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Mark Snyder's Self-Monitoring System: Definition & Scale

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
How do people perform in social situations and what is the reason some people change in different situations? This lesson looks at the self-monitoring theory of Mark Snyder and the scale that was developed to measure self-monitoring.

A Low Self-Monitor

Some people are not concerned with how other people see them. This lack of concern sometimes stretches across all manner of social situations and has no regard for the people or person being engaged. Trisha had always been like that. Whether she was at home, at school or at a funeral, she acted the same. The day her uncle died suddenly in a car accident, the only person in the family Trisha really cared about, she shrugged her shoulders and flopped down on the couch. One day her teacher came to Trisha and told her that she had been awarded a coveted writing fellowship. Again Trisha just shrugged, grabbed her backpack, and walked out of the room.

Some people thought she had an attitude problem, but a friend taking a psychology class finally pegged her lack of emotion. He told her that she was probably a low self-monitor. He meant that she always expressed herself the way she wanted to regardless of social situation. Trisha's friend started to tell her about Mark Snyder's self-monitoring system, but again she acted aloof and went her own way.

The Self-Monitoring System

Mark Snyder was a sociologist concerned about how people reacted to themselves. He realized that some people were constantly checking their reactions, affect, and how other people saw them. However, on the other side of the spectrum were people who did not seem to care how they appeared to others. This group wouldn't change how they reacted regardless of situation or people present.

These two groups made up a continuum of self-monitoring. On one end of the continuum were the people who adapted to every social situation, while on the other end were people who never changed their personal presentation no matter what situation presented itself. These two groups Snyder called high self-monitors and low self-monitors. Basically, high self-monitors react to situations consciously, while low self-monitors react (or do not react) unconsciously.

The theory was advantageous in several different ways. There had been an argument for many years among social psychologists and personality psychologists whether people reacted due to situation or to internal traits. Mark Snyder's theory was a combination of the two. Self-monitoring, and the degree to which a person monitors themselves, was seen as a personality trait. However, the trait only expressed itself according to the situation. Thus, both personality psychologists and social psychologists were satisfied.

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