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Would You Buy a Used Car from a Self-enhancer? Social Benefits and Illusions in Trait Self-enhancement

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Trait self-enhancement has been consistently associated with genuine adaptive benefits, as well as some social liabilities. In the current investigation, we examined whether self-enhancement might generate social benefits. Among a sample of high-exposure survivors of the September 11th terrorist attack (Study 1), trait self-enhancement was associated with leadership behaviors during the 9/11 attack, with a larger social network, and with greater daily contact with close friends/relatives. The association between self-enhancement and social network size was replicated in a college sample (Study 2), even when social desirability was statistically controlled. A previous finding (Bonanno, Rennicke, & Dekel, 2005) linking self-enhancement with reduced social constraints against personal disclosure was also replicated in Study 2. However, when compared with actual social constraints reported by participants' friends/relatives, self-enhancers' perceptions appeared to be illusory. Together, these findings suggest that self-enhancement is associated with genuine social benefits but also that self-enhancers tend to misperceive the way others respond to them.
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Keywords: 9/11; Leadership; Self-enhancement; Social functioning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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