Using Trait Self-Distancing to Predict Affective States
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Research has shown that prompting individuals to examine their experiences while assuming the perspective of a third-person, which is called self-distancing, buffers against negative emotional changes. Self-distancing and its conceptual opposite, self-immersion, have been previously studied as induced and spontaneously occurring states. I argue that the perspective that one takes when engaging in self-focus can be understood as a personality trait. Two studies are reported where I construct and evaluate the Self-Distancing Scale (SDS), which is a self-report measure of trait self-distancing. In Study 1 I found that evidence for construct validity of the SDS was poor. I further found that, contrary to expectations, exploratory factor analysis of the draft pool of SDS items revealed two unrelated factors corresponding to self-distancing and self-immersion, rather than a single bipolar factor. Study 2 examined if the SDS could be used to prospectively predict emotional change under standardized laboratory conditions, but contrary to what is suggested by prior research, the SDS was not found to be significantly related to emotional change. A post hoc confirmatory factor analysis identified methodological sources of variance as the cause of the SDS’s two factor structure. I offer suggestions for future research that could further investigate trait self-distancing without the limitations of the current studies.