The self-enhancing function of Chinese modesty: From a perspective of social script


Kuei-Hsiang Han, Center for General Education and Core Curriculum, Tamkang University, 151 Yingchuan Road, Tamsui 25137, New Taipei City, Taiwan. Email:


The concept of modesty formerly seemed to efface one's own success which is opposed to self-enhancement. Taking the perspective of social script, this study proposes that Chinese modesty regarding one's success would result in others' more intensive compliments, which also has the function of enhancing oneself. Study 1 reconstructed the contents of the Chinese modesty script by asking participants to write down dialogues between achievers and admirers and found that when an achiever received an admirer's compliments, the former's dominant response was to deny his/her success modestly. On the contrary, when an admirer was confronted by an achiever's modest reaction, the dominant response for the admirer was to deny the achiever's modesty and to express compliments more intensively. Study 2 examined if people in Chinese societies would choose and judge people's proper behaviours in complimentary situations according to the modesty script. The results supported this speculation. Study 3 examined the effects of the admirer's compliments on the achiever's self-esteem and found that the admirer's compliments following the achiever's modesty did have the function of enhancing the achiever's self-esteem.