Definitions

enhancement

Self-enhancement

[en-hans, -hahns]

Self-enhancement is a concept from the field of social psychology that is commonly used to describe the predisposition that individuals have "...to distort self-appraisals so as to maintain the most favorable self-view". Self-enhancement involves sustaining and augmenting a positive view of the self; specifically, people are likely to over-emphasize favorable evaluations of themselves, while they are inclined to minimize or forget critical assessments of themselves. In addition, the concept of self-enhancement suggests that people tend to look for flattering evaluations from others concerning their achievements and talents.

The concept of self-enhancement also addresses the construal of outcomes and how individuals explain the causation of events. In particular, people are predisposed to ascribe favorable outcomes to themselves, while they are likely to ascribe unfavorable outcomes to factors other than themselves. This particular predisposition is generally termed self-serving attribution whereby an individual "takes credit for success and...blames other people or situations for failure." Further, the concept of self-enhancement suggests that an individual is likely to hold a positive bias when predicting his level of control regarding future events and when predicting his future level of success.

As a Core Motive

Self-enhancement is generally accepted by social psychologists as a basic motive that drives the cognition, affect, and behavior of people. Additionally, social psychologists consider the tendency toward self-enhancement as a way for individuals to preserve stable emotions and mental well-being. In fact, self-enhancement appears to be adaptive for humans by promoting "successful life adjustment" since individuals who maintain positive perceptions about the self, the world, and the future typically are cheerful and satisfied. Other indicators of "successful life adjustment" include the capacity to show concern for other people and the ability to undertake and complete productive, resourceful tasks.

However, there may also be negative consequences of self-enhancement that could include "self-deception, egocentrism, and even violence". Self-perceptions that are incorrectly positive may also interfere with an individual’s ability to understand valid hazards and dangers that they may encounter when pursuing goals. Therefore, these individuals who possess falsely positive self-perceptions may not take action to mediate risks that could intimately lead to great personal peril.

Research

The concept of self-enhancement provides a broad conceptual framework from which to develop diverse areas of research in the field of social psychology. Examples of recent research areas include investigating cross-cultural differences in self-enhancement, exploring attributions as self-enhancement as opposed to self-defense, and studying the relationship between self-enhancement and self-improvement.

References

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