The Social Consequences of Self Knowledge

Tenney, Elizabeth Rebecca, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Spellman, Barbara, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Psychology theories disagree on the most effective self-presentation strategies. In fact, one of the most well-known controversies in contemporary social-personality psychology is whether it is beneficial to possess and convey self-knowledge, or whether it is better to be extremely self-confident, regardless of one's actual circumstances (i.e., to have ―positive illusions‖ about oneself). In this dissertation, I propose that one reason for the mixed results is that the role of perceivers and what perceivers believe has been underappreciated. As predicted by the presumption of calibration hypothesis, it may be beneficial to have positive illusions unless perceivers suspect that someone's positive statements about the self are unfounded. The presumption of calibration hypothesis bridges the self-knowledge and positive illusions hypotheses. According to the presumption of calibration hypothesis, initially people presume, in the absence of relevant evidence, that informants are wellcalibrated (i.e., that informants have self-knowledge and are good judges of what they do and do not know). Thus, confident informants will be persuasive, and ‗‗positive illusions‖ will be beneficial. However, when evidence that enables the assessment of an informant's degree of self-knowledge becomes available, perceivers will override their initial presumption. Then high confidence statements will be persuasive only when coming from well-calibrated informants, whose confidence corresponded with accuracy. Five experiments test the presumption of calibration hypothesis. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that the hypothesis is applicable in interview settings. Experiment 2 also finds that self-knowledge, and not just modesty, was valued by observers. Experiments 3 and 4 test a specific prediction of the presumption of calibration iii hypothesis and investigate whether people use the same cues to calibration when judging themselves as when judging others. Experiment 4 excludes two potential mechanisms. Experiment 5 explores how easily the self-other difference in the use of calibration information can be reduced or eliminated. These experiments show that self-knowledge is neither beneficial nor detrimental across all situations. In addition, they demonstrate that the conventional wisdom to always be confident when being evaluated is sound only when evaluators believe that the person's confidence is warranted. The effectiveness of different presentation styles depends on what perceivers will believe.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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