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November 30, 2020
12:00pm to 1:30pm
H. Clark Barrett

Hugo Mercier, Evolution and Social Cognition and Collective Intelligence Teams, Institut Jean Nicod, CNRS, Paris

I claim that impression management can be usefully understood as signaling. One consequence is that impression management should be mostly honest, that is, it should benefit on average both senders (i.e. those who are managing the impression they give), and receivers (i.e. those who are evaluating others). This contrasts with the view that self impression is largely deceptive (and thus requires self-deception). I highlight two main mechanisms through which impression management can remain mostly honest. First, people who attempt to create misleading impressions (e.g. that they are more confident, smart, etc. than warranted) are reputationally punished once they are found out. Second, some impression signals entail inherent tradeoffs that make them costly, and thus honest (e.g. signaling that one is nice can entail signaling that one is not dominant). I will present experimental evidence demonstrating both mechanisms.

The BEC Speaker Series hosts presentations by renowned scholars from across the social, behavioral, and biological sciences whose work sheds light on human evolution, including issues of cultural transmission, behavioral ecology, affect, cognition, and health.