Research on attribution theory has shown that, in addition to developing impressions about an actor, observers develop impressions about the act itself, and that the latter impressions can be affected by the same variables that influence the former. For instance, the ease with which an action is performed has been shown to influence its perceived difficulty. The primary goal of self - presentation is not to be perceived positively per se, but to influence other people to respond in desired ways. In most cases, people are more likely to treat us as we want them to when they have positive impressions of us— that we are friendly, competent, ethical, and attractive, for example.
Because of this, the impressions people usually try to make are positive, socially desirable ones. In other cases, however, people are more likely to be treated as they desire if they foster undesirable impressions in others' eyes. People sometimes think their interests will be best served if they can get others to perceive them as violent, incompetent, ill, or even mentally disturbed. The study of self - presentation assumes that people are often concerned about what others think of them and that, at least occasionally, they behave in ways that help them make certain impressions on other people.
In this chapter, we explore the rather complex question of why people engage in impression management (Christensen, 1981). To answer this question, we really must address two separate issues. The first involves why people should be concerned with others' impressions of them in the first place. Why do people go out of their way to control others' impressions of them, sometimes to the point of doing things that are self -destructive or purposefully conveying images of themselves they know are not accurate?
Given the pervasiveness and strength of the self -presentational motive and people's proclivity to impression-manage, it almost seems as if people are inherently predisposed to worry about how other people view them.
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