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May 1, 2015

Busy Brains, Boasters’ Gains: Self-Promotion Effectiveness Depends on Audiences Cognitive Resources


Impression management research suggests variability in the effectiveness of self-promotion: audiences grant self-promoters more status in some situations than others. We propose that self-promotion effectiveness depends on the audience’s cognitive resources. When audiences are cognitively busy, they are more likely to misattribute the source of promoting information, and thus fail to penalize self-promoters for violating norms of politeness and modesty. Thus, self-promoters are perceived as more communal, and granted more status, when audiences are cognitively busy. These predictions were supported across two experiments, which varied the source of the promoting information about a target (self vs. other, Experiment 1), and the level of self-promotion (Experiment 2), and used different manipulations of cognitive busyness – divided mental attention (Experiment 1) and time pressure (Experiment 2). These studies provide insight into the conditions under which self-promotion is effective vs. ineffective, and contribute to our theoretical understanding of status judgments.

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