Coherent variability: The self with significant others in memory and context

Susan M. Andersen, Rugile Tuskeviciute, Elizabeth Przybylinski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We propose that the self, as experienced in the moment, is embedded in interpersonal contexts and thus varies across contexts, in terms of relational selves stored in memory. When representations of significant others and the relationship one has with them are cued and thus automatically activated, the self shifts in how it is experienced and expressed. Research on the relational self, involving both the social-cognitive process of transference and simple priming, demonstrates the ways in which variability in the self arises based on pre-existing memory and specific interpersonal cues, and speaks as well to how the self nonetheless remains phenomenally coherent. We propose that this phenomenal coherence in the self is tied to longstanding, personally meaningful knowledge of self in relation to various significant others, just as variability is defined in part by these prior relationships as activated in context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-123
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Close relationships
  • Phenomenal coherence
  • Relational self
  • Significant others
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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