Questions concerning the psychological meanings of self-portraits are discussed in terms of three current social psychological theories that emphasize self-awareness, self-presentation, and the social construction of the self. The social constructionist perspective implies that self-portraits will have different meanings at different epochs due to changing conceptions of the self and the complex relationships between social and economic conditions, ideas about appearance and the significance of portraits. Self-presentation theory implies that self-portraits will be read in terms of motives for self-presentation. Some relevant findings are discussed from a study that asked students to attempt to distinguish between portraits and self-portraits made by the same artists. Respondents were more accurate with Modern than with Baroque pictures and seemed to base their identifications on imputed artists’ intentions and the sitters’ psychological expressions.


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pp. 29-33
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