The Social Functions of Attributional Face Saving Tactics

Published in: Student Motivation: the Culture and Context of Learning / Edited by Farideh Salili, Chi Yue Chiu and Ying Yi Hong (New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001), p. 61-77

by Jaana Juvonen

In this chapter, the author examines how students manage their public images in ways that promote social approval in the context of the classroom, specifically, how students may try to save face when doing poorly in school. The author draws on the results of experiments that she and colleagues conducted in traditional educational settings in the United States and Finland. The initial experiments showed by fourth grade, students understand that low ability and lack of effort attributions affect teacher and peer approval, and that they vary their own failure accounts in ways that are consistent their beliefs regarding attribution-social response linkages. An unexpected and intriguing result emerged: early adolescents were quite willing to convey to their peers and especially to their teachers that they had done poorly in an exam because they were not good at the subject. Hence, portraying oneself as low in ability is clearly perceived to facilitate social approval.

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