Image And Impression Management

This sections aims to uncover and analyze past researches that had been done by other researchers on related topics of image and impression management. This chapter, will provide the theoretical foundation for this research. First, the historical background of impression management will be discussed. Second, the definition and scope of impression management will be examined. Review should contain critical evaluation and discussion of other related research.

Image management

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A growing body of research indicates that we engage in image management in various social situations. Most research has focused on image management in face-to-face situations, particularly as it pertains to career success and performance appraisal. Previous studies have focused on how personality traits and certain situational factors affect image management (Boline & Turley, 2002, p. 141).

Image management can be defined as: “a process by which individuals present information about themselves to appear as they wish others to see them” (Kacmar et al., 2007, p. 16). Erving Goffman, who studied human interaction, first introduced the idea of impression management. Goffman described the social world as deceptive. In “The Presentation of Self and Everyday Life” (1959), Goffman describes human social interaction as a theatrical performance, meaning that people act as performers to give off certain impressions in certain social situations (Manning, 2009 p. 8). Therefore, we intentionally mislead people in efforts to give off a certain impression that we feel will benefit us within a specific social situation. Goffman uses the term “fabrication” to describe the way an individual misleads others (Manning, 2009, p. 9). Through fabrications, we frame ourselves to be who we want to be.

Image management is also defined as the process by which people attempt to influence the images that others have of them (Rosenfeld, Giacalone & Riordan, 1995). Regardless of the specific context in which it is used, the general goal of image management is to create a particular impression in other’s minds (Leary & Kowalski, 1990; Rosenfeld et al., 1995).

According to several theorists (Schlenker, 1980; McFarland, 2005) image management can be both conscious and unconscious. As Leary and Kowalski (1990) acknowledge as well, at one extreme people are unaware of others’ reactions to them, while on the other extreme people are conscious about the aspects of themselves that others can observe, such as their appearance and behaviour. Since image management behaviour can be learned, habitually and unconsciously, humans engage in impression management behaviour without considering what they are actually doing. With reference to Jones and Pittman (1982), people should be cautious in using image management tactics since one

carries the risk that it will be perceived negatively; for every desired image, there is a corresponding undesired image at risk. For instance, an individual using self-promotion would like to be seen as competent, though he risks to be perceived as arrogant instead.

In addition, image management research has mostly concentrate on purposive behaviour like verbal, non-verbal, and artificial behaviours that influence the images that other people have of the person. (Schneider, 1981). However, people often exercise image management behaviour without considering their own behaviour. In such instances, image management tactics become over learned habits. As Schlenker (1980) concludes, a great deal of image management behaviour appears to be non-purposive since it occurs automatically without conscious thought or control. Regarding purposive behaviours, Jones and Pittman (1980) have identified ingratiation, self-promotion, intimidation, exemplification, and supplication as image management.

In today’s world it is very important to understand who is playing which role, how one should act, and why other people are doing what they are doing. We project our image in very different manners: what we do, how we do it, what we say, how we say it, the arrangement of our offices, and our physical appearance, such as clothes and make-up as well as facial expressions. All these behaviors in some way help us define who we are (Rosenfeld et al., 1995, p.4). They form an identity and express what we want and expect from other people around us. These social identities constitute how individuals are “defined and regarded in social interaction” (Schlenker, 1980, p.69).

The general definition used by scholars is that image management is the process through which individuals attempt to influence the impressions other people form of them (Gardner, 1992). Individuals manage their impressions when they wish to present a favorable image of themselves to others (Jones &Pittman, 1982). Ways in which individuals manage their impressions can vary from verbal statements to their physical appearance or by using non-verbal gestures and expressions.

Some theorists like Schlenker (1980) and Schneider (1981) make a distinction between the terms image management and self-presentation, even though most literature uses these terms interchangeably. Schlenker (1980) classifies image management as the “attempt to control images that are projected in real or imagined social interactions” while self-presentation is applied to situations in which the created impression is “self-relevant” (Schlenker, 1980, p.6). Schneider (1981) claims that self-presentation can be seen as a close cousin of image management, but still is dissimilar: “Image can be managed by means other than self-presentation, and presentations may be used for goals other than image management” (Schneider, 1981, p.25). Schneider (1981) mentions that image of an individual can also be controlled by a third party.

Several theorists propose that self-presentation not only attempts to influence the images that others form, but also has an influence on the impression the person has about himself (Greenwald & Breckler, 1985; Hogan, Jones & Cheek, 1985; Schlenker, 1985). This in fact can be regarded as self-presentation to the self (Leary et al., 1990), as people are motivated to preserve particular beliefs about themselves (Greenwald & Breckler, 1985). Overall, image management can be seen as a broader and more encompassing term than self-presentation (Leary et al., 1990).

Impression Management

Goffman’s impression management work has developed and continuous to be a popular research topic addressing studies of identity and social interaction. Many impression management studies use the theory of self-monitoring to measure how anindividual works to achieve a desirable self-image. Self-monitoring can be described as an “internal state combining self-observation and self-control” (Scher et al., 2007, p. 186). Self-monitoring is an internal process in which a person tries to control the impressions they give off to others as a means of self-presentation (Scher et al., 2007, p. 187). In trying to give off certain impressions of one’s self, a person controls their behaviors to ensure that they are socially appropriate. Lennox (1984) describes two sources of information that a person uses to assess how to act: one’s personal disposition and situational cues (p. 199). Some people, known as low self-monitors, rely more on their inner states and feelings in assessing the appropriateness of their behavior while others, known as high self-monitors, tend to respond to their social environment’s cues when deciding how to behave appropriately (Lennox, 1984, p. 199). High self-monitors adapt their behaviors to specific social situations. They look at the way others are behaving in the immediate social scene for cues on how they should behave. On the contrary, low self-monitors use their internal factors – their attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and dispositions – as cues on how they should behave in certain situations. Therefore, they are less affected by situational factors than high self-monitors. Their behaviors are more reflective of their personality (Lennox, 1984, p. 199). Studies have shown that high self-monitors are more likely to conform than low self-monitors and show more inconsistency between their behaviors and attitudes (Scher et al., 2007, p. 187). It is thought that high self-monitors are more concerned with what others think of them than low self-monitors, making them more likely to conform in social situations (Sher et al., 2007, p. 190).

Studies show that high self-monitors are more concerned with what others think and are more likely than low self-monitors to “achieve desired images while avoiding undesired ones” (Turnley & Bolino, 2001, p. 251). They are skillful in controlling their self-image and often use impression management tactics. Jones and Pittman (1982) came up with a list of impression management tactics (Turnley & Bolino, 2001, p. 352). These includes:

aˆ? Ingratiation – using flattery in efforts to get others to view you favorably

aˆ? Self Promotion – displaying your successes and skills in efforts to appear


aˆ? Exemplification – striving to be seen as dedicated by exerting yourself to

the fullest

aˆ? Supplication – displaying your needs and shortcoming in efforts to appear


aˆ? Intimidation – striving to be seen as threatening or dangerous by intimidating others

Turnley and Bolino’s study (2001) found that high self-monitors would more frequently achieve the desired image of “likeable” when using ingratiation, “competent” when using self promotion and “dedicated” when using exemplification than low self-monitors (Turnley & Bolino, p. 353).

A similar study done by Bolino & Turnley (2003) found evidence that high self-monitors prefer to use positive impression management tactics (ingratiation, self promotion and exemplification) to negative tactics (supplication and intimidation) (p. 141). This same study also suggests that individuals who engage in positive impression management tactics are seen by others as more favorable than those who use all types of impression management tactics (Bolino & Turnley, 2003, p. 141). This study asserts that women are less aggressive in using impression management tactics than men and therefore, are more likely to engage in positive tactics rather than negative ones (Bolino & Turnley, 2003, p. 141). Bolino & Turnley suggest that this may be because women follow the less aggressive tactics of the female gender role, which “discourages aggressive or assertive behavior” (Bolino & Turnley, 2003, p. 148). Therefore, men are more active and aggressive in managing their impressions while women are more likely to do so passively (Bolino & Turnley, 2003, p. 148).

Siibak’s study used the self-discrepancy theory to explain the reasons behind managing one’s social media image. This theory asserts that individuals have three self-domains:

The Actual Self – an individual’s representation of the attributes that he or

she believes he/she possesses

The Ideal Self – an individual’s representation of the attributes that

someone (yourself or another person) wants you to possess

The Ought Self – and individual’s representation of the attributes that someone (yourself or another person) believes you should possess (Higgins, 1987, p. 319) The Ought Self comes into play in impression management. Individuals seek to represent the Ought Self by emphasizing the attributes they believe a person ought to possess in a certain social situation.

Many studies have focused on the Cultivation Theory as it pertains to self-image and distorted body image problems. Most of these studies look at television and magazines and their role in making females believe ideal beauty means excessive thinness. This study is more focused on exploring whether image management affects women’s perceptions of ideal beauty.

A study done on college women using print advertisements found that making social comparisons to ultra-thin models “is significantly associated with greater internalization of the thin ideal and decreased satisfaction with one’s own appearance” (Engeln Maddox, 2005, p. 1114). This study uses a sociocultural model that describes body image problems and disordered eating as a result of the continued exposure to thin images. This prolonged exposure reinforces the Western ideal of thinness being attractive (Engeln-Maddox, 2005, p. 1115).

A similar study was done on the effects of fashion magazines on body dissatisfaction and disordered eating among females. This study also connects the media’s promotion of the thin ideal to body distortion issues that remain at the center of anorexia and bulimia (Shaw, 1995, p. 15). It compared adolescents and adults and their responses to thin images present in magazines (Shaw, 1995, p. 20). Age, BMI and greater bulimic tendencies were positively correlated with greater responsiveness to images of thin models among adolescents (Shaw, 1995, p. 20). The adults, although still responsive to the thin ideal, were less responsive than adolescents (Shaw, 1995, p. 21). This is thought to be in part because adults, unlike adolescents, are not in a developmental stage in which they are concerned with collecting personal identity information (Shaw, 1995, p. 21).

Shaw (2005) uses Social Identity Theory, which states that one’s social identity is “positively related to the degree of social attractiveness conferred by their membership of a particular social group” to describe why females have greater body dissatisfaction after being exposed to ultra-thin magazine models (p. 21). Shaw also explains that our culture provides cues that teach females at an early age that they are judged by their physical beauty (p. 21). Therefore, females work to conform to the ideal images of beauty that our society has spelled out for them. If they are not able to conform to this ideal image of beauty, they may experience body dissatisfaction, which may lead to disordered eating habits.

One study looked at the role of the peer environment and its ability to provide a “subculture that emphasizes the importance of thinness throughaˆ¦ peer pressure to diet and be thin and teasing from peers about weight and shape” (Gerner & Wilson, 2005, p. 313). Female adolescents believe being thin is connected to a better popularity standing among friends and increases the perception of being dateable (Gerner & Wilson, 2005, p. 314). This is linked to disordered dieting, poor self-image evaluations, and bulimia (Gerner & Wilson, 2005, pg. 314). This study also suggests “girls’ friendships with males, more than females, are closely tied to how they feel about their bodies, reflecting a sociocultural emphasis on the importance of physical attractiveness for successful relationships with males” (Gerner & Wilson, 2005, p. 318).

2.2.1 Historical review on Impression management

A distinction will be made between before and after the 1980s. The idea that people actively manage their image that others form of them has existed for centuries, but it was in the early 1900’s that social philosophers incorporated these ideas into their thinking. It was only during the 1980s that the topic of image management started to become widely accepted as an element of organizational life and communications.

2.2.1 Impression management before the 1980’s

” The concept of image and impression management relates back to prehistoric and primitive people who also were concerned about self-presentation. Cosmetics, clothing, jewelry and other aids to physical attractiveness were universally used to present positive identities to others” (Tedeschi, 1981, p.xv). The idea that people project identities to one another and form identities from the reactions of others to them, has existed for a long period of time, yet it has not been until this century that social philosophers have incorporated this interactive process into their thinking (Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1934)

2.2.2 Impression management after the 1980s

Prior to the 1980s generally social psychologists regarded impression management as a peripheral concept. It was rarely regarded as a fundamental interpersonal process on its own (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992, p.135) . In the second half of the 1980’s interest for impression management started to

increase and the concept of impression management became more important. In 1989 two books were published by Giacalone and Rosenfeld about impression management in organizations. These two books served as source books for what is nowadays the distinctive field of organizational impression management (Rosenfeld et al., 1995). Impression management in organizations consists of strategic communications designed to establish, maintain, or protect desired identities (Rosenfeld et al., 1995).

Since the 1980’s impression management has been studied in organizational contexts such as leader-member exchange, job interviews and performance appraisal. The study of impression management in organizations is of great importance (Bozeman & Kacmar, 1997, p.9).

As popularity among researchers and practitioners grew it also started to be viewed as a mainstream rather than a peripheral concept. It is difficult to understand how impression management could have been overlooked in many theoretical discussions. Incorporating impression management into current research and practice is started to provide a better understanding of how organizational processes were to a large extent affected by individuals concerns over how they were being perceived by others (Rosenfeld et al., 1995).

Most social psychological investigations have focused on intentional behaviors that decorate or modify ongoing behavior. Impression management is assumed to become more intentional and focused when people believe that they will gain valued outcomes by encouraging certain impressions in others (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992).

Since the 80s analysts have applied and studied the concept of impression management to a wide range of social phenomena, such as attitude change, nonverbal behavior, social anxiety and recently also to concepts such as eating behavior, organizational behavior. While in specifics being different, the analyses share in common the idea that people attempt to control information for one or more salient audiences in ways that try to facilitate goal-achievement (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992, p.136). The concept of impression, specifically in the field of organizational life, has received much more importance than ever before. Impression management is a commonly occurring part of organizational life and it is seen as essential to effective organizational communication (Rosenfeld et al., 1995). In the next section a look will be taken at the motives people have to engage or use impression management.

2.3 Motives to engage in impression management

Being skilled in the process of impression management is becoming more significant for managers and it is especially true in work settings with high pressure and where quick decisions need to be made in a dynamic environment. Individuals who are not aware of this aspect of organizational life run the risk of performing poorly, or even being moved to lower positions in the organization (Gardner, 1992).

The statement and explanation given above by Gardner might in some way explain why people would attempt to use impression management at work with their colleagues. Yet in general people “wish to be perceived as intelligent, friendly and morally good” (Rosenfeld, Giacalone&Tedeschi, 1983, p.60). This explanation is given for the question of why people laugh more often at humorous stimuli when

others are present than when they are own their own, the answer being to establish an identity of oneself as a friendly person.

People engage in impression management for many reasons that are influenced by social, personal and situational factors. Some theorists describe the process as a quick cost-benefit analysis (Schlenker, 1980). At the same time people are assessing the benefits that might be achieved by presenting one image rather then another one, they are also considering the costs of presenting that particular image (Rosenfeld et al.,1995).

Some situations in which impression management is less likely to occur were described by Jones and Pittman (1980). Under conditions of high task involvement, where the individual becomes absorbed in the task itself. In another research on the use of impression management in assessment centers it was mentioned that the process of impression management required much of an individual’s cognitive resources and so it could interfere with effective performance of the individual (McFarland, Ryan, & Kriska, 2003). Other situations mentioned by Jones and Pittman (1980) are purely expressive behaviors such as anger and joy and situations in which the person is most of all concerned with presenting his/her true self, such as therapy sessions (Gardner & Martinko, 1988).

Next to situational factors also social and personal factors influence the motives of individuals to engage in impression management.

Leary and Kowalski (1990) believed that impression management could be used to increase personal well-being in three interrelated goals. First of all by maximizing one’s reward-cost ratio in social relations. As mentioned earlier, self-presentation also allows individuals to optimize their benefit-cost ratio when dealing with others (Schlenker, 1980). Being able to form a good impression will increase the probability of a desired outcome, be it a interpersonal one such as friendship or power or be it

material such as raise in salary due to being seen as more competent (Leary & Kowalski, 1990, p.37).

The second goal that Leary and Kowalski (1990) mention is enhancing one’s self esteem. People might employ in impression management, to regulate their self-esteem in a two-fold manner. One reason was that reactions that other individuals have will positively (compliments) or negatively (criticism) affect your self-esteem. So individuals will act in a manner to be able to inflate their self-esteem by trying to receive positive feedback (Leary & Kowalski, 1990, p.37). A second reason is that the self esteem of individuals is also influenced by the self-evaluation of their performances and the feedback that you as an individuals will expect to receive from others (Leary & Kowalski, 1990).

The third and final goal proposed by Leary and Kowalski (1990) is facilitating the development of desired identities. According to Cooley (1902) and Mead (1934) our identity is in the end derived from society, and individuals sometimes engage in certain behaviors to indicate the ownership of such identity-relevant characteristics (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). People may even engage in impression management activities as protection if they feel there is a threat to their social image. As can be seen above there are several motives for people to engage in impression managing. Aside of situational and social factors there are also some personality traits that will affect the degree of impression management being used. For example the extent to which an individual possess the trait of machiavellianism might have an impact on the degree of impression management being used. In today’s world it is defined as ” one who employs aggressive, manipulative, exploiting and devious moves in order to achieve personal and organizational objectives” (Calhoon, 1969, p. 241). From this definition it seems obvious to conclude that the higher the score for machiavellianism the more likely the individual will engage in impression management to achieve personal objectives. A second and final trait that can be decisive for the degree in which an individual engages in impression management is self-monitoring. Individuals differ in the way they monitor their self-presentation and expressive behavior (Snyder, 1974, p.536). Individuals with high levels of self-monitoring can effectively use this skill to create impressions they want. Furthermore these individuals are also better at purposely communicating and expressing emotion in verbal and non verbal manners (Snyder, 1974).

Before reaching the overall conclusion of this chapter it can be said that indeed personality as well as social and situational factors play a clear role and deciding what individual will or will not use impression management in certain situations.

2.4 Conclusion

In this chapter an in depth look was taken at the historical background of impression management and it can be said that since the mid 80s the topic has increasingly received attention from social psychologists and the awareness of its importance is also dramatically increasing in organizational life. Furthermore a look was taken at the several definitions of the concept by different researchers. The definition that will be employed throughout this paper will be the process through which individuals

attempt to influence the impressions other people form of them. In the final part of this chapter the several factors that might affect the motives of individuals to engage in impression management where studied. It was found that several situational, social and personality factors affect an individual’s decision to employ impression management. In the next chapter a look will be taken at the choice of the type of impression management style or tactic that and individuals will choose.

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