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Inattentive Listening Undermines Self-Verification in Personal Storytelling


  • This work was supported by a university research grant and a proposal initiative grant from the University of Utah, awarded to the first author, Monisha Pasupathi, and by funding from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at the University of Utah awarded to the second author, Ben Rich. The first author also received support from NIMH (R03MH64462-01A1) during the writing of the manuscript. Study 1 was the senior honors thesis of Ben Rich, who is now a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Roxey Catanzero, Gina Erickson, Franz Kubak, Casey Parry, David Shaw, and Taylor Thornton deserve our gratitude for their work. Carol Sansone deserves thanks for her invaluable suggestions on earlier drafts. The paper also benefited substantially from editorial and reviewer suggestions.

concerning this article may be sent to Monisha Pasupathi, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, 390 S.1530 E. BEH-S 502 Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail:


Abstract Two studies explore the narrative construction of self-perceptions in conversational storytelling among pairs of same-sex friends. Specifically, the studies examined how listener behavior can support or undermine attempts to self-verify in personal storytelling. In two studies (n=100 dyads), speakers told attentive, distracted, or disagreeable (Study 1 only) friends about a recent experience. Distracted, but not disagreeable, friends tended to undermine participants' attempts to verify their self-perception of being interested in an activity (Study 1) or their self-perception that an event was typical for them (Study 2). These results support the notion that friends can be an important source of influence on self-perceptions and, perhaps surprisingly, suggest that responsiveness from friends, rather than agreement per se, may be crucial for supporting self-verification processes.