Accountability as a deterrent to self-enhancement: the search for mechanisms

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Sep;83(3):592-605. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.83.3.592.


Although self-enhancement is linked to psychological benefits, it is also associated with personal and interpersonal liabilities (e.g., excessive risk taking, social exclusion). Hence, structuring social situations that prompt people to keep their self-enhancing beliefs in check can confer personal and interpersonal advantages. The authors examined whether accountability can serve this purpose. Accountability was defined as the expectation to explain, justify, and defend one's self-evaluations (grades on an essay) to another person ("audience"). Experiment 1 showed that accountability curtails self-enhancement. Experiment 2 ruled out audience concreteness and status as explanations for this effect. Experiment 3 demonstrated that accountability-induced self-enhancement reduction is due to identifiability. Experiment 4 documented that identifiability decreases self-enhancement because of evaluation expectancy and an accompanying focus on one's weaknesses.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • North Carolina
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Social Responsibility*