Barbara Spellman

Complex Social Consequences of Self Knowledge

CO-AUTHORS Elizabeth R. Tenney
Social Psychology & Personality Science

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations

Barbara A. Spellman


Psychology theories disagree on the most effective self-presentation strategies—some claim possessing positive illusions is best, whereas others claim accuracy is best. The current experiments suggest that the role of perceivers and what perceivers believe has been underappreciated in this debate. Participants acted as recruiters for either a swim team (Experiment 1) or a company (Experiment 2) and evaluated hypothetical applicants who made claims about their own abilities and personalities. Overly positive statements about oneself were beneficial only when perceivers had no reason to believe they were unfounded. In addition, conveying self-knowledge was more beneficial than being modest. The results are consistent with the presumption of calibration hypothesis, which states that confidence is compelling because, barring evidence to the contrary, perceivers assume others have good self-insight. Therefore, to make the best impression, people should be as positive as is plausible to perceivers.


Barbara A. Spellman & Elizabeth R. Tenney, Complex Social Consequences of Self Knowledge, 2 Social Psychology & Personality Science 343-350 (2011).

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