The developmental interplay of behavioral confirmation and self-verification
Philosophers, psychologists, and authors have long pondered the question of whether others’ expectations or one’s own self-views are more important in determining behavior and personality. Researchers have designated these two processes behavioral confirmation and self-verification, respectively, and the interaction of these processes is often referred to as identity negotiation. Little research has examined the process of identity negotiation during adolescence, a period during which individuals are attempting to forge unique identities. Therefore, the primary purpose of the present studies was to examine the identity negotiation process during adolescence. In Study 1, I examined whether adolescents (11-15 years of age) solicit self-verifying feedback. Adolescents first completed a measure of self-perceptions and then selected whether to receive positive or negative feedback from an unknown peer in areas of perceived strength and weakness. Adolescents desired feedback congruent with their own self-views; those with higher self-esteem tended to request more positive feedback than those with lower self-esteem. Further, adolescents were more likely to seek negative feedback regarding a self-perceived weakness than a self-perceived strength. In Study 2, I examined the joint operation of behavioral confirmation and self-verification in dyadic interactions among unacquainted adolescents. One member of each dyad (the target) completed a measure of self-perception. The second member of each dyad (the perceiver) was provided with false information regarding the attractiveness of their partner. I compared whether targets’ self-views or perceivers’ expectations of them were stronger determinants of behavior. Self-verification strivings were evident in these interactions; targets’ self-views influenced the perceivers’ final evaluations of their partners. Support for behavioral confirmation was lacking in same-sex dyads and dyads composed of male perceivers and female targets. Appearance based expectations influenced target behavior in dyads composed of female perceivers and male targets. The current findings suggest that adolescents’ self-views are important determinants of behavior. Significant implications for adolescent mental health and peer selection are discussed.