Swann_s_Self-Verification_Article - Seeking Truth, Finding...

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Seeking “Truth,” Finding Despair: Some Unhappy Consequences of a Negative Self-Concept _ ccANLcKk L x . William 8. Swann, Jr. (PV-IZ) z p3yTyA . IC- I “J’d never join a club that would have me as a member.” Groucho Marx may have authored this quip, but I have a friend who lives it. My friend, whom I will call Kathy, is a heafthy, articulate, attractive young woman who has everything going for her except for one thing-she cannot sustain satisfying relation- ships with men. The problem is not that she is hard to like; most men find her quite charming. The prob- lem is that as soon as she becomes convinced that a man likes her, she leaves him. The result is that she spends most of her time in miserable relationships with men who mistreat her for a while and then leave her. Kathy’s preference for men who are unkind to her is puzzling be- cause everyone knows that people have a deep-seated need for praise. What happened to Kathy? The re- search that I review here offers one answer to this question. Specifically, the findings suggest that people want to verify, and thus maintain, their self-views. To this end, they work to bring other people to see them as they see themselves-even if they think poorly of themselves. Before describing the studies that have led my students and me to this remark- able conclusion, I explain why peo- ple are motivated to seek verification of their self-views. __---.- ..,. . _I ,____.- --. ----I, r SELF-VERIFICATM?N ., ; :: Li., ! STRIVINGS . : -. i;+ .- .,-. . ‘&,“;‘.-: ,,:, : ~ :-.~&&&,&.&,,~ I 2: The symbolic interactionists sowed the seeds of self-verification theory early in this century.’ They began by assuming that the ability to predict the responses of other people is the key to successful social inter- action. With this assumption in hand, they reasoned that people note how others react to them, inter- nalize these reactions into self- conceptions, and then use these conceptions to predict the responses of others. In this way, people come to rely on stable self-concepts and prefer evaluations that are consistent with these self-concepts.* Consider, for example, a man who thinks of himself as dull witted but overhears his wife characterize him as brilliant. Because her remark challenges a long-standing belief about who he is, it may induce epi- stemic anxiety. After all, if he lacks insight into himself, what does he know? Even if the man experiences no such epistemic concerns, purely pragmatic considerations might cause him to want his wife to recog- nize his intellectual shortcomings. That is, as long as he is convinced that she knows what to expect of him, he will remain confident that their interactions will proceed smoothly and harmoniously. Thus, pragmatic as well as epistemic con- siderations may cause people with
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Swann_s_Self-Verification_Article - Seeking Truth, Finding...

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