The Objective/Subjective Distinction of the Self: Examining Self-Discrepancy

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Silver, Ariel
social psychology , self-discrepancy , the self
Self-discrepancies have traditionally been measured with the Selves Questionnaire. This is an objective measure, in that it does not assume that individuals are aware of the discrepancies between their various self-state representations. The purpose of this research project was to examine a new method of measuring self-discrepancy: simply asking individuals for their subjective views of their self-discrepancies. These studies aimed to show that objective and subjective measures tap into distinct constructs which function differently depending on the level of deliberation of the testing conditions. The attitudes literature, from which this distinction was borrowed, provided groundwork to predict that subjective self-discrepancy would function better under conditions of deliberation whereas objective self-discrepancy would function better under conditions of spontaneity. In Study 1, both measures of self-discrepancy were used to predict agitation. This study showed that the objective and subjective measures were indeed only modestly correlated with one another. As expected, subjective ought self-discrepancy was a significant predictor of agitation under deliberative but not spontaneous conditions. Contrary to predictions, subjective ideal but not objective ought self-discrepancy significantly predicted agitation under spontaneous conditions. Study 2 predicted dejection from both measures of self-discrepancy, and showed again that they are distinct measures. Subjective ideal self-discrepancy predicted dejection under deliberative but not spontaneous conditions, as expected. However, objective ideal self-discrepancy failed to predict dejection under spontaneous conditions. Self-esteem was the outcome variable of interest in Study 3, where it was measured with the deliberative Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE) as well as the spontaneous Implicit Association Test (IAT). Once again, in this study objective and subjective measures of self-discrepancy were shown to be distinct from one another. A structural equation model showed that subjective ideal self-discrepancy was the only significant predictor of RSE scores, as expected; nothing significantly predicted IAT scores. Explanations for these findings, as well as implications and directions for future research, are discussed.
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