Chapter 6: Motivation
Motivations for Self-Enhancement and Self-Esteem
- Self-Enhancement: the motivation to view oneself positively.
- Self-Serving Biases: tendencies for people to exaggerate how good they think
○ One of the reasons people have bias views is because they are motivated
to view themselves positively (self-enhancement).
○ Another is because we rarely encounter concrete information about these
(driving ability, loyalty, creativity and dependability) so nothing to prove
that we are below the average but if there is concrete information, we
are much less likely to hold unrealistic views of ourselves (calculus
ability, height and free-throw shooting).
- Ways People Use for Self-Enhancement
○ Downward Social Comparison: by comparing your performance with the
performance of someone who is doing even worse than you.
○ Upward Social Comparison: when we compare our performance with
someone who is doing better than we are (we avoid this).
○ Compensatory Self-Enhancement: exaggerating how good you are at
something unrelated to your setback and can again self-enhance by
recruiting some other kind of positive thoughts.
○ Discounting: reducing the perceived importance of the domain in which
you performed poorly (‘I won’t even be a physicist’).
○ External Attribution: we attribute the cause of our actions to something
outside ourselves (teacher marking hard or no time to study).
○ Bask in the Reflected Glory: emphasize our connection to successfully
performing others and feel better about ourselves by sharing in the warm
glow of the other’s success.
- There is evidence of cultural variation in positive self-views.
○ Tendencies to show self-serving biases are far less common among East
Asian samples than Western ones.
○ Japanese tend to find failures more memorable and Americans find
successes more memorable because they about these more.
○ North Americans often compensate for their failures by inflating their
self-assessment in other unrelated domain while Japanese show the
○ North Americans tend to discount the importance of the task while
Japanese view the task as even more important.
○ North Americans tend to make more external attributions for their
failures, but the Japanese often make more external attributions for their
East Asians value a different set of traits from those that have been
explored in research and if they were asked to evaluate themselves
on especially important traits, the cultural differences would be
The studies are not measuring people’s true feelings but are instead
tapping into differences in cultural norms for describing oneself (East
1 Asians are modest in these studies and more self-critical).
- People learn self-enhancement motivations from their families and schools.
○ American parents focused on past success and East Asian parents
focused on past transgressions of the child.
○ North American schools are more likely than their East Asian
counterparts to make efforts to inculcate self-esteem in students.
- Predestination: the protestant belief that before we were born, it was already
determined whether we were one of the “elect” who would spend eternity in
heaven or hell.
- There is a positive relation between individualism and self-esteem so the
more individualistic we are, the higher our self-esteem.
○ As cultures become more individualistic, there should be a corresponding
motivation to view oneself positively.
Motivations for Face and Self-Improvement
- Face: the amount of social value others give you if you live up to the
standards associated with your position (to lose face stemmed from China).
○ People can become highly motivated to maintain and enhance their face
because it can easily be lost and difficult to regain.
○ Prevention Orientation: attending to any potential weakness and work
toward correcting them by improving themselves, decrease the change
that others will view them as having lost face (East Asians).
○ Promotion Orientation: attending to strengths in order to advance oneself
and aspiring for gains, trying to avoid loss of face (North Americans).
- Self-Improvement: a desire to seek out potential weaknesses and work on
correcting them (strong motivation for East Asians).
○ When given a change to play either basketball or darts, North Americans
tend to choose the activity they do well whereas East Asians do not.
○ When given negative feedback, East Asians would persevere and persist
more on another similar task while North Americans would give up more
Religion and Achievement Motivation
- The most individualistic countries in the world are largely Protestant and the
least individualistic societies are largely Catholic.
- The Protestant ethic has been associated with negative attitudes toward
laziness and being overweight and Protestant parents expect their children to
become self-reliant at an earlier age than did Catholic parents.
- When Protestant males are focused on a work task, they are able to shut out
relational concerns, something that neither Protestant women nor non-
Protestants seem to do.
- When Protestants are actually working, they do not seem to have much
interest in anything else.
Agency and Control
- Entity Theory of the World: we can see the world as something that is fixed
and beyond our control to change.
2 - Incremental Theory of the World: we can think of the world as flexible and