William Swann

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William B. Swann
Born New Jersey
Residence United States
Fields Social Psychology, Personality psychology
Institutions University of Texas at Austin
Alma mater Gettysburg College
University of Minnesota
Known for Self-verification theory
Notable awards Research Scientist Development Award, National Institute of Mental Health (twice)[1]

William B. Swann (born 1952) is a professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is primarily known for his work on identity, self and self-esteem, but has also done research on relationships, social cognition, group processes, accuracy in person perception and interpersonal expectancy effects. He received his Ph.D. in 1978[2] from the University of Minnesota and undergraduate degree from Gettysburg College.[1]


Self-verification theory[edit]

Swann devised self-verification theory,[3] which focuses on people’s desire to be known and understood by others. Once people develop firmly held beliefs about themselves, the theory suggests that they will come to prefer that others see them as they see themselves—even if their self-views are negative. Swann and his colleagues have found this tendency in many experiments.[4][5] For example, married people with negative self-views are more committed to the relationship and less likely to divorce if their spouse views them negatively.[6] Recent research has applied this theory to understanding phenomena ranging from reactions to procedural justice in organizations,[7] the productivity of members of work groups and teams,[8] and extreme group behavior, such as fighting for one's group.[9]

There is a tension between self-enhancement (the drive for a positive self-image) and self-verification, which reinforces even the negative aspects of a self-image. Swann and colleagues have found that emotional reactions favor enhancement, while more thoughtful processes favor verification.[10][11] They also found that people are more likely to seek enhancement early on in a relationship, but verification as the relationship develops.[10]

Identity negotiation[edit]

More recently Swann has contributed to identity negotiation theory. Identity negotiation refers to the processes whereby people in relationships reach agreements regarding "who is who." Once reached, these agreements govern what people expect of one another and the way they relate to one another. As such, identity negotiation processes provide the interpersonal "glue" that holds relationships together.[12] Identity negotiation theory has been used to examine how people work or study together in groups, especially the role of diversity.[12]


Swann was the 2010 President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.[13]


  1. ^ a b http://www.mccombs.utexas.edu/execed/faculty/bios/swann.asp
  2. ^ Nosek, Brian A.; Jesse Graham, Nicole M. Lindner, Selin Kesebir, Carlee Beth Hawkins, Cheryl Hahn, Kathleen Schmidt, Matt Motyl, Jennifer Joy-Gaba, Rebecca Frazier, Elizabeth R. Tenney (2010). "Cumulative and Career-Stage Citation Impact of Social-Personality Psychology Programs and Their Members". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 36 (10): 1283–1300. doi:10.1177/0146167210378111. Retrieved 2 January 2011.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  3. ^ Jackson, Ronald L. (29 June 2010). "Self-Enhancement Theory". Encyclopedia of Identity. SAGE Publications. p. 367. ISBN 978-1-4129-5153-1. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Kassin, Saul; Fein, Steven; Markus, Hazel Rose (29 January 2010). Social Psychology. Cengage Learning. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-495-81240-1. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Hauf, Petra; Försterling, Friedrich (2007). Making minds: the shaping of human minds through social context. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 69. ISBN 978-90-272-2234-3. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Swann, William B.; Rentfrow, Peter J.; Guinn, Jennifer S. (13 July 2005). "Self-verification: the search for coherence". In Mark R. Leary, June Price Tangney. Handbook of self and identity. Guilford Press. pp. 367–383. ISBN 978-1-59385-237-5. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  7. ^ North, Rebecca; Swann, William (2009). "Self-verification 360°: Illuminating the Light and Dark Sides". Self and Identity. 8 (2): 131–146. doi:10.1080/15298860802501516. ISSN 1529-8868. 
  8. ^ Swann, William B.; Kwan, Virginia S. Y.; Polzer, Jeffrey T.; Milton, Laurie P. (2003). "Fostering Group Identification and Creativity in Diverse Groups: The Role of Individuation and Self-Verification". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 29 (11): 1396–1406. doi:10.1177/0146167203256868. ISSN 0146-1672. 
  9. ^ Swann, William B.; Gómez, Ángel; Seyle, D. Conor; Morales, J. Francisco; Huici, Carmen (2009). "Identity fusion: The interplay of personal and social identities in extreme group behavior.". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 96 (5): 995–1011. doi:10.1037/a0013668. ISSN 1939-1315. 
  10. ^ a b Sorrentino, Richard M.; Yamaguchi, Susumu (2 June 2008). Handbook of motivation and cognition across cultures. Academic Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-12-373694-9. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Kwang, T.; Swann, W. B. (2010). "Do People Embrace Praise Even When They Feel Unworthy? A Review of Critical Tests of Self-Enhancement Versus Self-Verification". Personality and Social Psychology Review. 14 (3): 263–280. doi:10.1177/1088868310365876. ISSN 1088-8683. 
  12. ^ a b Swann, William B. (1987). "Identity negotiation: Where two roads meet". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 53 (6): 1038–1051. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.53.6.1038. ISSN 1939-1315. 
  13. ^ "SESP Officers and Committees". www.sesp.org. Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

Goleman, Daniel (October 15, 1991). "Happy or Sad, a Mood Can Prove Contagious". New York Times. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 

External links[edit]