Advertisement

Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Social utility versus social desirability of students’ attributional self-presentation strategies

  • 593 Accesses

  • 6 Citations

Abstract

Research on impression management has shown that students can manage their social images by providing attributional self-presentation strategies (ASPSs). Based on the distinction between social desirability judgments and social utility judgments, two studies were conducted to examine the students’ understanding of the impact of ASPSs both on teachers’ and peers’ approval and on future success. In Study 1, ninety-one undergraduate students were presented with five bogus profiles of students who based their ASPS on (a) effort, (b) ability, or (c) external attributions, (d) modesty principle, or (e) self-serving bias. They were asked to rank the profiles according to their expectations of the future academic success of each profile, and of the perceived effectiveness of the profiles in order to obtain teachers’ and peers’ approval. Study 2 explored how 100 high-school students and their teachers judge the same five bogus profiles of students used in the previous study. The findings reveal that the strategy based on effort attributions—rooted in the social utility dimension—is the most valued ones to pursue one’s achievements goal. In conclusion, the study provides further evidence about the contribution of self-presentation concerns to individuals’ causal attribution patterns for success and failure, and contribute to the theoretical debate on the dimensions underlying the social judgments.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Arkin, R. M., Appelman, A. J., & Burger, J. M. (1980). Social anxiety, self-presentation, and the self-serving bias in causal attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38(1), 23–35.

  2. Arnold, I. J. M. (2009). Do examinations influence student evaluations? International Journal of Educational Research, 48(4), 215–224.

  3. Barter, C., & Renold, E. (1999). The use of vignettes in qualitative research. Social Research Update, 25(9), 1–6.

  4. Baumeister, R. F. (Ed.). (1999). The self in social psychology. Hove: Psychology Press.

  5. Baumeister, R. F., & Jones, E. E. (1978). When self-presentation is constrained by the target’s knowledge: Consistency and compensation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 608–618. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.36.6.608.

  6. Beauvois, J. L. (1984). La psychologie quotidienne. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

  7. Beauvois, J. L. (1994). Traité de la servitude libérale. Une analyse de la soumission. Paris: Dunod.

  8. Beauvois, J. L. (2003). Judgment norms, social utility, and individualism. In N. Dubois (Ed.), A sociocognitive approach to social norms (pp. 123–147). London: Routledge.

  9. Beauvois, J. L. (2005). Les illusions libérales, individualisme et pouvoir social: Petit traité des grandes illusions. Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.

  10. Beauvois, J. L., & Dépret, E. (2008). What about social value? European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23(4), 493–500.

  11. Beauvois, J. L., & Dubois, N. (1988). The norm of internality in the explanation of psychological events. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18, 299–316.

  12. Beauvois, J. L., & Dubois, N. (2001). Normativity and self-presentation—theoretical bases of self-presentation training for evaluation situations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 16(7), 490–508.

  13. Bennett, R. E., Gottesman, R. L., Rock, D. A., & Cerullo, F. (1993). Influence of behavior perceptions and gender on teachers’ judgments of students’ academic skill. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(2), 347–356.

  14. Bradley, G. W. (1978). Self-serving biases in the attribution process: A reexamination of the fact or fiction question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(1), 56.

  15. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1989). Ecological systems theory. Annals of Child Development, 6, 187–251.

  16. Cambon, L. (2002). Désirabilité et utilité sociale, deux composantes de la valeur. Une exemplification dans l’analyse des activités professionnelles. L’Orientation Scolaire et Professionnelle, 31, 75–96.

  17. Cambon, L., Djouari, A., & Beauvois, J. L. (2006). Social judgment norms and social utility: When it is more valuable to be useful than desirable. Swiss Journal of Psychology/Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Revue Suisse de Psychologie, 65(3), 167–180. doi:10.1024/1421-0185.65.3.167.

  18. Campbell, W. K., & Sedikides, C. (1999). Self-threat magnifies the self-serving bias: A meta-analytic integration. Review of General Psychology, 3, 23–43.

  19. Covington, M. V., & Omelich, C. L. (1979). Effort: The double-edged sword in school achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71(2), 169–182. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.71.2.169.

  20. Darnon, C., Dompnier, B., Delmas, F., Pulfrey, C., & Butera, F. (2009). Achievement goal promotion at university: Social desirability and social utility of mastery and performance goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 119–134.

  21. Doherty, K., & Schlenker, B. R. (1991). Self-consciousness and strategic self-presentation. Journal of Personality 59 (1), 1–18.

  22. Dompnier, B., & Pansu, P. (2007). L’intervention des explications causales internes en termes d’effort dans les stratégies d’autoprésentation et le jugement social: Perspectives sociocognitives. Psychologie française 52(4), 459–478.

  23. Dompnier, B., & Pansu, P. (2010). La valeur sociale des explications causales en contexte educatif. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 69(1), 39–51.

  24. Dompnier, B., Pansu, P., & Bressoux, P. (2006). An integrative model of scholastic judgments: Pupils’ characteristics, class context, halo effect and internal attributions. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 21(2), 119–133.

  25. Dompnier, B., Pansu, P., & Bressoux, P. (2007). Social utility, social desirability and scholastic judgments: Toward a personological model of academic evaluation. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 22(3), 333–350.

  26. Dubois, N. (1994). La norme d’internalité et le liberalisme. Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.

  27. Dubois, N. (2000). Self-presentation strategies and social judgments. Desirability and social utility of causal explanations. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 59, 170–182.

  28. Dubois, N. (2005). Normes sociales de jugement et valeur: Ancrage sur l’utilité et ancrage sur la désirabilité. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 18(3), 43–79.

  29. Dubois, N., & Beauvois, J. L. (2005). Normativeness and individualism. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35(1), 123–146.

  30. Feather, N. T. (1989). Attitudes towards the high achiever: The fall of the tall poppy. Australian Journal of Psychology, 41, 239–267.

  31. Feather, N. T. (1998). Attitudes toward high achievers, self-esteem, and value priorities for Australian, American, and Canadian students. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 749–758.

  32. Finch, J. (1987). The vignette technique in survey research. Sociology, 21(1), 115–114.

  33. Genyue, F., Heyman, G. D., & Lee, K. (2010). Reasoning about modesty among adolescents and adults in China and the U.S. Journal of Adolescence, 34(4), 599–608.

  34. Gilibert, D., & Cambon, L. (2003). Paradigms of the sociocognitive approach. In N. Dubois (Ed.), A sociocognitive approach to social norms (pp. 38–69). London: Routledge.

  35. Goffman, E. (2002). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, NY: Anchor (original work published 1959).

  36. Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., & Solomon, S. (1982). The self-serving attributional bias: Beyond self-presentation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 18(1), 56–67.

  37. Hareli, S., & Weiner, B. (2000). Accounts for success as determinants of perceived arrogance and modesty. Motivation and Emotion, 24(3), 215–236.

  38. Hareli, S., Weiner, B., & Yee, J. (2006). Honesty doesn’t always pay–the role of honesty of accounts for success made in an educational setting in inferences of modesty and arrogance. Social Psychology of Education, 9, 119–138.

  39. Jellison, J. M., & Green, J. (1981). A self-presentation approach to the fundamental attribution error: The norm of internality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 643–649.

  40. Jouffre, S., Py, J., & Somat, A. (2008). Academic judgment and institutional evaluation made by teachers according to pupils’ explanatory activity. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23(4), 399–420.

  41. Judd, C. M., James-Hawkins, L., Yzerbyt, V., & Kashima, Y. (2005). Fundamental dimensions of social judgment: Understanding the relations between judgments of competence and warmth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 899–913. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.899.

  42. Juvonen, J. (1996). Self-presentation tactics promoting teacher and peer approval: The function of excuses and other clever explanations. In J. Juvonen & K. R. Wentzel (Eds.), Social motivation: Understanding children’s school adjustment (pp. 43–65). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

  43. Juvonen, J. (2000). The Social functions of attributional face-saving tactics among early adolescents. Educational Psychology Review, 12(1), 15–33.

  44. Juvonen, J., & Murdock, T. B. (1995). Grade-level differences in the social value of effort: Implications for self-presentation tactics of early adolescents. Child Development, 66(6), 1694–1705. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1995.tb00959.x.

  45. Juvonen, J., & Weiner, B. (1993). An attributional analysis of students’ interactions: The social consequences of perceived responsibility. Educational Psychology Review, 5(4), 325–345.

  46. Kudo, E., & Numazaki, M. (2003). Explicit and direct self-serving bias in Japan. Reexamination of self-serving bias for success and failure. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(5), 511–521.

  47. Kurman, J. (2001). Self-enhancement: Is it restricted to individualistic cultures? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(12), 1705–1716.

  48. Kurman, J. (2003). Why is self-enhancement low in certain collectivist cultures? An investigation of two competing explanations. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34(5), 496–510.

  49. Le Barbenchon, E., Cambon, L., & Lavigne, F. (2005). Désirabilité et utilité sociale de 308 adjectifs de personnalité et 297 professions. L’Année Psychologique, 105(2), 307–322.

  50. Leary, M. R. (1995). Self-presentation: Impression management and interpersonal behavior. Boulder, CO: Westview.

  51. Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 34–47.

  52. Liu, K., Cheng, Y., Chen, Y., & Wu, Y. (2009). Longitudinal effects of educational expectations and achievement attributions on adolescents’ academic achievements. Adolescence, 44(176), 911–924.

  53. Matteucci, M. C. (2007). Teachers facing school failure: The social valorization of effort in the school context. Social Psychology of Education, 10(1), 29–53.

  54. Matteucci, M. C. (2012). Attributional retraining: The mediating role of mastery and performance motivation among college students. In L. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, I. Candel Torres (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th international conference of education, research and innovation (ICERI 2012) (pp. 1238–1242). Valencia: IATED.

  55. Matteucci, M. C., & Gosling, P. (2004). Italian and French teachers faced with pupil’s academic failure: The norm of effort. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 19(2), 147–166.

  56. Matteucci, M. C., Carugati, F., Selleri, P., Mazzoni, E., & Tomasetto, C. (2008). Teachers’ judgment from a European psychosocial perspective. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Teachers and teaching: Strategies, innovations and problem solving (pp. 31–55). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

  57. Matteucci, M. C., Tomasetto, C., Selleri, P., & Carugati, F. (2008). Teacher judgments and pupils’ causal explanations: Social valorization of effort-based explanations in school context. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23, 421–432.

  58. McClure, J., Meyer, L. H., Garisch, J., Fischer, R., Weir, K. F., & Walkey, F. H. (2011). Students’ attributions for their best and worst marks: Do they relate to achievement? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(2), 71–81.

  59. Metalsky, G. I., Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E. P., Semmel, A., & Peterson, C. (1982). Attributional styles and life events in the classroom: Vulnerability and invulnerability to depressive mood reactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(3), 612–617.

  60. Mezulis, A. H., Abramson, L. Y., Hyde, J. S., & Hankin, B. L. (2004). Is there a universal positivity bias in attributions? A meta-analytic review of individual, developmental, and cultural differences in the self-serving attributional bias. Psychological Bulletin, 130(5), 711–747.

  61. Miller, D. T., & Ross, M. (1975). Self-serving biases in the attribution of causality: Fact or fiction? Psychological Bulletin, 82, 213–225.

  62. Miller, R. S., & Schlenker, R. B. (1985). Egotism in group members: Public and private attributions of responsibility for group performance. Social Psychology Quarterly, 48, 85–89.

  63. Nezlek, J. B., & Leary, M. R. (2002). Individual differences in self-presentational motives in daily social interaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(2), 211–223.

  64. Pansu, P. (2006). The internality bias in social judgments: A sociocognitive approach. Advances in Psychology Research, 40, 75–110.

  65. Pansu, P., & Dubois, N. (in press). The social origin of personality traits: An evaluative function. In N. Gotsiridze-Columbus (Ed.), Psychology of personality. New York: Nova Science Publishers Inc.

  66. Pansu, P., & Gilibert, D. (2002). Effect of causal explanations on work-related judgments. Applied Psychology, 51(4), 505–526.

  67. Pansu, P., Dubois, N., & Dompnier, B. (2008). Internality-norm in educational contexts. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23(4), 385–397.

  68. Peeters, G. (1992). Evaluative meaning of adjectives in vitro and in context: Some theoretical implications and practical consequences of positive-negative asymmetry and behavioral-adaptative concepts of evaluation. Psychologica Belgica, 32, 211–231.

  69. Peeters, G. (2002). From the good and the bad to can and must: Subjective necessity of acts associated with positively and negatively valued stimuli. European Journal of Social Psychology, 32, 125–136.

  70. Perrin, S., & Testé, B. (2010). Impact of the locus of causality and internal control on the social utility of causal explanations. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 69(3), 173–179.

  71. Rosenberg, S., Nelson, C., & Vivekananthan, P. S. (1968). A multidimensional approach to the structure of personality impressions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 283–294.

  72. Schlenker, B. R., & Leary, M. R. (1982a). Audiences’ reactions to self-enhancing, self-denigrating, and accurate self-presentations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 18(1), 89–104.

  73. Schlenker, B. R., & Leary, M. R. (1982b). Social anxiety and self-presentation: A conceptualization model. Psychological Bulletin, 92(3), 641–669. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.92.3.641.

  74. Shikanai, K. (1984). Effects of self-esteem and one’s own performance on attribution of others’ success and failure. Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 24, 37–46.

  75. Silvester, J., Anderson-Gough, F. M., Anderson, N. R., & Mohamed, A. R. (2002). Locus of control, attributions and impression management in the selection interview. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 75(1), 59–76.

  76. Tice, D. M., Butler, J. L., Muraven, M. B., & Stillwell, A. M. (1995). When modesty prevails: Differential favorability of self-presentation to friends and strangers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(6), 1120–1138.

  77. Vispoel, W. P., & Austin, J. R. (1995). Success and failure in junior high school: A critical incident approach to understanding students’ attributional beliefs. American Educational Research Journal, 32, 377–412.

  78. Watling, D., & Banerjee, R. (2007). Children’s understanding of modesty in front of peer and adult audiences. Infant and Child Development, 16(3), 227–236.

  79. Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation. New York: Springer.

  80. Weiner, B. (1992). Excuses in everyday interaction. In M. L. McLaughlin, M. J. Cody, & S. J. Read (Eds.), Explaining one’s self to others: Reason-giving in a social context (pp. 131–146). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  81. Weiner, B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility: A foundation for a theory of social conduct. New York: Guilford press.

  82. Weiner, B. (2003). The classroom as a courtroom. Social Psychology of Education, 6, 3–15.

  83. Weiner, B. (2008). On theoretical co-existence versus theoretical integration. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23(4), 433–438.

  84. Weiner, B., Amrikhan, J., Folkes, V. S., & Verette, J. (1987). An attributional analysis of excuse giving: Studies of naive theory of emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 316–324.

  85. Wentzel, K. R., & Looney, L. (2007). Socialization in school settings. In J. E. Grusec, & P. D. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization. Theory and research (pp. 382–403). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

  86. Wiggins, J. S. (1979). A psychological taxonomy of trait-descriptive terms: The interpersonal domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(3), 395.

  87. Wojciszke, B. (2005). Morality and competence in person- and self-perception. European Review of Social Psychology, 16, 155–188.

Download references

Acknowledgments

I thank all the participants involved in this study. I also thank the Editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the paper. I am also grateful to Miriam Ancarani and Sonia Barogi who collected the data. This study was supported by a grant (RFO) from University of Bologna, Italy.

Conflict of interest

None.

Author information

Correspondence to Maria Cristina Matteucci.

Appendix

Appendix

Bogus profiles presenting attributional self-presentation strategies (study 1).

Effort

[name] is a student who generally explains the cause of the events that happen to him by making reference to himself; in particular, he attributes his success mainly to the effort he usually puts into his study and school activities, while he usually ascribes his failure to not having done his best or not having worked hard enough.

Ability

[name] is a student who explains the events that happen to him at school—both success and failure—usually by making reference to himself and especially to his personal characteristics and skills or, in case of failure, to his lack of abilities.

Self-serving

[name] is a student that generally explains his success at school as depending on him; when asked to explain his failure he makes reference to the situation, bad luck or external circumstances that do not depend directly on him.

Modesty

[name] is a student who generally explains his success at school, claiming that it depends predominantly on favorable external circumstances or on good luck, while he claims to be almost always the cause of his failure at school, attributing this to his lack of both commitment and skills.

External

[name] is a student who normally claims that all the events that happen to him depend on external circumstances. Particularly, he attributes his success to luck, to the situation or to other people’s help,while he attributes his failure to bad luck, circumstances, or other people’s negative intervention.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Matteucci, M.C. Social utility versus social desirability of students’ attributional self-presentation strategies. Soc Psychol Educ 17, 541–563 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9256-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Causal attribution
  • Self-presentation
  • Effort
  • Students
  • Social norms
  • Teachers