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Abstract

A self-evaluation maintenance (SEM) model was used to make predictions about the positivity of perception of the performance of friends and strangers. The model predicts that when the target of perception is close (i.e., a friend) the target's performance should be perceived more positively on dimensions of low personal relevance (to the perceiver) and less positively on dimensions of high personal relevance. If the target is psychologically distant (i.e., a stranger), this tendency should be attenuated. Thirty-four female subjects were given positive and negative feedback on a social sensitivity and an esthetic judgment task. One task had greater relevance for some subjects and the other task had greater relevance for the remaining subjects. Subjects rated their perception of a friend's and a stranger's performance on these tasks. The patterning of positivity in perception conformed to the pattern predicted by the SEM model. Subjects' awareness of their behavior as well as individual differences in self-esteem and repression-sensitization were also examined and discussed.