We start caring about our reputations as early as kindergarten

March 20, 2018

Kindergarteners don't use social media, but they do care about their public image. Research suggests that by the time kids go to elementary school, they're thinking critically about their reputation. In a Review published on March 20 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, psychologists Ike Silver and Alex Shaw consider how our fascination with social status begins around age five, when kids begin to consider how they are viewed by others and behave in ways that cultivate positive reputations.

"Psychologists have been long interested in how we construct our identities and the sorts of strategies that we use to present ourselves in society," says Alex Shaw, an assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Chicago. "We're finding that the kinds of complex and strategic self-presentation behavior we see in adults appear at a much younger age than previously known."

Research shows that a child's awareness of social standing cascades down from adults and spans across cultures, despite varying social norms and expectations. Like grownups, kids want to be accepted by those they admire. Interactive experiences like sharing toys, working in a team, and listening to a teacher may provide opportunities for children to learn about what constitutes a desirable reputation and the kinds of strategies that are effective for building a good reputation in their social environment.

"As a society, we're heavily focused on image construction and self-presentation, and our children get early, condensed exposure to the idea of image and social status," says Ike Silver, a doctoral student at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. "Children are sensitive to how those around them behave, including adults who highly value their reputations."

Five-year-olds aren't just aware of their reputations, they also behave strategically to alter their outward image. Researchers believe that children will vary their behavior in order to appear moral or socially good in the eyes of key observers. While we know that adults use a large variety of traits to manage and create impressions, we don't yet know whether children understand and use the fact that different traits (bravery, wealthy, nonconformism) are valuable at different times to different audiences. It's important for us to further consider where in this process children succeed in controlling their reputation and where they struggle.

Scientists hope to further investigate how social environments and image-conscious cultures affect the emergence of reputation awareness in our youth.

"Moving forward, a question we're thinking about is, 'What happens even earlier than age five?' We don't believe children show up to the first day of kindergarten and have the idea of reputation suddenly pop into existence." Silver argues, "As we start to understand that reputational strategies emerge before the age of 9 as was previously believed, the next logical question is, 'what happens even earlier?'"
-end-
Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Silver and Shaw: "Pint-sized public relations: The development of reputation management" http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(18)30019-6

Trends in Cognitive Sciences (@TrendsCognSci), published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that brings together research in psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, and neuroscience. It provides a platform for the interaction of these disciplines and the evolution of cognitive science as an independent field of study. Visit: http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences. To receive Cell Press media alerts, please contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.