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How do people (show and) tell the story of who they are?

Ivcevic, Z., & Ambady, N. (2013). Face to (Face)book: Two faces of social behavior. Journal of Personality. 81, 290–301. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00804.x

Social networking sites such as Facebook represent a unique and dynamic social environment. This study addresses three theoretical issues in personality psychology in the context of online social networking sites: (a) the temporal consistency of Facebook activity, (b) people's awareness of their online behavior, and (c) comparison of social behavior on Facebook with self- and informant-reported behavior in real life. Facebook Wall pages of 99 college students (mean age = 19.72) were downloaded six times during 3 weeks and coded for quantity and quality of activity. Everyday social interactions were assessed by self- and friend report. Facebook activity showed significant consistency across time, and people demonstrated awareness of their online behavior. There was significant similarity between everyday traits and interactions and Facebook behavior (e.g., more posts by friends are related to Agreeableness). Some differences between online and everyday interactions warrant further research (e.g., individuals with more positive offline relationships are less likely to engage in back-and-forth conversations on Facebook). The results indicate substantial similarity between online and offline social behavior and identify avenues for future research on the possible use of Facebook to compensate for difficulty in everyday interactions.

Prior research has shown that memories of feeling good about the self often focus on achievement themes, whereas memories of feeling bad about the self often focus on interpersonal themes. This study examined whether a similar relationship would be evident for imagined future events. Young adults in the United States and Denmark provided memories and imagined future events that are associated with positive or negative self-regard. Across cultures, achievement themes were prominently represented in memories of positive self-regard and interpersonal themes were prominently represented in memories of negative self-regard. In contrast, relationships between the emotional valence and thematic content of imagined future events were weak and inconsistent. Our results raise new questions for the theory that imagined future episodes are constructed primarily from recombinations of past episodes.

Ivcevic, Z., & Ambady, N. (2012). Personality impressions from identity claims on Facebook. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1, 38-45. doi: 10.1037/a0027329

Facebook profiles are routinely viewed and judged by others. We examined the categories of information that are utilized by observers and we tested the predictive validity of personality ratings based on Facebook Info pages. Raters made personality judgments of target individuals, either based on full Facebook Info pages or single categories of information (e.g., profile picture, interests, music preferences, etc.). Personality ratings for the Info pages were most highly correlated with ratings of profile pictures, followed by shared quotes and interests. Regression analyses showed that pictures and shared self-descriptive preferences independently contributed to impressions of Info pages. Stranger ratings of Info pages more strongly predicted online than everyday behavior.

Theories of autobiographical memory posit that extended time periods (here termed chapters) and memories are organised hierarchically. If chapters organise memories and guide their recall, then chapters and memories should show similar temporal distributions over the life course. Previous research demonstrates that positive but not negative memories show a reminiscence bump and that memories cluster at the beginning of extended time periods. The current study tested the hypotheses that (1) ages marking the beginning of positive but not negative chapters produce a bump, and that (2) specific memories are over-represented at the beginning of chapters. Potential connections between chapters and the cultural life script are also examined. Adult participants first divided their life story into chapters and identified their most positive and most negative chapter. They then recalled a specific memory from both their most positive and most negative chapter. As predicted, the beginning age of positive but not negative chapters produced a bump and specific memories tended to cluster at chapter beginnings. The results support the idea that chapters guide the search for specific memories and that the cultural life script contributes to the search process.

Early adolescents recounted experiences when they felt ‘especially good’ or ‘especially bad’ about themselves in the past year. Consistent with prior research using adult participants, negative memories focused primarily on social themes, whereas positive memories also prominently included achievement themes. Girls described more social themes than did boys for both positive and negative memories. The content of self-esteem memories was related to teachers’ formal assessments of adolescents’ social and academic functioning: The presence of achievement themes in positive and negative memories was associated with more positive teacher ratings.

With recent growth in the use of personal webpages and online social networking, people are changing the way that they meet and form impressions of each other. The current research examines the correspondence in impressions formed from face-to-face interaction and personal webpages. As expected, people liked by interaction partners were also liked on the basis of their Facebook® pages. Across the two social mediums, social perceivers utilized analogous criteria in forming impressions: interaction partners and webpage viewers liked people who were socially expressive in face-to-face interaction and personal webpages, respectively. Finally, webpage expressivity and webpage self-disclosure were independent constructs, predictive of face-to-face counterparts: nonverbal expressivity and verbal self-disclosure. Implications for the changing landscape of social perception are discussed.

College students and middle-aged adults provided memories of occasions when they felt especially good or especially bad about themselves. Probes directed the memory search to several age intervals during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Predominant themes represented in self-esteem memories differed consistently as a function of emotional valence. Memories of positive self-worth frequently focused on achievement/mastery themes, whereas memories of negative self-worth frequently focused on interpersonal/ affiliation themes. When people evaluate the self through the lens of autobiographical memory, interpersonal distress is portrayed as especially damaging and achievement success is portrayed as especially enhancing. The asymmetry between positive and negative self-esteem memories is explained using multiple theoretical perspectives within social and personality psychology.

In four studies, we examined the temporal distribution of positive and negative memories of momentous

life events. College students and middle-aged adults reported events occurring from the ages of 8 to 18 years

in which they had felt especially good or especially bad about themselves. Distributions of positive memories

showed a marked peak at ages 17 and 18. In contrast, distributions of negative memories were relatively flat. These patterns were consistent for males and females and for younger and older adults. Content analyses indicated that a substantial proportion of positive memories from late adolescence described culturally prescribed landmark events surrounding the major life transition from high school to college. When the participants were asked for recollections from life periods that lack obvious age-linked milestone events, age distributions of positive and negative memories were similar. The results support and extend Berntsen and Rubin’s (2004) conclusion that cultural expectations, or life scripts, organize recall of positive, but not negative, events.

College students and middle-aged adults provided memories of occasions when they felt especially good or especially bad about themselves. Probes directed the memory search to several age intervals during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Predominant themes represented in self-esteem memories differed consistently as a function of emotional valence. Memories of positive self-worth frequently focused on achievement/mastery themes, whereas memories of negative self-worth frequently focused on interpersonal/ affiliation themes. When people evaluate the self through the lens of autobiographical memory, interpersonal distress is portrayed as especially damaging and achievement success is portrayed as especially enhancing. The asymmetry between positive and negative self-esteem memories is explained using multiple theoretical perspectives within social and personality psychology.

A content coding system was developed for people's open-ended self- descriptions. Self-descriptive statements of N = 174 individuals were classified into content clusters based on similarity of meaning. Those clusters, in turn, were organized into content areas of personality functioning (cognitive, motivational and emotional, self- regulatory, social, and whole personality). An analysis of the clusters indicated that: a) the most commonly used clusters described simple and positive characteristics of an individual; b) many open-ended descriptions were similar to widely studied attributes (e.g., self- esteem); but also c) some self- descriptions reflected possibly neglected areas of study (e.g., self-authenticity). Significant correlations were found between self-report scales and self-descriptions with similar meaning.