Thursday, April 1, 2010

Strategic Self-Presentation

As social beings, we are each concerned (on some level) with how others perceive us. In fact, Schlenker (2003) terms the processes that we use to influence how other people think about us self-presentation. It is important to note that we can be aware or unaware of our attempts at self-presentation, which can in turn be accurate or misleading. Furthermore, researchers have broken self-presentation down into two specific types: strategic self-presentation, and self-verification. Strategic self-presentation refers to our attempts at gaining influence, power, sympathy, and/or approval, through portraying ourselves a certain way (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982). Five common strategies have been identified: ingratiation, self-promotion, intimidation, supplication, and exemplification. Each of these strategies are demonstrated in the video I’ve attached :) Specifically, the video portrays a number of scenarios that may or may not occur in high school. The actor using each strategy was instructed to exaggerate his or her attempts at strategic self-presentation in order to provide very specific and recognizable examples of each strategy.


The video begins with a scene between a student and her teacher. It quickly becomes evident that the student is engaging in ingratiation. Ingratiation is characterized by attempts to get someone else to like you, including conformity and flattery (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982). The student in the video is clearly trying to flatter her teacher, however, she also conforms to her teacher’s expectations of her students. For example, the student arrives early to class and informs her teacher of the “word of the day,” exhibiting her desire to be a “model student.”


The second segment shows the interactions between a male and female high school student. Unfortunately for the female (:P), the male is self-promoting shamelessly. Self-promotion is driven by the want to be respected, get ahead, or be seen as competent (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982). The male in the video explains that he went to a college party and hooked up with a sorority girl, brags about his ability to teach the female how to “party,” and proceeds to tell her how great he is at lacrosse. A word of advice: self-promotion can backfire, as evidenced by this video clip. ;) Thus, if you want to successfully influence someone’s beliefs about your competence, get someone else self-promote for you!


The third scene begins with a male student knocking books out of a female student’s hands. He continues to degrade and threaten her, attempting to incite fear in her. This example demonstrates the strategy of intimidation (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982). That is, he wants to be perceived as powerful. Regrettably, this strategy is successful in a variety of different contexts (e.g. gangs, sports teams, and sibling relationships).


Although fairly common, people rarely choose to employ supplication before any of the other self-presentation strategies. Specifically, supplication is one’s attempt to get help, seeking to take advantage of other people’s resources (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982). In the video a female student is encouraging her father to pity her by telling him a number of horrible experiences she had throughout the day. What she doesn’t know, is that by enabling others to make personal attributions about the bad things that happen to her she is solidifying people’s perceptions of her as a “nerd.” If she wanted to use the strategy of supplication more effectively, she should make sure people attribute her shortcomings to external circumstances.


In the final scene a female student is talking to the class president. The class president is talking about her recent achievements and her plans for the future. More specifically, she is trying to portray herself as a honest, hard-working student committed to creating better conditions for everyone attending the school. Thus, she is relying on exemplification, attempting to set a good example and be seen as full of integrity (Arkin, 1981; Jones & Pittman, 1982).


In conclusion, people use many different strategies to influence other’s perceptions of them. These attempts are a result of people's desire to strategically present themselves as they wish to be seen. Several over-the-top examples of these strategies can be seen in the video I’ve attached :)


Schlenker, B. R. (2003). Self-presentation. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 492-518). New York: Guilford.


Arkin, R. M. (1981). Self-presentation styles. In J. T. Tedeschi (Ed.), Impression management theory and social psychological research (pp. 311-333). New York: Academic Press.


Jones, E. E. & Pittman, T. S. (1982). Toward a general theory of strategic self presentation. In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self. Hilsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.


**My video won't upload because it is over 100 MB? I don't really know how to make it smaller without re-editing the whole thing, so I'll try to figure something out and post again with the video...

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