How valuable the goals are: people are also more likely to impress and manage the more valuable the goals for which their public impressions are relevant (Leary, 2001).
(3) how much of a discrepancy there is between how they want to be perceived and how they believe others perceive them..
People are more highly motivated to impression-manage when there is a difference between how they want to be perceived and how they believe others perceive them.
For example, public scandals and embarrassing events that convey undesirable impressions can cause people to make self-presentational efforts to repair what they see as their damaged reputations (Leary, 2001).
Features of the social situations that people find themselves in, as well as their own personalities, determine the nature of the impressions that they try to convey.
In particular, Leary and Kowalski (1990) name five sets of factors that are especially important in impression construction (Leary, 2001).
Two of these factors include how people’s relationships with themselves (self-concept and desired identity), and three involve how people relate to others (role constraints, target value, and current or potential social image) (Leary and Kowalski, 1990).
The impressions that people try to create are influenced not only by social context but also by one’s own self-concept .
People usually want others to see them as “how they really are” (Leary, 2001), but this is in tension with the fact that people must deliberately manage their impressions in order to be viewed accurately by others (Goffman, 1959).
People’s self-concepts can also constrain the images they try to convey.
People often believe that it is unethical to present impressions of themselves different from how they really are and generally doubt that they would successfully be able to sustain a public image inconsistent with their actual characteristics (Leary, 2001).
This risk of failure in portraying a deceptive image and the accompanying social sanctions deter people from presenting impressions discrepant from how they see themselves (Gergen, 1968; Jones and Pittman, 1982; Schlenker, 1980).
People can differ in how congruent their self-presentations are with their self-perceptions.
People who are high in public self-consciousness have less congruency between their private and public selves than those lower in public self-consciousness (Tunnell, 1984; Leary and Kowalski, 1990).
People’s desired and undesired selves – how they wish to be and not be on an internal level – also influence the images that they try to project.
Schlenker (1985) defines a desirable identity image as what a person “would like to be and thinks he or she really can be, at least at his or her best.”
People have a tendency to manage their impressions so that their images coincide with their desired selves and stay away from images that coincide with their undesired selves (Ogilivie, 1987; Schlenker, 1985; Leary, 2001).
This happens when people publicly claim attributes consistent with their desired identity and openly reject identities that they do not want to be associated with.
For example, someone who abhors bigots may take every step possible to not appear bigoted, and Gergen and Taylor (1969) showed that high-status navel cadets did not conform to low-status navel cadets because they did not want to see themselves as conformists (Leary and Kowalski, 1990).
people tailor their self-presentations to the values of the individuals whose perceptions they are concerned with.
This may lead to people sometimes fabricating identities that they think others will value.
However, more commonly, people selectively present truthful aspects of themselves that they believe coincide with the values of the person they are targeting the impression to and withhold information that they think others will value negatively (Leary, 2001).
the content of people’s self-presentations is affected by the roles that they take on and the norms of their social context.
In general, people want to convey impressions consistent with their roles and norms .
Many roles even carry self-presentational requirements around the kinds of impressions that the people who hold the roles should and should not convey (Leary, 2001).
Current or potential social image
People’s public image choices are also influenced by how they think they are perceived by others. As in impression motivation, self-presentational behaviors can often be aimed at dispelling undesired impressions that others hold about an individual.
When people believe that others have or are likely to develop an undesirable impression of them, they will typically try to refute that negative impression by showing that they are different from how others believe them to be.
When they are not able to refute this negative impression, they may project desirable impressions in other aspects of their identity (Leary, 2001).
In the presence of others, few of the behaviors that people make are unaffected by their desire to maintain certain impressions. Even when not explicitly trying to create a particular impression of themselves, people are constrained by concerns about their public image.
Generally, this manifests with people trying not to create undesired impressions in virtually all areas of social life (Leary, 2001).
Tedeschi et al. (1971) argued that phenomena that psychologists previously attributed to peoples’ need to have cognitive consistency actually reflected efforts to maintain an impression of consistency in others’ eyes.
Studies have supported Tedeschi and their colleagues’ suggestion that phenomena previously attributed to cognitive dissonance were actually affected by self-presentational processes (Schlenker, 1980).
Psychologists have applied self-presentation to their study of phenomena as far-ranging as conformity, aggression, prosocial behavior, leadership, negotiation, social influence, gender, stigmatization, and close relationships (Baumeister, 1982; Leary, 1995; Schlenker, 1980; Tedeschi, 1981).
Each of these studies shows that people’s efforts to make impressions on others affect these phenomena, and, ultimately, that concerns self-presentation in private social life.
For example, research shows that people are more likely to be pro-socially helpful when their helpfulness is publicized and behave more prosocially when they desire to repair a damaged social image by being helpful (Leary, 2001).
In a similar vein, many instances of aggressive behavior can be explained as self-presentational efforts to show that someone is willing to hurt others in order to get their way.
This can go as far as gender roles, for which evidence shows that men and women behave differently due to the kind of impressions that are socially expected of men and women.
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