Impression Management

Harvey, Joel and Drake, Deborah H. (2023). Impression Management. In: Harvey, Joel and Ambrose, Derval eds. Social Psychology in Forensic Practice. Oxon, UK and New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 69–90.



This chapter explores impression management in secure forensic settings. Drawing on the work of Erving Goffman, the authors reflect on how both forensic clients and forensic practitioners are engaged in a ‘self-presentation dance’. It is argued that impression management can, in part, be understood as a coping mechanism, human beings develop when learning to successfully navigate the social world. To explore these arguments, links between attachment theory and impression management are considered before examining the complexities of the performance of self in secure settings. The ‘public’ self, the ‘private’ self, and self-discrepancy theory are considered in secure contexts, including the discrepancies between the ‘actual’ and ‘ideal’ self. It is suggested that experiences of shame and guilt play a role in impression management and the complexities this raises for working with clients in practice are discussed. It is ultimately argued that acknowledging social context allows for recognition and understanding of the ways in which different aspects of the self are rendered, revealed, or concealed, according to the interplays of relational dynamics, self-preservation techniques, and previous attachment-related experiences. Applying a social psychological lens aids in the development of a deeper and more nuanced understanding of impression management.

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