Self-monitoring: the difference between innovators and gatekeepers

July 14, 2010

Our sociometer gives us signals. It warns us if our behavior is not appreciated by significant others … Relationships that are for some reason valuable to us, undergo a certain degree of pressure and devaluation. On the other hand, the sociometer gives us social joy when we feel more appreciated than normal.

The sociometer indicates a state self-esteem below or above our regular level. Pain as well as joy urge us to react. We want that pain to go away, or find a recepy for that joy to stay. The manner in which we react to that pain or joy largely depends on the situation and the personality of the subject.

One personality variable that explains a lot of the variability in the way we react to social pain is self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is a term proposed by Marc Snyder in 1972. It differentiates people based on the degree in which they adjust their behavior on the social context they’re in. People low in self-monitoring are relative consistent in the way the behave, the opinions they ventilate, etc. Those high in self-monitoring change their behavior depending on the social context of the moment. Their behavior is less consistent.

Innovators are generally people who score low on self-monitoring. They are passionate about their domains, and don’t let their opinions be influenced by the social context of the moment. They follow their own beliefs within the domain and prefer to share their ideas with people with the same passion. They get their positive social feedback from being consistent, trustworthy an potentially valuable because of their knowledge and expertise in their domain.

Gatekeepers on the other hand must be attentive for what’s relevant at this very moment in this very social context. They score high on self-monitoring. This makes their behavior much more inconsistent in time and in social context. They get their positive social feedback from linking novelties with a relevant need in the social context.