Source of article 2's Company - Magnus Insights.
In this series of posts, I will discuss social psychological concepts that operate in everyday life, as well as within the context of my work as a litigation/trial consultant. Some of the concepts I will cover have become well known among laypersons, that is, people who do not have an advanced degree in psychology, while others are known primarily among my colleagues. The first topic I will review is impression management. Impression management was defined in the early 1970s to explain the ways in which most people are motivated to appear consistent, reliable, and trustworthy to others. People are socialized, early in their development, to appear consistent. We are rewarded for being consistent and there are negative environmental and social consequences for appearing inconsistent. As a result of most people’s desire to receive positive reinforcement, all the while avoiding negative reinforcement and punishment, we learn to manage the impressions we give to others so that we appear as consistent as possible. It is important to note that most people do not have an internal motivation to be consistent; rather, they manage others’ perceptions of them with outward appearances of consistency. As a result of most people’s tendency to manage others’ impressions of them, they often change their attitudes in ways consistent with the attitudes other people believe they hold. Whether or not attitudes have actually changed, on a permanent basis, is the subject of considerable scholarly debate. If one believes people are motivated to reduce tension that results from cognitive dissonance, then changing one’s attitudes in the direction of the impression others have of us would be a necessary aspect of impression management. If, on the other hand, merely endorsing an attitude that is a socially desirable manifestation of the impression one is trying to manage, then it follows that attitude change would exist only temporarily. Applied to the study of group dynamics, particularly, jury decision making, I have observed, countless times, that most of the mock jurors and other research participants who make decisions on the important cases with which they are tasked do so in consistent ways that do not vary from the initial attitudes they have expressed about key concepts that are part of the case. For example, if a mock juror expresses the belief that “there are too many frivolous lawsuits,” he/she typically will endorse this belief as it applies to the case under consideration. For this type of juror, managing the impression that “there are too many frivolous lawsuits” becomes an integral part of the deliberations process and is evidenced by remarks such as, “I think the plaintiff should be glad she wasn’t hurt worse” and usually results in an unwillingness to award substantial damages. Impression management is an important part of who we are as people; most of us manage others’ impressions without giving any consideration to the role this plays in our lives as social beings.