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Figure 39 enhancing the self shows the number of

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Figure 3.9, “Enhancing the Self,” shows the number of students in each condition who listed anextroverted behavior first, and the number who listed an introverted behavior first. You can see thatthe first memory listed by participants in both conditions tended to reflect the dimension that they hadread was related to success according to the research presented in the first experiment. In fact, 62% ofthe students who had just learned that extroversion was related to success listed a memory about anextroverted behavior first, whereas only 38% of the students who had just learned that introversionwas related to success listed an extroverted behavior first.Figure 3.9 Enhancing the SelfTheFeelingSelf:Self-Esteem 138
Sanitioso, Kunda, and Fong (1990) found that students who had learned that extroverts did betterthan introverts after graduating from college tended to list extroverted memories about themselves,whereas those who learned that introverts did better than extroverts tended to list introvertedmemories.It appears that the participants drew from their memories those instances of their own behavior thatreflected the trait that had the most positive implications for their self-esteem—either introversion orextroversion, depending on experimental condition. The desire for positive self-esteem made eventsthat were consistent with a positive self-perception more accessible, and thus they were listed first onthe questionnaire.Other research has confirmed this general principle—people often attempt to create positive self-esteem whenever possible, even it if involves distorting reality. We tend to take credit for oursuccesses, and to blame our failures on others. We remember more of our positive experiences andfewer of our negative ones. As we saw in the discussion of the optimistic bias in the previous chapterabout social cognition, we judge our likelihood of success and happiness as greater than our likelihoodof failure and unhappiness. We think that our sense of humor and our honesty are above average, andthat we are better drivers and less prejudiced than others. We also distort (in a positive way, of course)our memories of our grades, our performances on exams, and our romantic experiences. And webelieve that we can control the events that we will experience to a greater extent than we really can(Crocker & Park, 2004).Once again, though, there are some important cultural differences to note with people inindividualistic cultures pursuing these self-enhancing strategies more vigorously and more often thanthose from more collectivistic backgrounds. Indeed, in a large-scale review of studies on self-enhancement, Heine (2004) concluded that these tactics are not typically used in cultures that valueinterdependence over dependence. In cultures where high self-esteem is not as socially valued, peoplepresumably do not feel the same need to distort their social realities to serve their self-worth.

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