Traditionally, low self-monitors have been viewed as individuals who are less likely than high self-monitors to monitor their expressive behavior and to present themselves a certain way for the sake of desired public appearances. However, recent research suggests that low self-monitors may have self-presentational concerns, which seem to relate to low self-monitors’ desire to appear to be sincere. In order to examine low self-monitors’ goal, a study was conducted in which the participants were placed in a situation where they had to choose between being sincere and only appearing to be sincere. Participants revealed their attitudes to another participant, whose attitudes were known to them, and who would be forming an impression of them based on their attitudes. Results of this experiment demonstrated that low self-monitors chose to conform to the attitudes of the other participant, and did not choose either to be sincere or to appear to be sincere. Although the hypothesis was not supported, the experiment revealed that low selfmonitors do actively present themselves. Results and implications are discussed in terms of understanding the goals of low self-monitors by distinguishing between the ability and motivational components of the construct of self-monitoring.
The theory of self-monitoring, introduced over thirty five years ago, proposed that people differ in the way they can and do engage in expressive control (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000). These differences affect the degree to which people value, create, develop and project public appearances (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000). The construct of selfmonitoring, measured with the Self-Monitoring Scale (Snyder, 1974; Snyder & Gangestad, 1986), distinguishes two different types of people: high self-monitors and low self-monitors. Snyder’s theory implies that “the world as a stage” metaphor applies to some more than others, and not equally to “all the men and women”. Traditionally, high self-monitors, as compared to low self-monitors, are defined as those who monitor their expressive behavior and present themselves in a certain manner for the sake of desired public appearances (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000).
High self-monitors’ behavior is more likely to be guided by the situation at hand, and as a result they are highly sensitive to social and interpersonal cues (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000; Snyder, 1987). High self-monitors are more likely to view themselves as adaptive individuals (Snyder, 1987), who are both willing and able to project images that cater to others (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000). They endorse a pragmatic “conception of self”, and define their identities based on the role or appearance they project in each social situation.
What is already known about the motivations behind high and low self-monitoring?
By definition, high self-monitors care about their self-presentation (Gangestad & Snyder, 2000; Snyder, 1974, 1979, 1987, 1995). High self-monitors are motivated to use social and interpersonal cues to guide their presentations, to monitor, and adjust their behavior during social interactions (Snyder, 1987). This motivation seems to stem from their goal of appearing to be situationally appropriate (Snyder, 1987; Snyder, 1995). In Snyder and Monson’s (1975) experiment, high and low self-monitors were asked to participate in discussion groups. Half of the discussion groups had a private social norm, and half had a public social norm. In the public groups, the participants were in rooms with one way mirrors, video cameras, a microphone, a videotape monitor, a table and chairs. In the private groups, the participants were in a room with only a table and chairs. Participants in the public group also signed a release form allowing their conversations to be taped and shown to other students in their class.
The experimenters expected that the cameras, and the explicit consent would emphasize “the public nature of group members’ behavior and would make salient membership in the larger reference group of undergraduate students with its norms concerning social conformity and autonomy in response to social pressure” (Snyder & Monson, 1975, p. 639). In the private groups, the salient norms and cues were provided by the group members themselves. Because of the private situation, where there was no larger reference group apparent, conforming to the smaller group and having consensus within the group would be more appropriate for the situation. Results demonstrated that high self-monitors were acutely sensitive to the differences between the contexts in which the discussion groups took place: they conformed in the private discussions when conformity was more situationally appropriate, and did not conform in the public discussions where autonomy was more situationally appropriate. Low self-monitors’ behavior did not vary based on whether they engaged in private or public discussions. However, it is important to note that high self-monitors did not merely conform. High self-monitors only conformed when it was situationally appropriate to do so. When the social norm was autonomy, high selfmonitors could act in an independent, non-conforming manner.
The chosen lifestyles and social situations of high and low self-monitors
In discussing the different lifestyles of high and low self-monitors, Snyder (1987) pointed out that both the high and low self-monitors actively construct their social worlds. High and low self-monitors differ in the way that they approach their friendships and relationships (Leone & Hawkins, 2006). For example, high self-monitors are more likely to like those with similar activity preferences, whereas low self-monitors are more likely to like those with similar attitudes (Jamieson, Lydon, & Zanna, 1987). When it comes to choosing people to spend time with, high self-monitors are more likely to choose those who are “skilled” at a particular activity, whereas low self-monitors are more likely to choose to spend time with those whom they like (Snyder, Gangestad & Simpson, 1983). High self-monitors’ social lives involve “partitioning, differentiation, and segmentation” (Snyder, 1987, p. 64), allowing them to play different roles with different people. Although it is unclear as to why high self-monitors prefer a partitioned social life, and low self-monitors do not, these behaviors typically accompany the high versus low selfmonitoring lifestyles.
The dating worlds of high and low self-monitors are different as well, with high and low self-monitors valuing different attributes in their dating partners, and differing in level of commitment towards their dating partners. High self-monitors value physical attractiveness (Buchanan, 2000; Glick, 1985; Jones, 1993; Snyder, Berscheid, & Glick, 1985), sex appeal, social status, and financial resources (Jones, 1993) in their romantic partners, whereas low self-monitors value attributes such as similarity of values and beliefs, and honesty (Jones, 1993) in their romantic partners.
Low self-monitor’s motivations: public versus private situations
Ratner and Kahn (2002) conducted three studies demonstrating that people incorporate variety into their consumption decisions when behavior is subject to public scrutiny. They found that high self-monitors incorporated variety in public, when they thought they were being evaluated on how interesting their decision was, more so than when their decision was private. Low self-monitors did not differ in their public or private decision when told they were being evaluated for making an interesting decision. However, low self-monitors incorporated variety in public, when they thought they were being evaluated on how rational their decision was, more so than when their decision was private. The high self-monitors did not differ in their public or private decision when they told they were being evaluated for making a rational decision.
Ratner and Kahn (2002) believed that low self-monitors cared more about appearing rational than interesting. They pointed out that their results (showing that low self-monitors are more rational in public) are consistent with the idea that some types of impression management concerns may influence low self-monitors (p. 252). Ratner and Kahn (2002) believed that high self-monitors would be more concerned about appearing interesting and creative in public than low self-monitors would, because high selfmonitors are more likely to “put on a show to impress and entertain others,” which they viewed as consistent with modifying behavior to appear interesting.
Kim, J. (2005). Investigation of self-presentation among low self-monitors (Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland, 2005). Dissertation Abstracts International, 65, 3772.
Kruglanski, A.W., Shah, J.Y., Fishbach, A., Friedman, R., Chun, W.Y., & Sleeth- Keppler, D. (2002). A theory of goal systems. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 34. (pp. 331-378). San Diego: Academic Press.
Dissertation Done by Rachel Amanda Freidus, University of Maryland