Who are you? People yearn for positive perception about themselves

September 28, 2011, University of Michigan

(Medical Xpress) -- People care about how others view them and will go to great lengths to repair negative perceptions, a new University of Michigan study found.

For , honesty and kindness—which researchers describe as communion traits—are more important for relationships than intelligence and ambition, both considered agency traits, says Oscar Ybarra, professor of psychology. Agency traits help people attain skills, talent and status.

"Social life pressures people to view themselves as possessing high levels of communion traits and to ensure that others have this perception as well," he said.

Researchers reviewed responses from 270 college students in the United States and Korea for two studies: one tested self-judgment and the other assessed people's displeasure and motivation to repair their reputations after accusations of not being honest or not being intelligent.

In the self-judgment study, respondents rated their traits for age 16, their current age and what could happen at age 30 for various tasks. Participants rated themselves higher in honesty and kindness than intelligence and ambition, and they also rated themselves higher on these communion traits than they rated other students at their universities, the study showed.

The second study looked at responses for two scenarios in which participants imagined themselves as the target of someone else's suspicions and accusations. The concerns involved others believing that one had cheated on an exam (communion) or that one had failed an exam (agency).

Students answered questions in response to the scenarios, including concerns with social acceptance and their reputation. Both Americans and Koreans were concerned with how others viewed their failures, but especially failures that involved their communion reputations.

The study also demonstrated that participants judged themselves as consistently maintaining their kindness and traits across time, whereas they were more willing to judge their agency characteristics as varying more across time and situations.

The agency dimension deals with behaviors and characteristics that people develop over time and are associated with limited opportunities in which they can be expressed. Thus, there should be less pressure on people to judge themselves positively compared to the communion dimension, Ybarra says.

However, due to the importance people place on having social connections with others, judging the self as low on communion is risky, as is failing to address reputation concerns in this domain, he says. The social and moral aspects of one's reputation appear to trump how intelligent, skilled and ambitious one reports being or wishes to be.

Explore further: Narcissism may benefit the young, researchers report; but older adults? Not so much

More information: The findings appear in European Journal of Social Psychology.

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4 comments

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hush1
not rated yet Sep 28, 2011
And then a new Nation was born. And then a NWO.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Sep 28, 2011
It's mind-boggling to think that some of us will live practically our entire lives making most of our decisions based on what thoughts we think others are having about us.

Isn't that called paranoia ?
hush1
not rated yet Sep 28, 2011
lol
What were you thinking?*
*(When you made your decision to posted this?)

"...some of us..." equals all politicians. Paranoia? As a consequence? Possible. Successful application of your describe mechanism for politicians means power. The risk of paranoia accepted for the sake of power.
rsklyar
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Plagiarism in a "family" style
How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi

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