Self-verification is a social psychological theory that asserts people want to be known and understood by others according to their firmly held beliefs and feelings about themselves, that is self-views (including self-concepts and self-esteem). A competing theory to self-verification is self-enhancement or the drive for positive evaluations.

Because chronic self-concepts and self-esteem play an important role in understanding the world, providing a sense of coherence, and guiding action, people become motivated to maintain them through self-verification. Such strivings provide stability to people’s lives, making their experiences more coherent, orderly, and comprehensible than they would be otherwise. Self-verification processes are also adaptive for groups, groups of diverse backgrounds and the larger society, in that they make people predictable to one another thus serve to facilitate social interaction.[1] To this end, people engage in a variety of activities that are designed to obtain self-verifying information.

Developed by William Swann (1981), the theory grew out of earlier writings which held that people form self-views so that they can understand and predict the responses of others and know how to act toward them.[2]


One thought on “Self-verification

  1. sirbrendanthebold

    While I resent social psychology for being indecisive about which field they joined (I’m a sociologist:p), I always appreciate the weird places they take it.

    I remember reading a very interesting study years back in which the researchers challenged basic and arbitrary social expectations. All the researcher would do is rather than stare at the cashier while waiting in line for groceries, instead gaze at the line behind them. This simple disruption in unconscious social etiquette created tremendously absurd reactions, including panic and violence. Same outcome when, in an elevator, researchers would stare at the people they shared the elevator with rather than the door.

    It always seems a cogent demonstration of just how fragile our sense of self and society really is, and how completely ill-equipped we are to disruption. Thank you for the post.


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