Purpose – The aim of this research was to test whether the motivations of self-enhancement and self-verification act independently and simultaneously, specifically in the context of the impostor phenomenon.
Design/methodology/approach – Using both self-report measures and salivary cortisol levels, I conducted a 2×2 experiment (N=106) in which status (high or low) was crossed with competition outcome (win or lose). The “low-status winner” condition served as a simulation of the impostor phenomenon.
Findings – Winners reported greater positive affect and less negative affect, indicating self-enhancement, but salivary cortisol levels were higher in participants whose status was disconsonant with the competition outcome (high-status losers and low-status winners), reflecting self-verification.
Research limitations/implications – A potential limitation was the omission of nicotine use as a control variable.
Practical implications – Results illuminate the dual public and private nature of the impostor phenomenon, in which normative expressions of happiness overlie deeper feelings of anxiety. A better understanding would benefit educators, employers, counselors, and therapists who work with high-achieving women and minorities as well as the women and minorities they serve.
Social implications – Findings suggest that efforts should be made to bolster the confidence of promising young women and minorities, with the understanding that, despite high levels of achievement, self-confidence and a sense of deservedness may be lacking.
Originality/value – Methodological advancements included the first laboratory simulation of the impostor phenomenon and the use of both self-report and physiological measures of responses to status situations. This was the first study capable of observing the motivations to self-enhance and self-verify simultaneously and independently of one another.
Civettini, N.H.W. (2012), "Self-Enhancement Versus Self-Verification: Physiological and Self-Report Responses to Status Dissonance", Kalkhoff, W., Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Biosociology and Neurosociology (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 201-223. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0882-6145(2012)0000029010
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