Downplaying positive impressions: Warmth versus competence (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology)

By Michael Hotchkiss, Office of Communications

When people want to appear warm, they tend to agree, compliment, perform favors and encourage others to talk. When they want to appear competent, they emphasize their accomplishments, exude confidence and control the conversation. But people trying to manage how others see them also take advantage of a negative relationship between warmth and competence, according to Princeton University researchers Deborah Son Holoien, a graduate student in psychology, and Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology. Four studies detailed in this article found that people will act less competent to appear warm and act less warm to appear competent.

Holoien, Deborah Son and Susan Fiske. 2013 Downplaying positive impressions: Compensation between warmth and competence in impression management. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49: 33–41.

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This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.