When people interact, their behaviors are greatly influenced by the impressions they have of one another's personalities, abilities, attitudes, intentions, identities, roles, and other characteristics. In fact, many important outcomes in life – outcomes as diverse as friendships, professional success, income, romantic relationships, influence over others, and social support – depend to a significant extent on the impressions that people make on others. Knowing that others respond to them on the basis of their public impressions, people devote considerable thought and energy to conveying impressions that will lead others to treat them in desired ways. In many instances, the impressions people project of themselves are reasonably accurate attempts to let other people know who they are and what they are like (Murphy, 2007). At other times, people may convey impressions of themselves that they know are not entirely accurate, if not blatantly deceptive, when they believe that fostering such images will result in desired outcomes (Hancock & Toma, 2009).
Social and behavioral scientists refer to people's efforts to manage their public images as self-presentation or impression management (Goffman, 1959; Schlenker, 2012). Some researchers use different terms for the process of controlling one's public image depending on whether the efforts are honest or deceitful and whether they involve impressions of one's personal characteristics or information about one's social roles and identity. But we will use the terms interchangeably to refer to any intentional effort to convey a particular impression of oneself to another person without respect to the accuracy or content of the effort.
Tactics of Self-presentation
Nearly every aspect of people's behavior provides information from which others can draw inferences about them, but actions are considered self-presentational only if they are enacted, at least in part, with the goal of leading other people to perceive the individual in a particular way. People convey information about their personal and social characteristics using a wide array of tactics.
The most direct self-presentational tactics involve verbal statements that make a particular claim regarding one's personal or social characteristics.