Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Curtis Hardin

Elizabeth Chua

Committee Members

Elisabeth Brauner

Kristin Sommer

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Keywords

self-focus, self-awareness, conversation, self-esteem, self-consciousness, social anxiety

Abstract

Although research has shown that self-focus brings attention to how one is doing relative to standards and changes behavior to better meet those standards (Carver & Scheier, 1981; Duval & Wicklund, 1972), this process has rarely been tested within conversations. Three experiments tested (1) whether state self-focus, measured by looking at oneself on-screen during online video chats, varied as a function of changing self-standard discrepancies (manipulated by conversation topics) or by traits related to self-focus (self-esteem, social anxiety, and self-consciousness) and (2) how state self-focus, manipulated by the presence or absence of the self on the video chat screen, and/or traits related to self-focus influenced conversation outcomes. Participant self-esteem predicted increased self-focus (Exp. 1 and 2) and private and public self-consciousness predicted decreased self-focus (Exp. 2), regardless of conversation content. Social anxiety predicted decreased self-focus, particularly when sharing an embarrassing story (Exp. 1). These results suggest those who perceive smaller self-standard discrepancies (e.g., greater self-esteem, lower social anxiety and self-consciousness) increase self-focus when it is needed, whereas those who perceive larger discrepancies may strategically avoid it. In Exp. 3, liking of the conversation partner increased as public self-consciousness and social anxiety increased, and empathy ratings and the sum of all interpersonal ratings increased as social anxiety increased, suggesting those who perceive greater self-standard discrepancies had improved social outcomes. There was tentative evidence that seeing oneself on-screen improved one outcome: people who saw the self on-screen felt more similar to their conversation partner than those who did not. Overall, these results are consistent with an adaptive and regulatory role of self-focus, and suggest that personality traits play a larger role in the amount of self-focus than momentary fluctuations within a conversation.

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