The JGM BitBlog - Self-Enhancement, detected with the overclaiming technique - The new kid on the block of expatriate management research

Journal of Global Mobility

Klaus J. Templer

People like to see themselves in a positive light. Especially in areas that are important to them, they think they are better than others. They exaggerate their strengths and overestimate their abilities, skills, and performance. The tendency to maintain unrealistically positive self-views is called self-enhancement. People differ in how much they self-enhance. Research shows that those who habitually self-enhance experience higher subjective well-being and less depressive tendencies. They are also able to create positive first impressions on others. However, people who know these self-enhancers well see them in a less positive light. 

Cross-cultural encounters can challenge an overly positive self-view. In order to learn from and adjust to different cultural environments, individuals must be willing to leave their comfort zones, engage in new and unknown situations, and risk initial failures, something that self-enhancers would try to avoid. Theoretically, there is reason to believe that expatriates who habitually self-enhance have difficulty adjusting to other cultural environments. This proposition was tested in a recent study published in the Journal of Global Mobility. 

For the detection of self-enhancing tendencies, the overclaiming technique was adapted for a global mobility context. An overclaiming test asked the participating expatriates to report their international-cultural knowledge. Some of the items in the questionnaire, however, were foils. Self-enhancers do overclaim, which means: they claim having knowledge even on those non-existent items. 

Results of the study showed that, contrary to the ‘self-enhancement negatively affects cross-cultural adjustment’ hypothesis, self-enhancers did not perceive themselves as less well adjusted. On the other hand, and in support of the hypothesis, their supervisors rated these self-enhancing expatriates low on work adjustment and performance. This is an important result, as it shows that the overclaiming test may be a valuable tool for measuring self-enhancement and for identifying individuals who are at risk of being seen by others as not adjusting well to new cross-cultural environments.

This was (likely) the first study that tested self-enhancement and used the unobtrusive overclaiming technique in a global mobility context. The overclaiming test is provided to researchers in the appendix of the article for use or adaptation. However, further validation and generalization efforts are needed before self-enhancement and overclaiming can become part of the assessment for expatriate positions. 

The full study can be found here: Templer, K.J. (2020), "Self-enhancement and cross-cultural adjustment: overclaiming in a global mobility context", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 161-182.