Snyder, M. (1974). Self-monitoring of expressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30(4), 526-537.

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In this paper, Mark Snyder develops and validates the Self-Monitoring Scale (SMS). Self-monitoring refers to controlling one's behavior (e.g., facial expressions, mannerisms, etc.) in accordance with observed appropriate behaviors (i.e., "look good" in front of others). This top-down modulation can be used to convey a socially-appropriate demeanor by either enhancing, reducing, or even contradicting expression of the actual current internal state. For example, an individual may be mildly sad at a funeral, however, upon observing others openly weeping, he/she may subsequently weep - an exaggerated expression of the actual internal state that is in line with the appropriate response given the situation. The degree to which one engages in self-monitoring varies as a function of dispositional traits and one's situation. Assessing these individual differences was the motivation behind creating the SMS.

SMS test items assessed the degree to which a) one was concerned with appropriateness in self-expression, b) attention to social appropriateness cues, c) control over expressive behavior, d) specific situations promote self-monitoring. The SMS was shown to have discriminant validity when compared to the closely-related concept of need for approval. Validation was also carried out comparing responses on the SMS to responses from peers, administering the SMS to actors (presumed high self-monitors) and patients of a psychiatric ward (presumed low self-monitors), comparing SMS responses to the ability to control expressions, and comparing SMS responses to attention to social consensus information. All of the above validated this measure as a tool that approximates the construct of self-monitoring.

This paper represents a classic reading in social psychology as it operationalizes an important component of self-presentation. The notion of self-monitoring also played an important role in the person-situation debate (where traditional personality and social psychologists have argued over which exerts the most influence on behavior), showing that the influence of each on behavior is influenced by variations in this trait - specifically that situations hold more power over the high self-monitoring individual, while dispositions hold more influence over low self-monitors.

Additional Resources

Bono, J.E., & Vey, M.A. (2007). Personality and emotional performance: Extraversion, neuroticism, and self-monitoring. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 177-192.

Paulhus, D.L. (1984). Two-component models of socially desirable responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 598-609.

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