Self-monitoring is the act of observing and regulating one’s own behavior in a social context. Most people self-monitor to some degree, falling somewhere in a wide spectrum — from high monitoring to almost zero monitoring — which is strongly tied to other personality traits.
Those who monitor themselves in a highly meticulous manner are considered high self-monitors. They tend to project a particular image of themselves in order to fit in or impress others. High self-monitors readily adjust their behavior to the situation at hand.
Low self-monitors, on the other hand, tend to regulate themselves according to their own internal beliefs and are typically less concerned with social context. They tend to project an image true to their inner selves rather than put on a facade. Low self-monitors tend to care little about adjusting their behavior to the social situation and keep the same beliefs and attitudes regardless of others’ opinions.
Those who do not self-monitor at all may come across as pushy, aggressive and uncompromising. This may cause others to be less receptive toward them and lead to feelings of anger, low self-worth, depression and isolation.
In 1974, American social psychologist Mark Snyder developed a scale to measure whether people were high or low self-monitors. In one of his studies, he found that Stanford University students scored much higher on the self-monitoring scale than did psychiatric inpatients, but significantly lower than actors.
Research on self-monitoring in relationships has found that high self-monitors tend to have more dating and sexual partners, compared to low self-monitors. High self-monitors are also more likely to choose partners who are attractive but not sociable, while low self-monitors tend to choose partners who are sociable but less attractive.
Example: George, a high self-monitor, enjoys keeping the peace among his friends. Even when he disagrees with one of them, he remains very polite and rarely asserts his opinion.