Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 261–270 | Cite as

A Cost of Pretending

  • Murad S. Hussain
  • Ellen Langer


Two experiments were conducted to assess the effect of pretending on the pretenders' self-esteem. People use social pretenses to avoid criticism and receive praise to maintain and augment this self-esteem. Nevertheless, there is a hidden opportunity cost of pretending. Participants were led (or not) to pretend that they possessed knowledge they did not have (i.e., made-up words), and did or did not receive praise for being knowledgeable. Pretending blunts the effects of praise. Praise raised control participants' self-esteem more than it did that of pretenders.

self-presentation pretending social pretense self-esteem mindfulness 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murad S. Hussain
    • 1
  • Ellen Langer
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeMassachusetts

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