Twice-Told Tales: Self-Repetition Decreases Observer Assessments of Performer Authenticity

67 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2018 Last revised: 7 Jul 2020

See all articles by Rachel Gershon

Rachel Gershon

University of California, Berkeley

Rosanna Smith

University of Georgia

Date Written: July 12, 2018


People often engage in self-repetition — repeating the same story, joke, or presentation across different audiences. While behaving consistently has generally been found to enhance perceptions of authenticity, ten studies demonstrate that performers who are revealed to be self-repeating are perceived as less authentic. We find convergent evidence that this effect is driven by observers’ implicit assumption that social interactions are unique. Self-repetitions violate this assumption, leading observers to judge performers as inauthentic because they are thought to be falsely presenting their performance as unique when it is not. We demonstrate this effect across multiple contexts (politics, entrepreneurship, tour guiding, and comedy), finding that observer awareness of self-repetition decreases perceived authenticity even in situations in which it is normative to repeat a performance and in which performers are required to repeat. The decrease in authenticity is eliminated only when performers overtly acknowledge that they are self-repeating, as performers are no longer viewed as falsely presenting themselves. We further show that performers who fail to acknowledge their self-repetition are penalized similarly to those who explicitly lie that the performance is unique — an unacknowledged self-repetition is thus seen as a lie by omission. Finally, we recorded repeated job interview responses and found that observers who were unaware of the self-repetition could not discern tangible differences between un-repeated and repeated responses. However, when observers believed that they were viewing a self-repetition, they judged the interviewees as less authentic. Together, our findings provide insight into how people assess the authenticity of self-presentational behaviors and the implicit assumptions that influence social judgments.

Keywords: self-repetition, authenticity, self-presentation, uniqueness, interpersonal perception

Suggested Citation

Gershon, Rachel and Smith, Rosanna, Twice-Told Tales: Self-Repetition Decreases Observer Assessments of Performer Authenticity (July 12, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Rachel Gershon (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Rosanna Smith

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

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