Self-Verification and Self-Monitoring

05.04.2023 |

Episode #10 of the course Psychology of the self by Psychology Insights Online


Welcome back! In the tenth and final lesson of this course on the Psychology of The Self, we are going to discuss the theories of self-verification and self-monitoring.

In the last lesson, the concepts of self-promotion and impression management were covered. Their goals are to create a positive impression in the minds of other people. In this lesson, the focus is on how we attempt to instead portray ourselves accurately in the eyes of others. For many people, their primary concern is that other individuals know them for who they really are.

Self-verification is the cognitive process of altering our own behavior so that other people will have an accurate view of our self-concept (Swan, 2012). Importantly, this could also include a negative impression, not just a positive one. Stated another way, if self-verification is the goal, we want someone to see us for who we are, even if that means they may not like what they see. As an example, one study found that when given the choice, people with depression were more likely to seek out unfavorable feedback about their performance on a task than favorable feedback (Giesler et al., 1996). The authors suggest that this was a way for depressed individuals to maintain how they viewed themselves (i.e., as someone who is experiencing depression). Similarly, other studies have found that people will be attracted to romantic partners who confirm their self-evaluations rather than dispute them, even if the feedback is negative (Swan, 2012).

Why would we do this? There are likely several reasons. One reason is that self-verification ensures that how we already see ourselves stays intact. That is, we won’t have to face the uncomfortable realization that we are different than what we thought. Another commonly found reason is that accurately portraying ourselves to other people can also increase the chances of finding friends or a partner who are better matched with us (Swann et al., 1992).

The remainder of the lesson is devoted to self-monitoring. Back in the 1970s, psychologist Mark Snyder formally introduced the term self-monitoring and the self-monitoring scale to measure it (Snyder, 1974). Snyder described self-monitoring as a personality trait that helps us regulate our emotions and behavior in social situations. Like other personality traits, these are best viewed on a continuum, with some people scoring higher, others scoring lower, and others scoring somewhere in between. Generally speaking, though, many of the social psychology studies on this topic have divided people into groups of “high” vs. “low” self-monitors.

High self-monitors are usually exceptionally skilled in social situations. A famous example would be someone like former US president Barack Obama, a person who is very comfortable speaking with people from various backgrounds in just about any situation. These are people who closely observe the room, assess the mood, and adapt their social behavior to match it. High self-monitors can easily integrate themselves into the social situation and are also able to adapt quickly to changes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are a lot of benefits to being high on self-monitoring, including having more friends, health benefits, and career success (Day & Schleicher, 2006).

On the flip side, low self-monitors are usually not as socially skilled (Fuglestad & Snyder, 2009). Instead, in social situations, they are more likely to continue to be their authentic self. For instance, rather than adapting to the mood of a party, a low self-monitor would emphasize their true opinions, even if they are not popular at the moment. Although they might struggle socially, there are also benefits of low self-monitoring. In particular, the people who know them would be more likely to describe them as being genuine or principled. Whereas high self-monitors could eventually be seen as being inauthentic, this is less likely to happen with low self-monitors.

If you are curious about your own self-monitoring, there are some free online versions of the self-monitoring scale. One can be found here.

Congratulations! You have reached the end of this Highbrow course on the Psychology of The Self. We really hope that you enjoyed it and will find some of the information you learned to be useful in your own life. Thank you for taking this course!


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PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence by Mel Silberman and Freda Hansburg


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