In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Self-Monitoring

  • Introduction
  • The Self-Concept
  • Orientations to the Social World
  • Social Cognition
  • Attitudinal Processes
  • Expressive Control and Self-Presentation
  • Consumer Behavior

Psychology Self-Monitoring
Christopher Leone
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0052


Although there are occasions when most people monitor the social self that they present to others and other occasions when most people relax and just be themselves, there are stable individual differences in the extent to which people engage in these two interaction strategies. These individual differences are the basis of the self-monitoring construct. Developed first by Mark Snyder in the 1970s, this construct has evolved over the years and has proven to be useful—albeit sometimes controversial—in explaining a wide range of social behavior: the self-concept, orientations to the social world, social cognition, close relationships, attitude–behavior consistency, expressive control, self-presentation, consumer behavior, and behavior in the workplace. Not coincidentally, this review contains seminal articles, recent empirical reports, and, whenever possible, overviews to each of the aforementioned areas. Readers should nonetheless be aware that the citations included here are by no means exhaustive and that other phenomena related to self-monitoring may not be represented in this bibliography. For example, although there are known biological and environmental influences on the origins of self-monitoring differences, much more needs to be discovered in terms of the specific genetic bases and neuropsychological substrates for self-monitoring processes as well as the specific sociocultural influences (e.g., child-rearing correlates, familial experiences) and developmental trajectories of self-monitoring propensities across the life span. In a similar manner, there are a few empirical investigations that suggest high self-monitors and low self-monitors have similar mental health problems but for different reasons and, consequently, different coping strategies. Relatively little, however, is known about the possible stressors that might trigger these mental health issues for high self-monitors and low self-monitors and what sort of treatment interventions might be differentially effective for these two kinds of individuals. Given that psychometric issues such as reliability and validity are matters that are never completely decided, additional theoretical and empirical work on these issues is likely in the future. In short, much is known about the intrapsychic and interpersonal worlds of high self-monitors and low self-monitors, but much more needs to be done before a full understanding of these two kinds of people emerges.

The Construct of Self-Monitoring

In some areas of psychology (e.g., clinical), the term self-monitoring is sometimes used in reference to the thought processes that occur while thinking about oneself. In the social and personality psychology literature, however, self-monitoring is often used in reference to stable individual differences in the ways people view themselves and their social worlds. Even within the domains of social and personality psychology, there is debate over the exact nature of those stable individual differences. The two sections that follow (Evolution of the Construct and Alternative Formulations) provide overviews about the original meaning of this construct, subsequent revisions of this meaning, and plausible alternative interpretations of the self-monitoring construct.

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