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The Relationship Between Self-Presentation and Self-Esteem Across Dual Cultures

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The Relationship Between Self-Presentation and Self-Esteem across Dual Cultures

Abstract

This research aimed to explore the relationship between self-presentation and self-esteem in Australian and Malaysian participants. A convenience sample of Monash University students from Australian and Malaysian campuses were recruited (N = 588; 441 Australians, 147 Malaysians). Participants completed the SMS (Self-monitoring Scale) for self-presentation scores and the RSES (Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale) for self-esteem scores. The hypothesis that self-presentation and self-esteem would be negatively correlated in Australians, was not supported, however the hypothesis that self-presentation and self-esteem would be positively correlated in Malaysians was supported, as was the hypothesis that there would be a significant difference between the cross-cultural correlations. These findings could inform development of therapeutic interventions and tailor well-being measures that enhance well-being and support individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Future research should employ more robust sampling techniques and also control for the effects that participants’ subculture may have on the overarching classification of culture.

The Relationship Between Self-Presentation and Self-Esteem across Dual Cultures

Self-presentation is a pervasive feature of social interactions (Schlenker, 2012; Gohar, Leary & Costanzo, 2016) entailing behaviour that creates, modifies, maintains and conveys certain images of oneself to others by means of self-disclosures and self-statements (Schlenker, 2003). Consequently, an individuals’ social behaviour can be significantly driven by their self-presentation. Research directs towards a strong relationship between self-presentation and self-esteem; the subjective evaluation of self-worth, in individuals (MacDonald & Leary, 2012). Self-presentation strategies and self-esteem levels have been found to vary across several factors including culture (Rosen, Stefanone, & Lackaff, 2010). According to Kurman (2010) cultural variability is contextualised by individualism, typical in western populations, where individuals are autonomous from in-groups and personal goals take priority over in-group goals versus collectivism, typified by Asian, African and South American populations, where interdependence and communal in-group goals take priority over personal ones. The variation and impact of these cultural differences on self-presentation and self-esteem, and any related interaction effect, warrants further exploration.

Research suggests that self-monitoring is a key feature of self-presentation with high self-monitors having greater cognitive ability to self-present over low self-monitors (Tyler, Kearns and Mcintyre, 2016). Kurman (2010) found empirical evidence indicating that collectivists (Asian cultures) tend to self-monitor to a greater degree than individualistic Western cultures. These findings may suggest that collectivist cultures would therefore have higher self-presentation, however, Schumaker & Barraclough (1989) found Australians self-presented to a greater degree versus their Malaysian peers, which may indicate cultural differences in self-presentation norms. However, Schumaker and Barraclough’s (1989) Malaysian sample consisted of non-native minority, expatriate Malaysians studying in Australia., which may have contributed to them identifying less strongly with majority cultural norms of Malaysia.

Other empirical findings indicate that Western individualistic cultures self-enhance more than collectivistic Asian cultures (Lee, Leung, & Kim, 2014; Sedikides & Gregg, 2008; Leung & Cohen, 2011). Westerners also score relatively higher on self-esteem measures than Asians (Kim, Peng, & Chiu, 2008). However, these studies (Lee et al; Sedikides & Gregg; Leung & Cohen; Kim et al.) did not control for culture differences in modesty norms whereby collectivism places a stronger emphasis on modesty and self-effacement than individualism (Uskul & Oyserman, 2010). Further evidence for cultural differences in modesty norms was found in a study where statistically higher self-esteem evaluations in American participants dropped greatly against Chinese participants once modesty scores were statistically controlled (Cai, Brown, Deng, & Oakes, 2007). Differences showing higher self-presentation scores in Western cultural samples may therefore be the result of either Western enhanced self-presentation versus Asian self-modesty norms rather than actual higher self-esteem levels. Research to explore this interaction is warranted.

Research indicates a bidirectional relationship between self-presentation and self-esteem. Individuals reporting higher levels of self-presentation also report higher subjective wellbeing and higher self-esteem (Hermann & Arkin, 2013; Gohar, Leary, & Costanzo, 2016) and those with higher self-esteem used self-enhancement, or positive self-regard as a tool to boost self-presentation (Hermann & Arkin; Lee, Leung, & Kim, 2014). These findings were replicated in studies conducted on social media use, online self-presentation and self-esteem (Ogeil & Philips, 2012). Equally, Wilcox and Stephen (2013) found that participants influenced to practice self-enhancing and self-presentation behaviours online, demonstrated higher self-esteem.

Very little empirical research has focussed on the strength of possible relationships between self-presentation and self-esteem across cultures. Understanding this may help identify tailor-made therapeutic interventions and wellbeing measures suited to enhance quality of life and support individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

This study’s aim was to extend the empirical evidence around individualist versus collectivist cultural differences, seen within the relationship between self-esteem, and self-presentation, between Australia and Malaysia. It was hypothesised that self-presentation as measured by the Self-monitoring Scale (SMS; Snyder, 1974) would be negatively correlated with self-esteem, as measured by the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1965) in Australians. It was also hypothesised that self-presentation as measured by the Self-monitoring Scale (SMS; Snyder, 1974) would be positively correlated with self-esteem, as measured by the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1965) in Malaysians. Further, it was hypothesised that there would be a statistically significant difference between the two correlations.

Method

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