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Virginia Kwan And Self Enhancement Theory

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Self-Enhancement is defined by Virginia Kwan quite simply as a self-perception that is overly positive." Kwan posits two manners in which such an overly positive self-perception is formed, both of which involve making social comparisons. The apparent distinction between these two ways of establishing a self-enhancing bias lies in the target of the social comparison.

In the first type of bias the self-enhancer compares his view of himself to his perceived view of others. Kwan labeled this type of bias the social comparison perspective because it has its roots in Festinger's social comparison theory. An example of this social comparison perspective comes to mind when I think back to how I once thought of myself a rather skilled pool player. I would observe others performances and consider myself better if they didn't appear to make as many shots as I did. I realize now that there were many factors, such as the amount of effort they were putting forth and their own proficiency level, that I didn't factor into my judgment but at the time my only concern was seeing myself as better than the ones I were observing.

The second type of bias that Kwan present is one in which the self-enhancer perceives his own behaviors and personality in comparison to how others perceive him. Those engaging in this type of bias have an ultimate goal of trying to gain a better insight into one's actual state of being so that unwanted behaviors or traits can be corrected. In fact, Kwan refers to this bias as the self-insight perspective. I would have been engaging in this type of perspective if I had listened to others' views of how my pool game appeared to them and worked on bettering myself in the areas of the game where they felt I wasn't performing well.

These two theories become problematic when viewed in an empirical format. Mathematically the self as perceiver and target (Xss) is equal to both the other group members perceived (Xso) and the self targeted by the other group members (Xos). However, when the social comparison and self-insight indices are examined independent of each other each has an irrelevant term not present in the other - the target effect in the social comparison index and the perceiver effect in the self-insight index. The problem that arises is that neither the target effect nor the perceiver effect predicts self-enhancement or self-effacement. This confounds each index with irrelevant components of interpersonal perception. Any result can not be trusted because they could have come from these "unwanted components." This seems to me like is a complex way of saying that self-perceptions can be illusionary because they may be based



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