Pretending To Be What You Are

Which is harder: pretending to be what you are, or to pretending to be what you are not?   For example, imagine you are a news reporter, and want to, via your style and manners, convince typical folks that you are a) a reporter, or b) a stuntman.  Which task would be easier?   Which task would be easier for the stuntman?  We could ask such questions about not just reporters and stuntmen, but about a wide range of other roles.

The way to convince the public that you are an X is to act the way the public thinks that X folks act.  And the more vivid an image X folks have in the public mind, and the fewer real X the public know in person, the more the way X folks are will diverge from how the public thinks they are.  And so the more work it would be for X folks to convince the public, via their manner and style, that they are in fact X.

So while it is probably easier for a shoe salesman to convince folks that they sell shoes than that they are a private investigator, I'm guessing that it is harder for a P.I. to convince folks they are a P.I. than that they sell shoes. 

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  • http://dfranke.us Daniel Franke

    I think the difficulty level of this is trivial in either case.

    I’m a (non-professional) fencer. There are about as many members of the US Fencing Association as there are private investigators in the US (about 36,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and I think fencers and PIs are stereotyped and glamorized to about the same degree in the public eye. While mentioning that I fence sometimes elicits very silly reactions (perhaps the silliest being the inference that I fight actual duels on a regular basis), disbelief has never been among them — I’ve always been taken at my word. When you state a fact about yourself to someone you’ve just met and have no obvious motive for deception, I think that fact generally has to be quite implausible to be doubted.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p01156f67d182970b Shalmanese
  • http://meteuphoric.blogspot.com/ Katja Grace

    It can also be harder to persuade people that you have bad characteristics than to pretend you have good ones, especially if you have other visible good characteristics.

  • http://SingYourOwnLullaby.blogspot.com mariana

    It depends on the complexity of who you wanna pretend to be, the complexity that this character presents to you. If it is too complex it is easier to be you, for example you want to pretend you are a dancer but for you it is extremely dificult to go with the beat.

    On the other side pretending to be someone else is made easier by the fact that it can be seen as a game.

  • Doug S.

    As usual, the TV Tropes Wiki knows everything:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YourCostumeNeedsWork

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robinhanson Robin Hanson

    Shalmanese and Doug, those are both great relevant links.

  • Waldheri

    I get the general conclusion, but I must object to the phrasing of the question. The conclusion is: “It is easier for person with profession X to convince people that he has profession Y because he shares the same kinds of expectations of profession Y” (very loosely and generally – this may not be the case if profession X and Y are related, for example).

    The question that one expects from such a conclusion is not “Which is harder: pretending to be what you are, or to pretending to be what you are not?” but rather “What is harder: convincing people to be what you are, or pretending to be what you are not?”.

  • Shae

    “The way to convince the public that you are an X is to act the way the public thinks that X folks act.”

    Explains a lot about gay culture.

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