February 21, 2009


This week’s readings were on the topic of “using the self.” Particularly, how do we evaluate ourselves, in what contexts, and the readings even examined self-fulfilling prophecies. When we make self-evaluations, do we search for accurate information? Or do we focus on what makes us feel better about ourselves?

Much of what I read pitted the self-enhancement perspective against the self-verification perspective. Self-enhancement is when a person focuses on positive central traits over negative ones. Self-verification, on the other hand, refers to preferring accurate information about the self, whether positive or negative. Essentially, it seems that people self-enhance more than they self-verify. For instance, we prefer accurate information about positive traits of ours over negative ones. We are also more likely to disconfirm negative traits that are central to our identity as opposed to those that are more peripheral. As well, we think our faces are more attractive than they actually are. And we would be quicker to pick out our face when morphed with an attractive face than when viewing our original face, or our face morphed with an unattractive face.

These self-enhancements that we make seem to be more related to implicit, unconscious processes (e.g., gut feelings) than more explicit, direct processes. As well, these self-enhancements are related to social comparison and self-perception processes. When people view us as more positive for a certain trait, we view ourselves as positive on the trait. And when we view others that are positive on a trait, we again self-enhance. Connecting themes, this idea goes back to the previous literature that we have read throughout the past couple weeks. Specifically, our self-concept is a story that our unconscious makes up about ourselves, and it may not be a true story. It’s hard to access accurate information about ourselves. Not much of our self can come from introspection and deliberation. Instead, it’s a story and we use that story to feel better about ourselves and to get along better with group members.

Here are some citations for further reading:

Epley, N., & Whitchurch, E. (2008). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Enhancement in self-recognition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1159-1170.

Kwan, V. S. Y., John, O. P., Kenny, D. A., Bond, M. H., & Robins, R. W. (2004). Reconceptualizing individual differences in self-enhancement bias: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Review, 111, 94-111.

Sedikides, C. (1993). Assessment, enhancement, and verification determinants of the self-evaluation process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 317-338.

Swann, W. B., Jr. (1987). Identity negotiation: Where two roads meet. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1038-1051.

Madon, S., Guyll, M., Buller, A. A., Scherr, Williard, J., & Spoth, R. (2008). The mediation of mothers' self-fulfilling effects on their children's alcohol use: Self-verification, informational conformity, and modeling processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 369-384.

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