April 24, 2009


This week’s readings on the self seemed to concern a more classic topic than previous weeks, and that is the idea of self-presentation. In general, we like to manage the impressions that we give to others. We like to appear favorable. As well, we’ll even manipulate the impressions of others to make them appear unfavorable. For instance, Gilbert and Silvera found that people will try to hinder others by “overhelping” them. If a target person that we do not favor is performing on a task that is rather simple, or easily performed, we’ll likely help this person achieve his/her goal in order to undermine his/her competence. So, in effect, the target person will seem incompetent because he/she received help on an easy task.

Not to sound repetitive, but self-presentation makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, especially if Kurzban’s idea of the self (the SCI) is an accurate representation of reality. If the self is a collection of modules that help us function in a social world, by manipulating others, then self-presentation fits in as one tool we use to manipulate others. As I stated before, we manipulate the representations of ourselves to appear favorable to others, and we manipulate the representations of others to make them appear less favorable. An important motive that seems to be behind self-presentation is belongingness and acceptance, but it is by no means the only motive. As the SCI would predict, the activation of multiple modules will differentially affect self-presentation. In support of this notion, Griskevicius et al. found that activating self-protection versus mating goals will differentially affect whether we conform to a group or not. When people are primed with self-protection goals, they generally conform to group attitudes/norms. This is because fitting in with groups often proved to be beneficial for protection. At the same time, priming men with mate goals will make them less likely to conform to group attitudes, as being perceived as independent and differentiated from the group could potentially lead to greater reproductive success. Women on the other hand were more likely to conform, as agreeableness is often cited as a sought after quality from men. I do wonder which goal would have precedence over the other though. If self-protection and mate goals were each activated simultaneously, how would that affect conformity? Would people be more likely to conform because self-protection goals are stronger?

We also learned that self-presentation seems to depend on self-regulatory energy. It takes energy to control our self representations, as well, when our energy has been depleted, we are less likely to control them. Interestingly, representations that are familiar (overly practiced) do not deplete regulatory energy. For instance, obeying gender rules is usually familiar to us, so it doesn’t take energy to obey them. This is very reminiscent of the formation of implementation intentions, and lends support to the notion that perhaps forming implementations intentions will not endanger one to becoming thoroughly depleted. Thinking back on the Griskevicius work, it must take energy to not conform to group behavior. Will the activation of mate goals be hindered by regulatory depletion? Or will the mate goals be so familiar that their effects on self-regulation be minimal? Just some questions to think about I guess.

Citations for further reading:

Cialdini, R.B., & De Nicholas, M.E. (1989). Self-presentation by association. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 57, 626-631.

Gilbert, D.T.,, & Silvera, D.H. (1996). Overhelping. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 70, 678-690.

Griskevicius, V., Goldstein, N.J., Mortensen, C.R., Cialdini, R.B., & Kenrick, D.T. (2006). Going along versus going alone: When fundamental motives facilitate strategic (non)conformity. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 91, 63-76.

Tice, D.M. (1992). Self-concept change and self-presentation: The looking-glass self is also a magnifying glass. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 63, 435-451.

Vohs, K.D., Baumeister, R.F., & Ciarocco, N.J. (2005). Self-regulation and self-presentation: Regulatory resource depletion impairs impression management and effortful self-presentation depletes regulatory resources. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 88, 632-657.

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