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Impression management: Developing your self-presentation skills

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What is impression management?

Examples of impression management, the theory behind impression management, impression management in the workplace, 7 impression management techniques, noticing the practice of impression management.

How much is a first impression worth?

We all know the value of a strong first impression, but not many of us know how to strategically go about creating one . Instead, we tend to cultivate two different personas. There’s our relaxed self, when we don’t feel like we have to impress. And then there are the times when we’re “on,” and we become deliberate about every word we say and move we make.

Social media has made us even more aware of the power of our personas. And that doesn’t mean that we have to be inauthentic. Understanding impression management can help us emphasize the qualities that we want to shine through and how to be more at ease with others.

Canadian social psychologist, sociologist, and writer Erving Goffman first presented the idea of impression management in the 1950s. In his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , Goffman uses the idea of theatre as a metaphor for human social interactions.

His theory became known as Goffman's dramaturgical analysis. It provides an interesting contextual framework for understanding human behavior.

Impression management is the sum total of actions we take — both consciously and unconsciously — to influence how others perceive us. We often attempt to manage how people see us to make us more likely to achieve our goals.

People use impression management to align how we’re seen with what we want. In general, we want other people to think of us as confident, likeable, intelligent, capable, interesting, and any number of other positive traits.

We then “adjust” our behavior to exhibit these characteristics to meet a desired goal. This is closely related to the self-presentation theory — and in fact, the two ideas are often used interchangeably.

If you’ve ever seen the musical Chicago, you’re familiar with the idea of impression management.

Our client, Roxie Hart, was an ambitious adulterer — a persona that wouldn’t have made her too sympathetic to the jury during her murder trial. Instead, she and her lawyer carefully curated a set of behaviors, actions, and even a backstory that made her seem more likeable and naive. 

This impression management strategy culminated in the song, “ They Both Reached for the Gun .” Her lawyer, Billy Flynn, stepped in to manage every part of her presentation to the court, emphasizing that Roxie would only have fired a gun in self-defense.

Outside of the Cook County jail, people use impression management strategies in all kinds of ways. Here are some examples you might have experienced in the workplace: 

  • A person is walking into a meeting. They’ve had a rough morning and an even rougher commute. But they smile broadly and wave at each person as they walk in, hiding their bad mood and exhaustion. To all watching, they’re happy to be here.
  • You’ve been working in your pajamas all day amongst a pile of paperwork and cookie crumbs. Before joining the afternoon Zoom call, you brush your hair, throw on a clean shirt, and dust the crumbs off the sofa.
  • A candidate arrives for their job interview several minutes late. “So sorry,” they say breathlessly. “I was here early, but I got sent to the wrong office.”

What’s the point of this duplicity? 

Well, it might not be all that inauthentic . Despite a rough morning, the first person might genuinely be thrilled to be at work — or might be trying to salvage the day. You might be extremely punctual and just ended up in the wrong place. And it’s totally possible you have no idea how those cookies got there.

On both conscious and unconscious levels, we’re aware that in different situations, we need to emphasize different aspects of our personality and behavior. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t true, just that they’re hidden (under a layer of cookie dust). We tend to engage in a constant, quiet self-monitoring that makes us aware of behaviors that don’t align with how we want to be seen. 

Awareness of these internal contradictions is known as cognitive dissonance . It’s the sense of psychological discomfort that we feel when we’re doing something that contradicts our beliefs or values. We typically resolve cognitive dissonance by taking an action that’s better aligned with our beliefs, or by changing our beliefs to justify our behavior.

So in the above examples, we smile, clean up, or apologize because we want to emphasize our good nature, professionalism, and punctuality. We curate these behaviors to try to control the impressions others have of us. 

Over time, the behaviors (and feedback we get based on those behaviors) inform our self-concepts. We begin to believe that we are the face that we’re putting out to the world, and to a large extent we are.

After all, a tree makes a sound if it falls in the forest, even if no one is around to hear it. But it’s hard to understand the impact of the sound — or put it into context — without an audience.


Goffman explained impression management theory using theatre as a metaphor. Our behavior in a given setting is based on three components: motives , self-presentation , and social context .

We adapt our behaviors as a means to an end. We might want to seem more likeable, competent, or attractive. The qualities we decide to emphasize are the ones that we believe are in line with the outcome we want.

If you pay attention to people’s behavior across different settings, you can often guess what they want to accomplish. The behaviors and qualities they “play up” will clue you into the goal. 


Self-presentation falls into two main categories: actions that are aligned with your self-image, and actions that align with the expectations of the “audience.” When people respond positively to the projected self, it has a positive impact on our self-esteem. 

This effect is multiplied when the desired image feels congruent with the audience’s expectations. In other words, when people feel like they can bring their whole selves to the “performance,” and that self is welcomed and rewarded, they feel great about themselves. In the workplace, these individuals have higher job satisfaction, a sense of belonging , and increased retention.

Social context

Our public image is also closely tied to how we conduct ourselves in social situations. We inform our understanding of acceptable and unacceptable (and by extension, desirable and undesirable) behavior according to context and social norms.

When we’re successful in making the desired impressions on a group, we feel good about our social standing.

Impression management is a very important skill to have in the workplace. It affects your social influence at work, or — in other words — how others perceive you and your company. 

How organizations use impression management

Organizations use it for both internal and external purposes. Internally, companies want to be seen by the industry as a good place to work. They want to appear organized, capable, supportive, and financially stable. Impression management is closely related to company culture. 

Organizations also use impression management for external purposes. This might include communications with clients, partners, or investors. Managing the positive and negative impression a company has on the general public is usually called public relations or marketing.

Impression management in interviews

The classic scenario of impression management in the workplace is the job interview. Candidates and interviewers alike feel compelled to try to look “perfect.” This means coming across as “authentically perfect” — that is, pleasant, competent, and yet not so perfect as to seem disingenuous.  

Interviews also involve quite a bit of self-promotion. Although self-promotion gets a bit of a bad rep, it’s often the best way for a company to find out about a candidate's skills and experience. This kind of self-promotion can help a candidate leave a positive impression on a prospective employer or client.

Note that this is only true when self-promotion is based in honesty. Lying about your skills or competencies doesn’t earn you any ingratiation points.

Interpersonal impression management

Another common use of impression management at work is building relationships with your colleagues. People usually have a work “persona,” which encompasses a range of behaviors, wardrobe choices, and even topics of conversation. 

While we all shift our behavior to suit different contexts, many feel the shift that happens at work acutely. This is because of the pressure and high value placed on social capital at work, which often compounds other issues of belonging. This kind of impression management is called code-switching .


Impression management techniques can be used in a variety of situations, from job interviews to networking events. Even if it happens unconsciously, we tend to match our behavior and techniques to the situation. According to Goffman, there are 7 different types of impression management tactics we use to control how others perceive us: conformity , excuses , acclaim , flattery , self-promotion , favors , and association .

1. Conformity

Conformity means being accepted by a larger group. In order to conform, you have to (implicitly or explicitly) uphold the social norms and expectations of the group.

Group norms are the behaviors that are considered appropriate for a situation or in a particular set of people. For example, if your job may have a business-casual dress code, so cut-off jeans would feel out-of-place.

Excuses are explanations for a negative event given in order to avoid (or lessen) punishment and judgment. There are countless examples of excuses being made — in and out of the workplace. For example, you might hear people blame traffic when they’re late to meetings.  

Generally speaking, you can only count on but so much social favor with excuses and apologies. Once you make an excuse, you’ve given up a little bit of authority in the situations. Do this too often, and you’ll be seen as unreliable or as a perpetual victim .

That being said, traffic, setbacks, and emergencies really do happen. Communicating these changes proactively can go a long way towards building rapport — especially if you show you’re willing to work through it. 

Public recognition of someone’s accomplishments often goes a long way towards building rapport. When you acclaim someone in this way, you applaud them for their skills and success. If your team is recognition-driven, this sentiment will likely inspire others to work hard as well. It can help incentivize specific behaviors.


4. Flattery

Flattery is a technique often used to improve your relationship with someone through compliments. It’s meant to make you seem agreeable, perceptive, and pleasant. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone who always has something positive to say about them?

As with the other techniques — if not even more so — flattery can easily come across as insincere. Anchor flattering comments in specific praise, and try not to go overboard. It can be helpful to develop self-awareness and ask yourself why you’re piling it on. Are you truly impressed, or are you feeling a little insecure?

5. Self-promotion

Self-promotion is about highlighting your strengths and drawing attention to your achievements. This phenomenon is especially common in business settings, but it’s frequently seen in personal relationships, too. Because it’s self-directed, some worry that “bragging” on themselves will make them less likeable.

You can eliminate a little of this pressure by looking for spaces where talking about yourself isn’t just welcomed, but expected. Social media, job interviews, and professional networking events are great platforms for practicing self-promotion. Curate at least one space where you can own your full range of accomplishments.

Doing a favor for someone, whether in business or in everyday life, shifts the power dynamic of a relationship. It establishes the person doing the favor as “useful,” and may result in the recipient feeling like they owe something to the other party. 

When favors only come with strings attached, people feel manipulated and resentful. When they’re done freely and out of a desire to be helpful, they can build mutual affinity in a relationship.

7. Association

Association means ensuring that any information shared about you, your company, and your partners is truthful and relevant. This is especially important, as being associated with someone means that everyone’s impressions reflect on each other's values and image.

Sometimes, we consciously associate with certain people to promote our self-image. Some people will network with you (and you with others) in hopes of being introduced to a larger network of contacts.

Impression management is the act of managing how other people perceive you. It is a social strategy that we employ in order to make a good impression on others and to control what they think about us. 

The practice of impression management is a common one in modern society. It’s one of the main ways that people try to maintain their social status and establish themselves as a worthy individual. We may not be aware that we’re doing it, but — at any given time — we’re making dozens of decisions that are influenced by what others might think of us.

You can learn how to better manage your own persona, thrive in social situations, and understand the behavior of others by working with a coach. Coaches can help you understand what you need to project more (or less) of to get what you want, and how to align it with your authentic self.

Ready to learn how to improve your influence, both in and out of the workplace? Schedule a demo with a BetterUp coach today.

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Allaya Cooks-Campbell

With over 15 years of content experience, Allaya Cooks Campbell has written for outlets such as ScaryMommy, HRzone, and HuffPost. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and is a certified yoga instructor as well as a certified Integrative Wellness & Life Coach. Allaya is passionate about whole-person wellness, yoga, and mental health.

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Introducing betterup, and why everyone needs a coach in their corner, 10+ interpersonal skills at work and ways to develop them, professional development is for everyone (we’re looking at you), the self presentation theory and how to present your best self, 6 ways to leverage ai for hyper-personalized corporate learning, your work performance will sky-rocket with these 13 tips, vocational skills: what they are and how to develop them, handle feedback like a boss and make it work for you, similar articles, being your authentic self is easier said than done but worth it, how to not be nervous for a presentation — 13 tips that work (really), 25 unique email sign-offs to make a good impression, developing individual contributors: your secret weapon for growth, how to stop self-sabotaging: 5 steps to change your behavior, self-concept: what is it, and can it change, self-management skills for a messy world, make a good first impression: expert tips for showing up at your best, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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Self-presentation definition.

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.

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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 Goals

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.

Self-Presentation Avenues

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 Pitfalls

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.

Phil Reed D.Phil.

  • Personality

Self-Presentation in the Digital World

Do traditional personality theories predict digital behaviour.

Posted August 31, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

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  • Personality theories can help explain real-world differences in self-presentation behaviours but they may not apply to online behaviours.
  • In the real world, women have higher levels of behavioural inhibition tendencies than men and are more likely to avoid displeasing others.
  • Based on this assumption, one would expect women to present themselves less on social media, but women tend to use social media more than men.

Digital technology allows people to construct and vary their self-identity more easily than they can in the real world. This novel digital- personality construction may, or may not, be helpful to that person in the long run, but it is certainly more possible than it is in the real world. Yet how this relates to "personality," as described by traditional personality theories, is not really known. Who will tend to manipulate their personality online, and would traditional personality theories predict these effects? A look at what we do know about gender differences in the real and digital worlds suggests that many aspects of digital behaviour may not conform to the expectations of personality theories developed for the real world.

Half a century ago, Goffman suggested that individuals establish social identities by employing self-presentation tactics and impression management . Self-presentational tactics are techniques for constructing or manipulating others’ impressions of the individual and ultimately help to develop that person’s identity in the eyes of the world. The ways other people react are altered by choosing how to present oneself – that is, self-presentation strategies are used for impression management . Others then uphold, shape, or alter that self-image , depending on how they react to the tactics employed. This implies that self-presentation is a form of social communication, by which people establish, maintain, and alter their social identity.

These self-presentational strategies can be " assertive " or "defensive." 1 Assertive strategies are associated with active control of the person’s self-image; and defensive strategies are associated with protecting a desired identity that is under threat. In the real world, the use of self-presentational tactics has been widely studied and has been found to relate to many behaviours and personalities 2 . Yet, despite the enormous amounts of time spent on social media , the types of self-presentational tactics employed on these platforms have not received a huge amount of study. In fact, social media appears to provide an ideal opportunity for the use of self-presentational tactics, especially assertive strategies aimed at creating an identity in the eyes of others.

Seeking to Experience Different Types of Reward

Social media allows individuals to present themselves in ways that are entirely reliant on their own behaviours – and not on factors largely beyond their ability to instantly control, such as their appearance, gender, etc. That is, the impression that the viewer of the social media post receives is dependent, almost entirely, on how or what another person posts 3,4 . Thus, the digital medium does not present the difficulties for individuals who wish to divorce the newly-presented self from the established self. New personalities or "images" may be difficult to establish in real-world interactions, as others may have known the person beforehand, and their established patterns of interaction. Alternatively, others may not let people get away with "out of character" behaviours, or they may react to their stereotype of the person in front of them, not to their actual behaviours. All of which makes real-life identity construction harder.

Engaging in such impression management may stem from motivations to experience different types of reward 5 . In terms of one personality theory, individuals displaying behavioural approach tendencies (the Behavioural Activation System; BAS) and behavioural inhibition tendencies (the Behavioural Inhibition System; BIS) will differ in terms of self-presentation behaviours. Those with strong BAS seek opportunities to receive or experience reward (approach motivation ); whereas, those with strong BIS attempt to avoid punishment (avoidance motivation). People who need to receive a lot of external praise may actively seek out social interactions and develop a lot of social goals in their lives. Those who are more concerned about not incurring other people’s displeasure may seek to defend against this possibility and tend to withdraw from people. Although this is a well-established view of personality in the real world, it has not received strong attention in terms of digital behaviours.

Real-World Personality Theories May Not Apply Online

One test bed for the application of this theory in the digital domain is predicted gender differences in social media behaviour in relation to self-presentation. Both self-presentation 1 , and BAS and BIS 6 , have been noted to show gender differences. In the real world, women have shown higher levels of BIS than men (at least, to this point in time), although levels of BAS are less clearly differentiated between genders. This view would suggest that, in order to avoid disapproval, women will present themselves less often on social media; and, where they do have a presence, adopt defensive self-presentational strategies.

The first of these hypotheses is demonstrably false – where there are any differences in usage (and there are not that many), women tend to use social media more often than men. What we don’t really know, with any certainty, is how women use social media for self-presentation, and whether this differs from men’s usage. In contrast to the BAS/BIS view of personality, developed for the real world, several studies have suggested that selfie posting can be an assertive, or even aggressive, behaviour for females – used in forming a new personality 3 . In contrast, sometimes selfie posting by males is related to less aggressive, and more defensive, aspects of personality 7 . It may be that women take the opportunity to present very different images of themselves online from their real-world personalities. All of this suggests that theories developed for personality in the real world may not apply online – certainly not in terms of putative gender-related behaviours.

We know that social media allows a new personality to be presented easily, which is not usually seen in real-world interactions, and it may be that real-world gender differences are not repeated in digital contexts. Alternatively, it may suggest that these personality theories are now simply hopelessly anachronistic – based on assumptions that no longer apply. If that were the case, it would certainly rule out any suggestion that such personalities are genetically determined – as we know that structure hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 20 years.

1. Lee, S.J., Quigley, B.M., Nesler, M.S., Corbett, A.B., & Tedeschi, J.T. (1999). Development of a self-presentation tactics scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 26(4), 701-722.

2. Laghi, F., Pallini, S., & Baiocco, R. (2015). Autopresentazione efficace, tattiche difensive e assertive e caratteristiche di personalità in Adolescenza. Rassegna di Psicologia, 32(3), 65-82.

3. Chua, T.H.H., & Chang, L. (2016). Follow me and like my beautiful selfies: Singapore teenage girls’ engagement in self-presentation and peer comparison on social media. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 190-197.

4. Fox, J., & Rooney, M.C. (2015). The Dark Triad and trait self-objectification as predictors of men’s use and self-presentation behaviors on social networking sites. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 161-165.

5. Hermann, A.D., Teutemacher, A.M., & Lehtman, M.J. (2015). Revisiting the unmitigated approach model of narcissism: Replication and extension. Journal of Research in Personality, 55, 41-45.

6. Carver, C.S., & White, T.L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(2), 319.

7. Sorokowski, P., Sorokowska, A., Frackowiak, T., Karwowski, M., Rusicka, I., & Oleszkiewicz, A. (2016). Sex differences in online selfie posting behaviors predict histrionic personality scores among men but not women. Computers in Human Behavior, 59, 368-373.

Phil Reed D.Phil.

Phil Reed, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Swansea University.

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Impression Management: Erving Goffman Theory

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Charlotte Nickerson is a student at Harvard University obsessed with the intersection of mental health, productivity, and design.

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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

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)

Social Interaction

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 Examples

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).

Key Components

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.

Impression Motivation

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).

Impression Construction

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).

Desired identity

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).

Target value

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).

Role constraints

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.

Baumeister, R. F. (1982). A self-presentational view of social phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 3-26.

Braginsky, B. M., Braginsky, D. D., & Ring, K. (1969). Methods of madness: The mental hospital as a last resort. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Buss, A. H., & Briggs, S. (1984). Drama and the self in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1310-1324. Gergen, K. J. (1968). Personal consistency and the presentation of self. In C. Gordon & K. J. Gergen (Eds.), The self in social interaction (Vol. 1, pp. 299-308). New York: Wiley.

Gergen, K. J., & Taylor, M. G. (1969). Social expectancy and self-presentation in a status hierarchy. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5, 79-92.

Goffman, E. (1959). The moral career of the mental patient. Psychiatry, 22(2), 123-142.

  • Goffman, E. (1963). Embarrassment and social organization.

Goffman, E. (1978). The presentation of self in everyday life (Vol. 21). London: Harmondsworth.

Goffman, E. (2002). The presentation of self in everyday life. 1959. Garden City, NY, 259.

Martey, R. M., & Consalvo, M. (2011). Performing the looking-glass self: Avatar appearance and group identity in Second Life. Popular Communication, 9 (3), 165-180.

Jones E E (1964) Ingratiation. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York.

Jones, E. E., & Pittman, T. S. (1982). Toward a general theory of strategic self-presentation. Psychological perspectives on the self, 1(1), 231-262.

Leary M R (1995) Self-presentation: Impression Management and Interpersonal Behaior. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Leary, M. R.. Impression Management, Psychology of, in Smelser, N. J., & Baltes, P. B. (Eds.). (2001). International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (Vol. 11). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological bulletin, 107(1), 34.

Leary M R, Tchvidjian L R, Kraxberger B E 1994 Self-presentation may be hazardous to your health. Health Psychology 13: 461–70.

Ogilvie, D. M. (1987). The undesired self: A neglected variable in personality research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 379-385.

  • Schlenker, B. R. (1980). Impression management (Vol. 222). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Schlenker, B. R. (1985). Identity and self-identification. In B. R. Schlenker (Ed.), The self and social life (pp. 65-99). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Schlenker, B. R., & Leary, M. R. (1982). Social anxiety and self-presentation: A conceptualization model. Psychological bulletin, 92(3), 641.

Tedeschi, J. T, Smith, R. B., Ill, & Brown, R. C., Jr. (1974). A reinterpretation of research on aggression. Psychological Bulletin, 81, 540- 563.

Tseëlon, E. (1992). Is the presented self sincere? Goffman, impression management and the postmodern self. Theory, culture & society, 9(2), 115-128.

Tunnell, G. (1984). The discrepancy between private and public selves: Public self-consciousness and its correlates. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 549-555.

Further Information

  • Solomon, J. F., Solomon, A., Joseph, N. L., & Norton, S. D. (2013). Impression management, myth creation and fabrication in private social and environmental reporting: Insights from Erving Goffman. Accounting, organizations and society, 38(3), 195-213.
  • Gardner, W. L., & Martinko, M. J. (1988). Impression management in organizations. Journal of management, 14(2), 321-338.
  • Scheff, T. J. (2005). Looking‐Glass self: Goffman as symbolic interactionist. Symbolic interaction, 28(2), 147-166.

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Social Sci LibreTexts

12.2: Self-presentation

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  • Rose M. Spielman, William J. Jenkins, Marilyn D. Lovett, et al.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe social roles and how they influence behavior
  • Explain what social norms are and how they influence behavior
  • Define script
  • Describe the findings of Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment

As you’ve learned, social psychology is the study of how people affect one another’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We have discussed situational perspectives and social psychology’s emphasis on the ways in which a person’s environment, including culture and other social influences, affect behavior. In this section, we examine situational forces that have a strong influence on human behavior including social roles, social norms, and scripts. We discuss how humans use the social environment as a source of information, or cues, on how to behave. Situational influences on our behavior have important consequences, such as whether we will help a stranger in an emergency or how we would behave in an unfamiliar environment.

Social Roles

One major social determinant of human behavior is our social roles. A social role is a pattern of behavior that is expected of a person in a given setting or group (Hare, 2003). Each one of us has several social roles. You may be, at the same time, a student, a parent, an aspiring teacher, a son or daughter, a spouse, and a lifeguard. How do these social roles influence your behavior? Social roles are defined by culturally shared knowledge. That is, nearly everyone in a given culture knows what behavior is expected of a person in a given role. For example, what is the social role for a student? If you look around a college classroom you will likely see students engaging in studious behavior, taking notes, listening to the professor, reading the textbook, and sitting quietly at their desks (See figure 12.8). Of course you may see students deviating from the expected studious behavior such as texting on their phones or using Facebook on their laptops, but in all cases, the students that you observe are attending class—a part of the social role of students.

A photograph shows students in a classroom.

Social roles, and our related behavior, can vary across different settings. How do you behave when you are engaging in the role of son or daughter and attending a family function? Now imagine how you behave when you are engaged in the role of employee at your workplace. It is very likely that your behavior will be different. Perhaps you are more relaxed and outgoing with your family, making jokes and doing silly things. But at your workplace you might speak more professionally, and although you may be friendly, you are also serious and focused on getting the work completed. These are examples of how our social roles influence and often dictate our behavior to the extent that identity and personality can vary with context (that is, in different social groups) (Malloy, Albright, Kenny, Agatstein & Winquist, 1997).

Social Norms

As discussed previously, social roles are defined by a culture’s shared knowledge of what is expected behavior of an individual in a specific role. This shared knowledge comes from social norms. A social norm is a group’s expectation of what is appropriate and acceptable behavior for its members—how they are supposed to behave and think (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Berkowitz, 2004). How are we expected to act? What are we expected to talk about? What are we expected to wear? In our discussion of social roles we noted that colleges have social norms for students’ behavior in the role of student and workplaces have social norms for employees’ behaviors in the role of employee. Social norms are everywhere including in families, gangs, and on social media outlets. What are some social norms on Facebook?

CONNECT THE CONCEPTS: Tweens, Teens, and Social Norms

My \(11\)-year-old daughter, Jessica, recently told me she needed shorts and shirts for the summer, and that she wanted me to take her to a store at the mall that is popular with preteens and teens to buy them. I have noticed that many girls have clothes from that store, so I tried teasing her. I said, “All the shirts say ‘Aero’ on the front. If you are wearing a shirt like that and you have a substitute teacher, and the other girls are all wearing that type of shirt, won’t the substitute teacher think you are all named ‘Aero’?”

My daughter replied, in typical \(11\)-year-old fashion, “Mom, you are not funny. Can we please go shopping?”

I tried a different tactic. I asked Jessica if having clothing from that particular store will make her popular. She replied, “No, it will not make me popular. It is what the popular kids wear. It will make me feel happier.” How can a label or name brand make someone feel happier? Think back to what you’ve learned about lifespan development . What is it about pre-teens and young teens that make them want to fit in (See figure 12.9)? Does this change over time? Think back to your high school experience, or look around your college campus. What is the main name brand clothing you see? What messages do we get from the media about how to fit in?

A photograph shows a group of young people dressed similarly.

Because of social roles, people tend to know what behavior is expected of them in specific, familiar settings. A script is a person’s knowledge about the sequence of events expected in a specific setting (Schank & Abelson, 1977). How do you act on the first day of school, when you walk into an elevator, or are at a restaurant? For example, at a restaurant in the United States, if we want the server’s attention, we try to make eye contact. In Brazil, you would make the sound “psst” to get the server’s attention. You can see the cultural differences in scripts. To an American, saying “psst” to a server might seem rude, yet to a Brazilian, trying to make eye contact might not seem an effective strategy. Scripts are important sources of information to guide behavior in given situations. Can you imagine being in an unfamiliar situation and not having a script for how to behave? This could be uncomfortable and confusing. How could you find out about social norms in an unfamiliar culture?

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment

The famous Stanford prison experiment , conducted by social psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues at Stanford University, demonstrated the power of social roles, social norms, and scripts. In the summer of 1971, an advertisement was placed in a California newspaper asking for male volunteers to participate in a study about the psychological effects of prison life. More than \(70\) men volunteered, and these volunteers then underwent psychological testing to eliminate candidates who had underlying psychiatric issues, medical issues, or a history of crime or drug abuse. The pool of volunteers was whittled down to \(24\) healthy male college students. Each student was paid \(\$15\) per day and was randomly assigned to play the role of either a prisoner or a guard in the study. Based on what you have learned about research methods, why is it important that participants were randomly assigned?

A mock prison was constructed in the basement of the psychology building at Stanford. Participants assigned to play the role of prisoners were “arrested” at their homes by Palo Alto police officers, booked at a police station, and subsequently taken to the mock prison. The experiment was scheduled to run for several weeks. To the surprise of the researchers, both the “prisoners” and “guards” assumed their roles with zeal. In fact, on day 2, some of the prisoners revolted, and the guards quelled the rebellion by threatening the prisoners with night sticks. In a relatively short time, the guards came to harass the prisoners in an increasingly sadistic manner, through a complete lack of privacy, lack of basic comforts such as mattresses to sleep on, and through degrading chores and late-night counts.

The prisoners, in turn, began to show signs of severe anxiety and hopelessness—they began tolerating the guards’ abuse. Even the Stanford professor who designed the study and was the head researcher, Philip Zimbardo, found himself acting as if the prison was real and his role, as prison supervisor, was real as well. After only six days, the experiment had to be ended due to the participants’ deteriorating behavior. Zimbardo explained,

At this point it became clear that we had to end the study. We had created an overwhelmingly powerful situation—a situation in which prisoners were withdrawing and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards were behaving sadistically. Even the “good” guards felt helpless to intervene, and none of the guards quit while the study was in progress. Indeed, it should be noted that no guard ever came late for his shift, called in sick, left early, or demanded extra pay for overtime work. (Zimbardo, 2013)

The Stanford prison experiment demonstrated the power of social roles, norms, and scripts in affecting human behavior. The guards and prisoners enacted their social roles by engaging in behaviors appropriate to the roles: The guards gave orders and the prisoners followed orders. Social norms require guards to be authoritarian and prisoners to be submissive. When prisoners rebelled, they violated these social norms, which led to upheaval. The specific acts engaged by the guards and the prisoners derived from scripts. For example, guards degraded the prisoners by forcing them do push-ups and by removing all privacy. Prisoners rebelled by throwing pillows and trashing their cells. Some prisoners became so immersed in their roles that they exhibited symptoms of mental breakdown; however, according to Zimbardo, none of the participants suffered long term harm (Alexander, 2001).

The Stanford Prison Experiment has some parallels with the abuse of prisoners of war by U.S. Army troops and CIA personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004. The offenses at Abu Ghraib were documented by photographs of the abuse, some taken by the abusers themselves (See fig. 12.10).

A photograph shows a person standing on a box with arms held out. The person is covered in shawl-like attire and a full hood that covers the face completely.

Link to Learning

Listen to this NPR interview with Philip Zimbardo where he discusses the parallels between the Stanford prison experiment and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to learn more.

Week 3: Intrapersonal Communication and Self


How we perceive ourselves manifests in how we present ourselves to others. Self-presentation is the process of strategically concealing or revealing personal information in order to influence others’ perceptions. [1] We engage in this process daily and for different reasons. Although people occasionally intentionally deceive others in the process of self-presentation, in general we try to make a good impression while still remaining authentic. Since self-presentation helps meet our instrumental, relational, and identity needs, we stand to lose quite a bit if we are caught intentionally misrepresenting ourselves. In May of 2012, Yahoo!’s CEO resigned after it became known that he stated on official documents that he had two college degrees when he actually only had one. In a similar incident, a woman who had long served as the dean of admissions for the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology was dismissed from her position after it was learned that she had only attended one year of college and had falsely indicated she had a bachelor’s and master’s degree. [2] Such incidents clearly show that although people can get away with such false self-presentation for a while, the eventual consequences of being found out are dire. As communicators, we sometimes engage in more subtle forms of inauthentic self-presentation. For example, a person may state or imply that they know more about a subject or situation than they actually do in order to seem smart or “in the loop.” During a speech, a speaker works on a polished and competent delivery to distract from a lack of substantive content. These cases of strategic self-presentation may not ever be found out, but communicators should still avoid them as they do not live up to the standards of ethical communication.

Consciously and competently engaging in self-presentation can have benefits because we can provide others with a more positive and accurate picture of who we are. People who are skilled at impression management are typically more engaging and confident, which allows others to pick up on more cues from which to form impressions. [3] Being a skilled self-presenter draws on many of the practices used by competent communicators, including becoming a higher self-monitor. When self-presentation skills and self-monitoring skills combine, communicators can simultaneously monitor their own expressions, the reaction of others, and the situational and social context. [4] Sometimes people get help with their self-presentation. Although most people can’t afford or wouldn’t think of hiring an image consultant, some people have started generously donating their self-presentation expertise to help others. Many people who have been riding the tough job market for a year or more get discouraged and may consider giving up on their job search. Now a project called “Style Me Hired” has started offering free makeovers to jobless people in order to offer them new motivation and help them make favorable impressions and hopefully get a job offer. [5]

Photo of a young man straightening a tie while wearing a suit

People who have been out of work for a while may have difficulty finding the motivation to engage in the self-presentation behaviors needed to form favorable impressions.

There are two main types of self-presentation: prosocial and self-serving. [6] Prosocial self-presentation entails behaviors that present a person as a role model and make a person more likable and attractive. For example, a supervisor may call on her employees to uphold high standards for business ethics, model that behavior in her own actions, and compliment others when they exemplify those standards. Self-serving self-presentation entails behaviors that present a person as highly skilled, willing to challenge others, and someone not to be messed with. For example, a supervisor may publicly take credit for the accomplishments of others or publicly critique an employee who failed to meet a particular standard. In summary, prosocial strategies are aimed at benefiting others, while self-serving strategies benefit the self at the expense of others.

In general, we strive to present a public image that matches up with our self-concept, but we can also use self-presentation strategies to enhance our self-concept. [7]   When we present ourselves in order to evoke a positive evaluative response, we are engaging in self-enhancement. In the pursuit of self-enhancement, a person might try to be as appealing as possible in a particular area or with a particular person to gain feedback that will enhance one’s self-esteem. For example, a singer might train and practice for weeks before singing in front of a well-respected vocal coach but not invest as much effort in preparing to sing in front of friends. Although positive feedback from friends is beneficial, positive feedback from an experienced singer could enhance a person’s self-concept. Self-enhancement can be productive and achieved competently, or it can be used inappropriately. Using self-enhancement behaviors just to gain the approval of others or out of self-centeredness may lead people to communicate in ways that are perceived as phony or overbearing and end up making an unfavorable impression. [8]

“Getting Plugged In”

Self-presentation online: social media, digital trails, and your reputation.

Although social networking has long been a way to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, the advent of social media has made the process of making connections and those all-important first impressions much more complex. Just looking at Facebook as an example, we can clearly see that the very acts of constructing a profile, posting status updates, “liking” certain things, and sharing various information via Facebook features and apps is self-presentation. [9]   People also form impressions based on the number of friends we have and the photos and posts that other people tag us in. All this information floating around can be difficult to manage. So how do we manage the impressions we make digitally given that there is a permanent record?

Research shows that people overall engage in positive and honest self-presentation on Facebook. [10] Since people know how visible the information they post is, they may choose to only reveal things they think will form favorable impressions. But the mediated nature of Facebook also leads some people to disclose more personal information than they might otherwise in such a public or semipublic forum. These hyperpersonal disclosures run the risk of forming negative impressions based on who sees them. In general, the ease of digital communication, not just on Facebook, has presented new challenges for our self-control and information management. Sending someone a sexually provocative image used to take some effort before the age of digital cameras, but now “sexting” an explicit photo only takes a few seconds. So people who would have likely not engaged in such behavior before are more tempted to now, and it is the desire to present oneself as desirable or cool that leads people to send photos they may later regret. [11] In fact, new technology in the form of apps is trying to give people a little more control over the exchange of digital information. An iPhone app called “Snapchat” allows users to send photos that will only be visible for a few seconds. Although this isn’t a guaranteed safety net, the demand for such apps is increasing, which illustrates the point that we all now leave digital trails of information that can be useful in terms of our self-presentation but can also create new challenges in terms of managing the information floating around from which others may form impressions of us.

  • What impressions do you want people to form of you based on the information they can see on your Facebook page?
  • Have you ever used social media or the Internet to do “research” on a person? What things would you find favorable and unfavorable?
  • Do you have any guidelines you follow regarding what information about yourself you will put online or not? If so, what are they? If not, why?
  • Lauren J. Human et al., “Your Best Self Helps Reveal Your True Self: Positive Self-Presentation Leads to More Accurate Personality Impressions,” Social Psychological and Personality Sciences 3, no. 1 (2012): 23. ↵
  • Lauren Webber and Melissa Korn, “Yahoo’s CEO among Many Notable Resume Flaps,” Wall Street Journal Blogs , May 7, 2012, accessed June 9, 2012, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/05/07/yahoos-ceo-among-many-notable-resume-flaps . ↵
  • Lauren J. Human et al., “Your Best Self Helps Reveal Your True Self: Positive Self-Presentation Leads to More Accurate Personality Impressions,” Social Psychological and Personality Sciences 3, no. 1 (2012): 27. ↵
  • John J. Sosik, Bruce J. Avolio, and Dong I. Jung, “Beneath the Mask: Examining the Relationship of Self-Presentation Attributes and Impression Management to Charismatic Leadership,” The Leadership Quarterly 13 (2002): 217. ↵
  • “Style Me Hired,” accessed June 6, 2012, http://www.stylemehired.com . ↵
  • Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice (London: Routledge, 2011), 99–100. ↵
  • John J. Sosik, Bruce J. Avolio, and Dong I. Jung, “Beneath the Mask: Examining the Relationship of Self-Presentation Attributes and Impression Management to Charismatic Leadership,” The Leadership Quarterly 13 (2002): 236. ↵
  • Junghyun Kim and Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee, “The Facebook Paths to Happiness: Effects of the Number of Facebook Friends and Self-Presentation on Subjective Well-Being,” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 14, no. 6 (2011): 360. ↵
  • Natalie DiBlasio, “Demand for Photo-Erasing iPhone App Heats up Sexting Debate,” USA Today , May 7, 2012, accessed June 6, 2012, http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/05/demand-for-photo-erasing-iphone-app-heats-up-sexting-debate/1 . ↵
  • Perceiving and Presenting Self. Authored by : Anonymous. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/a-primer-on-communication-studies/s02-03-perceiving-and-presenting-self.html . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Image of man straightening tie. Authored by : Alex France. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/5UE1JQ . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
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Online Impression Management: Personality Traits and Concerns for Secondary Goals as Predictors of Self-Presentation Tactics on Facebook

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Jenny Rosenberg, Nichole Egbert, Online Impression Management: Personality Traits and Concerns for Secondary Goals as Predictors of Self-Presentation Tactics on Facebook, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , Volume 17, Issue 1, 1 October 2011, Pages 1–18, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01560.x

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This study investigates the utility of personality traits and secondary goals as predictors of self-presentation tactics employed by Facebook users. A structural equation model of self-presentation tactics on Facebook was proposed and tested. Although fit of the initial model was good, the final model, eliminating three paths and adding two others, yielded a significantly better fitting model. Findings show that personality traits predicted concern for secondary goals (N = 477) and that secondary goals predicted the use of various self-presentation tactics used on Facebook. Results indicated that these personality traits and secondary goals are both theoretically and empirically sound components for the conceptualization of online impression management.

In a day and age where relationships are often initiated and maintained in online environments, the formation and management of online impressions has gained importance in recent years and become the subject of numerous studies (e.g., Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007 ; Tong, Van Der Heide, Langwell, & Walther, 2008 ; Walther, Van Der Heide, Kim, Westerman, & Tong, 2008 ; Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008 ). With social networking sites such as Facebook and twitter, and online dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony, individuals have the ability to create images of themselves for social purposes without being constrained by time or space. Internet users visit social networking sites and create strategic profiles to influence how others perceive them. Understanding how impression management functions in an online environment is imperative for researchers who are interested in the dynamics of modern interpersonal relationships. In an attempt to attain a better understanding, the current study examines how individuals' personality traits and concern for secondary goals impact self-presentation tactics employed on Facebook.

Goals-planning-action theory links personality traits to goals, which previous studies have not addressed ( Dillard, Anderson, & Knobloch, 2002 ). The relationship between the personality traits of self-monitoring, Machiavellianism, and affinity-seeking will be examined and linked to individuals' concern for secondary goals. Finally, one's concerns for secondary goals (identity goals, interaction goals, personal resource goals, and arousal management goals) will be investigated as they relate to Facebook users' self-presentation tactics.

Individuals spend most of their lives interacting with others. These interactions shape people's views of themselves, which are then reflected in the ways they present themselves during interactions. Symbolic interactionism captures the ongoing processes between one's self, one's social interactions, and their links to developing meaning ( Blumer, 1986 ). The reciprocal relationship between interactions and self-identity is difficult to determine; however, researchers examining self-presentation and impression management have been investigating this relationship for more than 5 decades (e.g., Goffman, 1959 ; Jones & Pittman, 1982 ; Leary, 1996 ; Pontari & Schlenker, 2006 ; Snyder, 1974 ).

One of the first authors to argue that interactions serve a function of presenting an image of the self was Goffman (1959) , who asserted that people engage in strategic actions to create and maintain a desired image. Goffman (1959) believed that individuals not only try to convince others to see them as just, respectable, and moral individuals, but also that people want to maintain established positive impressions. For the purpose of this study, the terms impression management and self-presentation will be used interchangeably as others have done so in the past (e.g., Leary & Kowalski, 1990 ; Lee, Quigley, Nesler, Corbett, & Tedeschi, 1999 ).

Individuals engage in various self-presentation tactics to present themselves in favorable ways. Researchers concerned with self-presentation have provided ample support for the existence and use of various self-presentation tactics (e.g., Jones & Pittman, 1982 ; Lee et al., 1999 ; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005 ). Self-presentation tactics are defined as “behaviors used to manage impressions to achieve foreseeable short-term interpersonal objectives or goals” ( Lee et al., 1999, p. 702 ). Individuals do not only seek to manage their impression face-to-face, but also in computer-mediated environments ( Zhao et al., 2008 ). When considering online environments, specifically the social networking site Facebook, two motivations for impression management, namely publicity and likelihood of future interactions are especially pertinent ( Leary, 1996 ). The public nature of one's impression will motivate people to manage their impressions more carefully. Also, future interactions with one's Facebook “friends” are highly likely, which will increase one's motivation to monitor his or her impressions more closely.

Facebook and Impressions

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, are particularly interesting to communication researchers because they are dedicated specifically to forming and managing impressions, as well as engaging in relational maintenance and relationship-seeking behaviors ( Tong et al., 2008 ). Numerous researchers have recognized Facebook's potential for studying communication behaviors and have investigated the social networking site ( Ellison et al., 2007 ; Mazer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2007 ; Ross et al., 2009 ; Zywica & Danowski, 2008 ) and how it is related to impression formation ( Tong et al., 2008 ; Walther et al., 2008 ; Zhao et al., 2008 ). For instance, the physical attractiveness of one's Facebook friends and comments made by those friends were found to be related to ratings of the profile owner's physical and social attractiveness, as well his or her credibility ( Walther et al., 2008 ). Research has also shown that the more Facebook friends a profile owner had, the more socially attractive he or she was perceived to be ( Walther et al., 2008 ). Interestingly, further results showed that ratings of a profile owner's extraversion were highest with a moderate number of friends ( Tong et al., 2008 ). Fewer studies have examined the profile owners' strategies used to create an image of themselves. The overall conclusion was that one's Facebook identity tends to be highly socially desirable and difficult to attain offline ( Zhao et al., 2008 ).

Self-presentation and impression management are both conscious efforts to control selected behaviors to make a desired impression on a particular audience (e.g., Leary, 1996 ; Schlenker & Pontari, 2000 ). Desired impressions, according to Leary (1996) , are defined as impressions an individual wants to portray and making a desired impression on an audience is a goal individuals attempt to achieve. However, before engaging in self-presentation tactics, individuals first have to establish what their desired impression is. In this context, the formation of a favorable impression is considered the primary goal.

Goals and Impressions

It is largely agreed upon that human action is generally goal-directed and that human cognition is shaped by individuals' goal-directed behavior ( Berger, 2002 ). Dillard (1990) defines goals as “future states of affairs which an individual is committed to achieving or maintaining” (p. 43). In general, there are two types of goals: influence goals (also known as primary goals) and secondary goals ( Dillard, 1990 ). The main distinction between the two types of goals is their centrality to the influence attempt and their causal relationship to one another. Primary goals are related to an individual's desire to cause behavior change in another person when engaging in interpersonal influence attempts ( Dillard, Segrin, & Harden, 1989 ). Scholars have identified a variety of types of primary influence goals, including initiating a relationship, obtaining permission, gaining assistance, escalating a relationship, giving assistance, protecting a right, and normative requests (for further discussion see Cody, Canary, & Smith, 1994 ). However, in the context of this study, the authors propose that the influence goal can also be the desired impression the actor seeks to achieve, given that self-presentation and impression management tactics are the foci of this study. Primary goals, also known as influence goals, will be referred to as “impression goals” in this study to take into account not only the context of the study, but also the notion of impression management as goal-directed behavior.

Secondary goals.

Secondary goals are ongoing concerns to which individuals attend during persuasive episodes and can be viewed as constraints that shape how the influence attempt is approached and enacted ( Dillard, 1990 ). To be successful, social actors have to manage the constraints related to their impression management behavior ( Marwell & Schmitt, 1967 ). Secondary goals are recurring motivations in an individual's life and include identity goals, interaction goals, personal resource goals, and arousal management goals ( Dillard et al., 1989 ). More precisely, secondary goals “act as a counterforce to [the influence episode] and as a set of dynamics that help to shape planning and message output” ( Dillard, 1990, p. 46 ).

Secondary goals are either self-oriented or are directed toward both interactants (actor as well as target; Dillard et al., 1989 ). For the purpose of this study, two types of secondary goals have been identified, namely interaction-oriented secondary goals (consisting of interaction and identity goals) and self-oriented secondary goals (consisting of personal resource and arousal management goals). Interaction goals are related to the social appropriateness of one's actions. These goals focus on an individual's desire to increase or maintain attention, emotional support, as well as to engage in social comparison ( Dillard, 1990 ). Whereas interaction goals are concerned with the actor as well as the target, identity goals are primarily related to an individual's self-concept ( Dillard et al., 1989 ). Personal resource goals are the desire to maintain or increase material, physical, mental, and temporal assets ( Dillard, 1990 ). Finally, arousal management goals are based on the notion that individuals like to maintain certain boundaries, within which they feel comfortable.

Individuals consider the ways in which they ought to behave to achieve the desired impression. This process is the basis for goal-oriented behavior and fundamental to this line of research ( Berger, 2002 ). Primary goals are directly related to the desired outcome, whereas secondary goals are constraints that shape an individual's plans and action as to how to achieve a particularly goal ( Dillard, 1990 ; Dillard et al., 1989 ). It is hypothesized that the self-presentation tactics chosen by Facebook users will be influenced by the kinds of constraints (secondary goals) individuals abide by when attempting to achieve their impression (primary) goal.

H1: Interaction-oriented (identity & interaction) and self-oriented (personal resource & arousal management) secondary goals will be positively related to self-presentation tactics (manipulation, self-promotion, damage control, and role-modeling) used on Facebook.

As mentioned above, goals-planning-action theory links personality traits to goals to help understand why certain individuals would choose various tactics over others ( Dillard et al., 2002 ). Personality traits have been identified as predictors of impression management and self-presentation. Based on literature on impression management, the functions of self-monitoring, Machiavellianism, and affinity-seeking are considered and further explored for their potential relationship to secondary goals and how they ultimately impact self-presentation strategies used on Facebook.

Personality Traits and Impressions


Individuals differ in the extent to which they monitor (regulate, control, and observe) the selves they display in interpersonal relationships and social situations ( Snyder, 1987 ). One of the most studied personality traits in association with impression management is self-monitoring (e.g., Fandt & Ferris, 1990 ; Leone & Corte, 1994 ; Turnley & Bolino, 2001 ). Self-monitoring refers to the process whereby individuals regulate their own behavior to showcase traits that are desirable and perceived favorably by others ( Snyder, 1974 ).

Being particularly concerned with the social and situational appropriateness of their behavior, high self-monitors engage in social comparison more frequently than low self-monitors ( Snyder, 1987 ). Social appropriateness is also central to interaction goals, as these goals involve one's desire to manage impressions successfully while avoiding face-threats to either party ( Dillard, 1990 ). Avoiding face-threats to either party involves a greater repertoire of social roles as well as scripts, which is characteristic of high self-monitors ( Leone & Corte, 1994 ; Turnley & Bolino, 2001 ). High self-monitors are attentive to what others do and are skilled at controlling images of themselves and adapting to social situations ( Daly, 2002 ). Their greater sensitivity to social contexts allows high self-monitors to tailor their images in ways that best serve their (impression) goals ( Snyder, 1987 ). Generally, individuals scoring high on self-monitoring are more likely to manipulate information to present a more desirable image of themselves ( Fandt & Ferris, 1990 ).

Individuals scoring low on self-monitoring are less sensitive to social cues, and therefore are less skilled at assessing appropriate behaviors and self-presentation in various situations. Unlike high self-monitors, individuals scoring low on self-monitoring tend to have a limited repertoire of self-regulatory skills and choose actions and words in accordance with their dispositions ( Leary, 1996 ). Overall findings suggest that individuals who score high on self-monitoring are more skillful in their self-presentation endeavors by being able to assess social situations and adjust their behavior accordingly (e.g., Berscheid, Graziano, Monson, & Dermer, 1976 ; Dabbs, Evans, Hopper, & Purvis, 1980 ; Jones & Baumeister, 1976 ). Therefore, it is hypothesized that high self-monitors are more likely to pay close attention to secondary goals governing the self-presentation tactics they use on Facebook.

H2: Self-monitoring will be positively related to the use of interaction- and self-oriented secondary goals.

However, skilled impression management is not exclusive to high self-monitors. Individuals high in Machiavellianism are also skilled impression managers, although they manage their impressions for different purposes ( Ickes, Reidhead, & Patterson, 1986 ).


People who are manipulative and willing to fabricate impressions of themselves are known as Machiavellian, or “high Mach” ( Christie & Geis, 1970 ; Leary, 1996 ). Individuals scoring high in Machiavellianism have a tendency to be calculated and strategic in their actions, and are therefore more likely to cheat or lie to attain their goals. Further, Machiavellians may employ skillful strategies to exploit situations and people for their personal benefit ( Grams & Rogers, 1990 ), as they tend to share the belief that there are no moral values that apply to all situations ( Leary, Knight, & Barnes, 1986 ).

Despite the fact that both high self-monitors and Machiavellians are skilled in presenting themselves in a certain light, their motives are vastly different ( Leone & Corte, 1994 ). High self-monitors are other-oriented and therefore accommodating, whereas individuals scoring high on Machiavellianism tend to be self-oriented and assimilative ( Ickes et al., 1986 ). These Machiavellian traits suggest that high Machs might be more concerned with self-oriented secondary goals (personal resource and arousal management goals) and less concerned with interaction-oriented secondary goals (identity and interaction goals).

H3: Machiavellianism will be negatively related to interaction-oriented and positively related to self-oriented secondary goals.


Regardless of how aware individuals are of the impressions they are making and how skilled they are at creating desired impression by employing various self-presentation tactics, impression management itself can be traced back to individuals' inherent need to be accepted and included ( Leary, 1996 ). Liking is often the underlying factor when engaging in behaviors that are meant to facilitate acceptance and inclusion. These behaviors are nonverbal and verbal communicative efforts through which individuals try to get others to like them ( Daly & Kreiser, 1994 ). Therefore, the subsequent section will discuss affinity-seeking and its relationship to secondary goals.

Affinity-seeking is based on the notion that individuals want others to like them, which is one of the most basic, and possibly even most defining, characteristics of human beings ( Daly & Kreiser, 1994 ). The concept of affinity seeking is defined as “the active [and strategic] social-communicative process by which individuals attempt to get others to like and to feel positive toward them” ( Bell & Daly, 1984, p. 91 ). Individuals need to be liked by others and therefore use various affinity-seeking strategies to enhance others' affect towards them ( R. B. Rubin, A. M. Rubin, & Martin, 1993 ). Self-presentation and impression management are conscious attempts to control behaviors to make a desired impression on a particular audience by employing various self-presentation tactics (e.g., Leary, 1996 ; Schlenker & Pontari, 2000 ). The ultimate goal of affinity-seeking is to maintain or enhance liking between one person and another ( Daly & Kreiser, 1994 ). In communication research, the desired outcome of persuasion is attitude or behavioral change. When considering affinity-seeking, liking is the desired outcome and persuasion is the way to achieve this goal ( Daly & Kreiser, 1994 ). Furthermore, liking can be achieved by creating a desirable impression of oneself.

Bell and Daly (1984) identified 25 commonly used affinity-seeking strategies, including presenting an interesting self, self-concept confirmation, similarity, and so forth. The application of these strategies can impact significantly how well an individual is liked by others. Therefore, it is hypothesized that as affinity-seekers are primarily concerned with being liked by others, they are more likely to pay attention to interaction-oriented, as opposed to self-oriented secondary goals.

H4: Affinity-seeking will be positively related to the use of interaction-oriented and negatively related to the use of self-oriented secondary goals.

The purpose of this study is to assess the relationship between personality traits (self-monitoring, Machiavellianism, and affinity-seeking) and interaction- and self-oriented secondary goals and the various self-presentation tactics used on Facebook (see Figure 1 ). To do so, the following model is proposed and tested using structural equation modeling (SEM).

Proposed Model of Self-Presentation Tactics on Facebook

Sample and Procedures

Given the exploratory nature of this study, a cross-sectional survey was used ( Metts, Sprecher, & Cupach, 1991 ). The population for the study consisted of individuals who maintain a personal Facebook profile. Participants joined a Facebook group created for the purpose of this study. The group's page contained a brief description of the purpose of the study and a link to the online survey.

Participants were recruited using a snowball sampling method. The researchers contacted their Facebook friends with an invitation to join the group. The invitation asked them to forward the group invitation to their Facebook friends, who, in turn, forwarded it to their friends. The principle investigator's Facebook friends were specifically asked not to complete the survey so as to avoid socially desirable responses. In addition to recruiting participants on Facebook ( N = 357), an e-mail containing a link to the online survey was sent to individuals subscribed to the Communication Research and Theory Network (CRTNET), which is managed by the National Communication Association (NCA). The remaining 120 participants were recruited using this method for a total of 477 respondents.

The final sample consisted of 477 participants. Out of the 477 participants who completed the survey, 75.6% were female and 23% were male (1.4% of the participants chose not to answer this question). The sample was predominantly Caucasian (88.9%) with less than 2% being African American (1.2%), Asian American (1.8%), Hispanic (0.4%), and Native American (1%). The mean age of the sample was 33.14 years of age ( SD = 10.81).


The survey consisted of five measures: self-presentation tactics, secondary goals, self-monitoring, Machiavellianism, and affinity-seeking. In addition to the five measures, respondents were also asked to provide basic demographic information along with information related to their Facebook use.

Self-presentation tactics.

The self-presentation tactics scale was used to assess the various tactics associated with impression management ( Lee et al., 1999 ). The self-presentation tactics scale consists of statements which respondents are asked to rate using a 9-point Likert-type scale. The overall Cronbach's alpha of the 64-item scale was reported as .89 ( Lee et al., 1999 ). Given the limited use of the self-presentation tactics scale in past research, the lack of alternative measures for self-presentation tactics, and varying results derived from factor analyses ( Lee et al., 1999 ; Lewis & Neighbors, 2005 ), as well as the modifications made to the scale to assess behaviors displayed on Facebook, an exploratory factor analysis was used. This initial unrotated factor analysis ( n = 477) revealed 11 factors with eigenvalues of at least 1. The scree plot was consulted, suggesting that only four factors should be retained for a second factor analysis. Twenty-four items were eliminated following this process, and a second factor analysis was conducted. The second exploratory factor analysis with Varimax rotation was conducted on the remaining 39 items. The second exploratory factor analysis revealed four factors in the rotated factor structure. The final 4-factor solution contained 38 items and accounted for 63.18% of the variance: manipulation accounted for 40.90% of the variance (eigenvalue = 15.54, α = .97; see Table 1 for means, standard deviations, and Cronbach's alphas for all tactics), damage control (eigenvalue = 4.29, α = .88) explained 11.30% of the variance, self-promotion (eigenvalue = 2.27, α = .87) explained 5.99% of the variance, and role-modeling (eigenvalue = 1.89, α = .88) accounted for 4.99% of the variance in the final solution. Upon examination of the mean for the manipulation dimension ( M = 1.32), it was concluded that respondents clustered near the lowest possible score, suggesting the occurrence of a floor effect ( Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002 ). The floor effect likely occurred due to social desirability and transforming the variable using a mean-split did not solve the problem the floor effect presented. Despite efforts to retain the factor (i.e., through data transformation), the manipulation dimension had to be eliminated.

Means, Standard Deviations, and Cronbach's Alphas for all Variables

To assess an individual's concern during impression management episodes, various goals scales (outlined below) were used ( Dillard et al., 1989 ). The goals scale consisted of statements which respondents were asked to rate using a 5-point Likert-type scale. The 25-item measure consisted of six dimensions, including an influence scale, an identity scale, interaction scale, a relational resource scale, a personal resource scale, and an arousal management scale.

Dillard and colleagues (1989) reported Cronbach alphas obtained from two distinct samples ranging from .85 to .87 for the influence scale, .76 to .78 for the identity scale, .71 to .72 for the interaction scale, .71 to .76 for the relational resource scale, .71 to .80 for the personal resource scale, and .75 to .76 for the arousal management scale. These scales were modified to fit the context of the present study. First, all items in the original scales were written in past tense and therefore had to be changed to present tense. Finally, as the secondary goals scale asked respondents to rate a recent influence attempt, the items were adapted to fit the goal of the current study, which was to explore general tendencies of respondents, rather than a specific event.

Given the considerable changes made to the original measure, a pretest was administered to a sample of 83 undergraduate students enrolled in a communication course at a large university in the Midwestern United States. The pretest revealed a Cronbach's alpha of .85, which is similar to the alphas reported by Dillard and colleagues (1989). Upon testing the various dimensions—influence (.84), identity (.69), interaction (.84), personal resource (.84), arousal management (.70), and relational resource (.48)–the relational resource scale consisting of three items was not included in the final data analysis due to its low reliability.

Self-monitoring was assessed using the revised self-monitoring scale ( Lennox & Wolfe, 1984 ). Snyder's (1974) original self-monitoring scale has been criticized for lack of construct validity, as it is difficult to determine what the scale as a whole might be measuring ( Lennox & Wolfe, 1984 ; O’Cass, 2000 ). Unlike the original true/false scale of Snyder (1974) , the revised self-monitoring scale is comprised of a 6-point bipolar format, rating from “ certainly always false ” to “ certainly always true ”. A Cronbach's alpha of .86 was reported for the entire revised scale ( Lennox & Wolfe, 1984 ) and the data for this study confirmed the reliability of the scale with a Cronbach's alpha of .87.

Machiavellianism was assessed using the Mach IV scale ( Christie & Geis, 1970 ). The Mach V scale, which suffers from low internal consistency, problems associated with scoring, an unclear factor structure, as well high correlations with measures of social desirability (Fehr, Samson, & Paulhus, 1992 ). The Mach IV scale consists of 20 statements which individuals rate using a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Christie and Geis (1970) reported a .79 mean split-half reliability across 9 samples. This study revealed a Cronbach's alpha of .71.

Affinity-seeking was assessed using the Affinity-Seeking Instrument (ASI; Bell, Tremblay, & Buerkel-Rothfuss, 1987 ), rather than the Affinity-Maintenance Scale ( Bell, Daly, & Gonzalez, 1987 ), as the latter focuses on specific strategies, whereas the ASI consists of only two subscales—including affinity-seeking competence and strategic performance. Bell et al. ( 1987 ) reported alphas ranging from .85 to .89, which coincides with the Cronbach's alpha of .87 found in this study. The affinity-seeking instrument has internal consistency along with a stable factor structure, as well as concurrent and discriminant validity (Bell et al., 1987 ). The instrument consists of 13 items and respondents used a 7-point Likert-type scale.

Overview of Analyses

To test the model proposed in Figure 1 , structural equation modeling (SEM) was utilized (EQS 6.1, Bentler, 2006 ). SEM tests all components of the model simultaneously while also modeling measurement error. Preliminary examination of the data revealed that all of the assumptions of linear regression and SEM (e.g., linearity, multivariate normality, random residuals) were met. Examination of the bivariate correlation matrix also did not reveal any problems with multicollinearity (see Table 2 ).

Correlations Among all Continuous Variables

* p < .05.

** p < .001.

Two tables were created to help describe the data in this sample. Table 1 displays the means, standard deviations, and Cronbach's alphas for all continuous variables. Table 2 presents bivariate correlations between all continuous variables in this study. To test the model, the data were analyzed using a partial structural model. Gender, age, number of Facebook friends, and number of Facebook logins per week were included as exogenous variables and left initially free to affect all other variables. When none of these variables were found to be significantly associated with any of the study variables, they were subsequently removed from the model.

Using EQS, interaction-oriented and self-orientated secondary goals were defined as latent factors. The interaction-oriented secondary goals factor consisted of identity and interaction goals; the path for identity goals also was fixed at 1.0, as it accounted for the most variance in the latent factor. The self-oriented secondary goals factor consisting of personal resource and arousal management goals; the path for personal resource goals was fixed at 1.0, as it accounted for the most variance in the latent factor. Maximum likelihood (ML) estimation method was used, as the multivariate normality assumption was not violated.

Based on the sample size recommendations by Bentler (2006) , the present sample size ( N = 477) is sufficient to test the proposed model including covariates with a 10:1 N : q ratio (where q represents the number of free parameter estimates)—the recommended ratio is between 5:1 and 10:1 (i.e., 5 to 10 cases for every parameter estimates). The N : q ratio is considered a good assessment of power because it considers the complexity of the model to be estimated, rather than simply the number of observed/measured variables in the model ( Jackson, 2003 ). Finally, the model was properly overidentified, with 2 known parameters to 9 unknown parameters.

The hypothesized model moderately fit the data, χ 2 (22, N = 477) = 131.28, p = .00, CFI = .90, RMSEA = .10 ( CI = .08, .12). The path from self-monitoring to self-oriented secondary goals, and the paths from interaction-oriented secondary goals to damage control strategies and self-promotion were not significant (shown in Figure 2 as dotted lines). In addition, the output indicated a direct path between affinity-seeking and self-promotional strategies and yet another direct path from Machiavellianism to identity secondary goals (shown in Figure 2 as dashed lines). In the revised model, the paths between self-monitoring and self-oriented secondary goals, as well as interaction-oriented secondary goals and self-promotion strategies and damage control strategies, were eliminated. Direct paths from Machiavellianism to identity secondary goals and from affinity-seeking to self-promotional strategies used on Facebook were added. The revised model fit the data better than the original model, χ 2 (23, N = 477) = 49.80, p = .00, CFI = .98, RMSEA = .05 ( CI = .03, .07). In this final model, the change in chi-square from the initial model is significant (Δ χ 2 = 81. 48, p < .001), suggesting a significant improvement in fit. Additionally, the comparative fit index (CFI) is above .90 and the root-mean-squared error approximation (RMSEA) is .05 (with the lower bound of the RMSEA confidence interval close to 0 and the upper bound not above .10), which are all indicative of a good fit. The standardized estimates for the final trimmed model are shown in Figure 2 .

Final Model of Self-Presentation Tactics on Facebook
 Notes : In accordance with identification procedures, the pathways between Interaction-oriented secondary goals and Identity goals, and between Self-oriented secondary goals and Personal resource goals were fixed, as they accounted for the most variance in the latent factors. All error terms between Interaction-oriented and Self-oriented secondary goals were allowed to correlate. Standardized parameters estimates are presented in the model; significance levels for these paths are based on the unstandardized estimates as EQS does not provide standard errors to conduct significance tests for standardized estimates. Parameters with a significance of p = .05 were deleted from the final model (and are represented by the dotted lines). * p ≤ .05

Interaction-oriented secondary goals (identity and interaction goals) were positively related to role-modeling strategies used on Facebook, however they were not related to either self-promotional or damage control strategies. On the other hand, self-oriented secondary goals (personal resource and arousal management goals) were positively related to self-promotional, damage control, and role-modeling strategies used on Facebook, as predicted (H1). Self-monitoring was positively related to interaction secondary goals, however did not show a relationship with self-oriented secondary goals in the final model (H2). Machiavellianism was negatively related to interaction-oriented secondary goals and positively related to self-oriented secondary goals, as predicted (H3). Finally, affinity-seeking was positively related to interaction-oriented secondary goals and negatively related to self-oriented secondary goals, which also confirmed predictions (H4). The following sections provide a more in-depth interpretation of results, theoretical and practical implications, as well as limitations and directions for future research.

The purpose of this study was to investigate how secondary goals may be adapted from a social influence context to one of impression management. The popular social networking site, Facebook, provided an intriguing setting for this investigation due to the site's many options for users' self-presentation in online context. The personality traits of self-monitoring, Machivellianism, and affinity-seeking were included to assess their role in the process of impression management. The original model proposed that these personality traits would influence secondary goals (interaction-oriented and self-oriented), which would then impact which self-presentation tactics were chosen by Facebook users. Although this proposed model was only a moderate fit to the data, dropping three paths and adding two others resulted in a revised model that fit the data quite well. The following section discusses these results and their implications, as well as suggestions for the further development of this promising line of research.

The first hypothesis was that interaction-oriented secondary goals (identity goals & interaction goals) and self-oriented secondary goals (personal resource & arousal management goals) would be positively related to self-promotion, damage control, and role-modeling tactics on Facebook. This hypothesis was partially supported. Although in the initial model the paths between self-oriented secondary goals and the tactics of self-promotion and damage control were small but significant, the model fit better when these paths were dropped, suggesting that although the statistical power was sufficiently strong to demonstrate significant relationships between these variables, the relationships did not represent the “big picture” of the data very well. On the other hand, the relationship between interaction-oriented secondary goals and role-modeling tactics was supported by a strong path coefficient (.80). Thus, Facebook users are strongly driven to utilize role-modeling tactics out of concern for their self-concept (identity goals) or the social appropriateness of their communication (interaction goals), but these two goals are not strongly related to the use of self-promotion or damage control tactics on Facebook.

Interaction-oriented secondary goals were significantly and positively related to the use of role-modeling tactics used on Facebook. Facebook users who score high on either self-monitoring or affinity-seeking, or score low on Machiavellianism, employ role-modeling tactics on Facebook. Although a significant, positive relationship was found between self-monitoring and both self-oriented and interaction-oriented secondary goals, the path between self-monitoring and interaction-oriented secondary goals was very small (less than .01 in the initial model), and the data fit the model better when that path was deleted altogether, suggesting little relationship between the two variables; one's propensity for self-monitoring is not related to a concern for interaction-related goals on Facebook. In other words, individuals who are concerned with showcasing desirable and favorable behaviors ( Snyder, 1974 ), namely high self-monitors, are likely to show greater concern for interaction-oriented secondary goals (H2). Subsequently, they are likely to use role-modeling tactics, which allow them to showcase desirable traits and behaviors and reach a larger audience, given the context of Facebook.

Facebook users who have a strong desire to be liked by others, high affinity-seekers ( Daly & Kreiser, 1994 ), showed more concern for interaction-oriented secondary goals (H4) and were likely to use role-modeling tactics. High affinity-seekers are known to use various strategies to enhance positive affect toward them (R. B. Rubin et al., 1993 ), and using role-modeling tactics used on Facebook is likely to achieve this secondary goal. By using tactics that are seen as positive and worth replicating (role-modeling tactics), individuals are likely to be seen in a positive light, which can increase others' affinity toward them.

Interestingly, individuals who are manipulative and tend to exploit situations and people for their personal benefit, also known as high Machiavellians ( Grams & Rogers, 1990 ), do not show concern for interaction secondary goals (H3), and therefore are not likely to employ role-modeling tactics on Facebook. A possible explanation for this finding could be that individuals scoring high in Machiavellianism have a tendency to be assimilative and self-oriented ( Ickes et al., 1986 ), generally showing little concern for others, and may therefore not be interested in serving as a role models.

The first hypothesis further predicted that the self-oriented secondary goals (identity goals & interaction goals) would be positively related to self-promotion, damage control, and role-modeling tactics on Facebook. This hypothesis was supported by the data, as individuals who are more concerned with themselves use various self-presentation tactics on Facebook. The relationships between self-oriented secondary goals and self-promotion tactics, damage control tactics, and role-modeling tactics were supported by strong path coefficients (ranging from .31 to .64 in the final model). Thus, Facebook users were driven to utilize all of these tactics out of concern for their personal resources or their personal boundaries (meeting their arousal management goals) of their communication. The notion that individuals like to maintain certain boundaries in which they feel comfortable (arousal management goals), and the fact that they are concerned with maintaining and increasing assets (physical, material, temporal, and mental; Dillard, 1990 ), provides explanation for why a wider variety of self-presentation tactics are used on Facebook. Because these individuals are highly concerned with personal goals, they are likely to choose whichever self-presentational tactic they deem as most effective–possibly even trying out various tactics to determine which one works best in any given situation.

In addition, the study revealed that self-oriented secondary goals were significantly and positively related to all three self-presentation tactics used on Facebook (self-promotion, damage control, and role-modeling). Facebook users who scored high on self-monitoring did not show concern for self-oriented secondary goals (H2), likely because of their greater sensitivity to social cues ( Snyder, 1987 ), which shows greater concern for the interaction, as opposed to the self. Machiavellians, on the other hand, showed greater concern for themselves (self-oriented secondary goals), as opposed to for the interaction (H3), likely due to their self-oriented and manipulative streak ( Christie & Geis, 1970 ; Ickes et al., 1986 ). Affinity-seeking was found to have a negative relationship with self-oriented goals (H4) due to commonly used strategies employed by high affinity-seekers, including presenting a desirable self and seeking confirmation of their self-concept ( Bell & Daly, 1984 ). In other words, high affinity-seekers are more concerned with being liked by others and are therefore more concerned with eliciting positive affect (R. B. Rubin et al., 1993 ).

Overall, personality traits predicted concerns for different types of secondary goals (self-oriented and interaction-oriented), which in turn predicted the use of specific self-presentation tactics. Even though the notion of secondary goals was originally proposed and applied in the context of persuasive attempts ( Dillard et al., 1989 ), the concept of secondary goals appears to be useful in the study of other communicative contexts, such as impression management. Although impression management is not a single persuasive attempt, as conceptualized in the persuasion literature, other authors have pointed out the persuasive nature of self-presentation and impression management ( Buss & Briggs, 1984 ). At first sight, secondary goals may appear to not only be related to impression management, but may reflect self-presentational efforts during persuasive episodes. This study serves as evidence for the usefulness of exploring secondary goals in the study of impression management, as well as for the fact that rather than tapping into the same dimensions, secondary goals aid in efforts of self-presentation.

Studying impression management in computer-mediated environments, such as the social networking site Facebook, has become increasingly important, as the use of such sites continues to increase exponentially. The findings of this study aid in creating supportive online communication environments and determining which types of individuals are mainly communicating online for self-centered, less supportive. As the use of computer-mediated communication continues to increase, the presence of individuals who are not only aware of their actions and their effects, but are also dedicated to creating and maintaining positive online communities, will continue to grow in significance.

Limitations and Future Directions

Despite the study's findings and implications, there were some limitations to consider when interpreting these conclusions. The limitations of this study concern the research design, measurement, and sample. Cross-sectional survey methods are limited in that data collection occurs at one point in time, rather than over a longer period of time as in longitudinal studies ( Metts et al., 1991 ). Content analysis of the actual pages of Facebook users over a period of time would provide an interesting avenue to address the limitation of this cross-sectional design and extend the results of this conceptual model.

Another limitation associated with this study is related to the measurements used to assess secondary goals and self-presentation tactics. Upon testing the reliabilities of the various dimensions of the secondary goals measure, one of the dimensions–relational resource goals–had to be deleted to maintain the overall reliability of the scale. This outcome could be related to the modifications that were made to the measure to make it applicable to the context of Facebook. The limited application of the self-presentation tactics scale in previous studies and the modifications applied to the measure required a factor analysis that diverged somewhat from previous factor analyses. Because all necessary measures were taken to ensure the validity and reliability of results, the manipulation dimension had to be omitted from the final analyses due to a floor effect, which also speaks to the limited use of the self-presentation tactics scale.

Another limitation of the study is the use of self-report data. Rather than just asking participants about their self-presentation tactics on Facebook, coding and evaluating Facebook profiles would add more predictive and explanatory value to the research. Similar to the work of Walther and colleagues (2008), coding and evaluating Facebook profiles could include exploring profile pictures, amount and type of information provided by the individual, as well as frequency and types of disclosures by others on the public Facebook “wall.”

Future researchers interested in self-presentation on Facebook should also consider studying the effect of audience segmentation and how individuals deal with problems of multiple audiences having access to their profile and being witnesses to their activity on Facebook, such as friends versus family members (e.g., Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2006 , 2007 ; Stutzman, 2006 ). When parents add their children as their Facebook friends, for instance, the child may experience uncertainty related to how he or she is perceived by their parents based on the information and the interactions occurring on Facebook. Self-presentation on Facebook provides promising ground for future research, especially as the social networking site continues to grow in popularity.

The information gained from this research serves as evidence to the utility of persuasion theory to self-presentation and impression management. The conceptual model proposed in this study indicates that persuasion may be central to self-presentation, and despite the fact that scholars have discussed the persuasiveness of self-presentation in their writings (e.g., Leary, 1996 ), little empirical evidence can be found to support this relationship. This study attempted to bridge this gap and could serve to encourage investigation of self-presentation and impression management further from a persuasion perspective.

Given the rapid growth of new technologies and the growing complexity and flexibility of social networking sites, it is crucial for scholars to build upon previously-established theoretical foundations. For instance, the goals-planning-action model, which suggests that formulating goals leads to planning, which in turn leads to actions intended to accomplish goals ( Dillard, 1990 ), is a heuristic and rich framework for investigating online impression management and can be further explored in this context. Even though technologies continuously change and alter the ways in which individuals communicate, traditional theoretical approaches can still aid in the exploration of new communication contexts. In the case of Facebook, research exploring various aspects of the social networking site is only now beginning to surface ( Tong et al., 2008 ; Walther et al., 2008 ; Zhao et al., 2008 ).

Facebook has gained popularity in recent years and has become the preferred mode of communication for many people. This study provides evidence that impression management is an integral part of communication occurring on Facebook and that Facebook users ought to be more aware of their own, as well as others', self-presentation tactics. First and foremost, Facebook is a semipublic platform, meaning that individuals' information is public, however users have to option of determining who can see the information. Given the nature of Facebook, this choice can have serious effects on individuals' private, as well as professional, lives. Understanding that one's Facebook friends have self-presentational goals when communicating on the social networking site, users should be more conscious of their friends' activities and the ways in which they choose to respond, as these choices can have an indirect effect on how they themselves are viewed by others.

Even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recognized the strategic communication taking place on the social networking site and recently launched the introduction of a new profile format in December of 2010. The new profile format is geared to aid individuals in creating profiles that align with how they want their friends to see them; the page layout was reorganized, enabling users to create more desirable pages for themselves and emphasize similarities and shared interests among users ( Fager, 2010 ). As changes are being made to Facebook that are structured around the persuasive nature of impression management, researchers studying self-presentation in these new environments should perhaps shift their foci as well. The overall goal of this study was to shed light on the intrapersonal and social processes that shape self-presentation on Facebook, and thus provides a first step toward a theory of self-presentation that takes both cognitive and social components into consideration.

This paper is based on the first author's M.A. thesis research directed by the second author. A version of this paper was presented at the 2010 National Communication Association Convention in San Francisco, CA.

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Jenny Rosenberg (M.A., Kent State University, 2009) is a Doctoral Student and Graduate Assistant in the School of Communication Studies at Kent State University. Her research interests focus predominantly on interpersonal communication with an emphasis in social interaction and impression management.

Address: P.O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242, USA.

Nichole Egbert (Ph.D., University of Georgia, 2000) is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Kent State University. Her research interests focus predominantly on social support in face-to-face and online settings, spirituality/religiosity and health behavior, and health literacy. She serves on the editorial board of Health Communication and was elected to the office of Vice Chair Elect for the Health Communication Division of the National Communication Association in 2009.

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Learn, Grow, Achieve!



Posted on February 12, 2020 June 2, 2022 Author Dr. Balaji Niwlikar 3 Comments


‘Self ’ and ‘self-concept’ are used interchangeably to refer to an individual’s overall self-awareness.

‘The self is the individual as known to the individual’. (Murphy, 1947)

Burns (1980) defines it as ‘the set of attitudes a person holds towards himself’.

According to Leary (2004), the self is a cognitive structure that permits self-reflection and organizes information about oneself.

Click here for Practice MCQ Test


Self-presentation is how we perceive ourselves whether that be in front of others or alone.

Self-presentation is behaviour that attempts to convey some information about oneself or some image of oneself to other people.

Self-presentation is the set of method and strategies, we use selectively to apply in the situation to shape and enhance or to change our self-image to others.

It can be conscious or unconscious.

Self-presentation strategies

Strategic self-presentation- the process of constructing and presenting the self in order to shape other people’s impressions and achieve ulterior goals.

Example –Image, we put on social media sites. we choose it carefully.

Self-presentations can become automatic with practice. Not being able to project an appropriately presented self causes embarrassment.  These presented self rarely judged as harshly as we think.

Thus Social acceptance is a very strong motive. We want to appear friendly, likeable, and honest. We are less concerned about appearing competent and intelligent.

There are seven different strategies with different goals.

Ingratiation –

Edward E. Jones, Ingratiation is a psychological technique in which an individual attempt to  influence another person by becoming more likeable to their target. We try to shapes other’s impression through flattery. It increases the recipient’s self-esteem. This is the most common self-presentation strategy.

There are 3 types –

  • Acquisitive ingratiation : Goal of obtaining something from others.
  • Protective Ingratiation : To prevent possible negative consequences
  • Significance ingratiation : To cultivate respect/approval from others, rather than an explicit reward.

Example –Towards Boss, a salesperson will appreciate our choice to get the tip.

Under representing own positive traits, contributions, or accomplishments to be humbler.  Moderating the estimation of one’s own abilities, sometimes seen as self-deprecation.

Very effective in increasing likeability.

Preserves high levels of perceived competence and honesty.

Women do it more frequently with greater effect.

Limitation – it is only effective when others are aware of an individual’s accomplishments.

Self-promotion –

Self-promotion conveyance of positive information through one’s behaviour or by telling others about once positive asset and accomplishment.

Desire to be respected for intelligence and competence.

Commonly during work-related interactions.

used more frequently by men.

Exemplification –

 A strategy for  self-presentation  that involves inducing other people to regard one as a highly moral, virtuous person whose actions are consistent with positive, shared values.

This strategy is used to elicit the perception of integrity and moral worthiness while arousing guild and ammunition in others.

A person can accomplish  exemplification  by presenting him- or herself as honest, disciplined, self-sacrificing, generous, or principled.

The individual appears absorbed by devotion to some cause and suffers from the welfare of others

Can foster strong loyalty and group cohesion.

Others might feel inadequate in the face of their own shortcomings

Example- Sending coworker home whiling doing work alone.


An individual produces fear and gains power by convincing others they are powerful and/ or dangerous.

It can be overt or covert.

Example – direct threat or implied threat.


Advertise the weakness or dependence, hoping the solicit help for sympathy out of a sense of social obligation.

Example homeless asking money to strangers.

Limitation- the people tend to blame the victim believing suffering is self-inflicted or judge an individual as poorly functioning .

7 Self-Handicapping–

An individual creates an obstacle to his or her own performance.

  • to provide an excuse for failure
  • to enhance the success

Most likely use when being evaluated on skills or attributes Central to self-concept.

  • Self-reported handicapping

Complaining about illness or stress-induced ailment to engage in a task, work, exam etc.

It will provide an excuse for failure without hampering the performance. It can increase performance by lowering expectations does reducing anxiety.

Both men and women use.

2. Behavioural self-handicapping-

Not adequately preparing for a task or by using drugs or alcohol to inhabit performance for work.

Men use it more usually than women; Possibly because men are more competitive and driven by public standards in performance situations.

The danger with this strategy is people can perceive you as lazy or unmotivated.


Good, using relevant example, explain what happens in each strategy that people use when the strategy does not work

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    Self-presentation is behaviour that attempts to convey some information about oneself or some image of oneself to other people. Self-presentation is the set of method and strategies, we use selectively to apply in the situation to shape and enhance or to change our self-image to others. It can be conscious or unconscious.