COURSE OUTLINE – Fall, 2006
SOP 6409 – Seminar: Impression Management
Dr. Barry R. Schlenker
Office: PSY 269
Phone: 392-0601, ext. 253
Class Time: T 7-9 Room: CBD 316 (Classroom Building 105)
"When an individual appears in the presence of others, there will usually be some reason for him to mobilize his activity so that it will convey an impression to others which it is in his interests to convey."
Illustrations of the times:
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
"Never let them see you sweat."
We live in the Age of Information, so it is not surprising that the use and control of information plays a central role in each of our lives. Impression management is the goal-directed activity of controlling or regulating information in order to influence the impressions formed by an audience. Through impression management, people try to shape an audience's impressions of a person (e.g., self, friends, enemies), object (e.g., a business organization, a gift, a consumer product), event (e.g., a transgression, a task performance), or idea (e.g., pro-life versus pro-choice policies, capitalism versus socialism). When people are trying to control impressions of themselves, as opposed to other people or entities, the activity is called self-presentation.
This seminar will explore the social psychology of impression management. We will focus on theory and research dealing with the nature and implications of the regulation of information. Much of the social psychology literature deals with strategic self-presentation designed to advance the self-interests of the actor. At one level, this literature provides insights into the "gamesmanship" of interpersonal behavior, looking at how people use and conceal information to accomplish their objectives. Many of the best selling self-help books in the psychology and business sections of bookstores similarly deal with how to exert social influence by making the right impression on others (e.g., Dale Carnegie's How to win friends and influence people; David Lewis' The secret language of success: Using body language to get what you want; Michael Korda's Success: How every man and woman can achieve it; Roger Fisher's Getting to Yes). Such books tell us how to look and dress; what to say and how to say it; how to move, sit, and gesture; when to smile or raise an eyebrow; and all manner of information that seems vital if we are to do well at the game of life, winning and keeping lovers, money, power, friends, etc. Advertising is simply the art of influence through the control of information. The political arena provides a stage for the conscious and systematic application of ideas about how to sell people and ideas. The common thread through all of this is the notion that, to survive and prosper, we must get people to form the "right" impression, about us and the things about which we care.
At another level, though, impression management involves more than gamesmanship. I have argued that impression management is not simply a type of behavior that occurs only under limited circumstances, such as during a job interview or on a date, or that is evidenced only by certain types of people, such as those high in self-monitoring or Machiavellianism. Instead, impression management is a fundamental feature or characteristic of interpersonal experience. It is inconceivable to discuss human social behavior without employing the concept. People do not deal with information randomly or dispassionately. Our opinions about what constitutes the "truth" are affected by our personal agendas. To help us to accomplish our objectives in life, we "package" information to help audiences draw the "right" conclusion. This packaging is a pervasive feature of interpersonal behavior.
Packaging is not necessarily deceptive or immoral, although it certainly can be used for...
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