Self-Symbolizing and the Neglect of Others' Perspectives

Peter M. Gollwitzer, Robert A. Wicklund

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In the present pair of studies interpersonal cues were set up, prompting self-descriptions that would be in potential conflict with subjects' self-definitional needs. It was hypothesized that self-definitional needs would hinder subjects' responding to the interpersonal aspects of the situation. In both studies subjects committed to a certain self-definition (e.g., female professional, journalist, mathematician) were given feedback that their personality did or did not predispose them to be successful in their self-definitional realms. Subsequently, in a different context, subjects had to compete in expressing positive self-descriptions that were related or unrelated to their self-definitions (Experiment 1). Subjects given negative personality feedback dominated the competition, provided that the self-descriptions were related to the self-definition to which they felt committed. In Experiment 2, male subjects were asked to report on their standing in their self-definitional realms to an attractive female target person, after she had indicated a preference for either self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing self-descriptions. Subjects given positive personality feedback were more self-deprecating than subjects who received negative personality feedback, given the presence of a cue to be self-deprecating. In addition, positive feedback subjects complied with the self-presentational cue set by the target person in proportion to their attraction to her, whereas negative feedback subjects failed to do so. The results are discussed in terms of a recent notion of symbolic self-completion (Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1982) and in terms of other views on the self.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-715
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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