Self-discrepancies and emotional vulnerability: how magnitude, accessibility, and type of discrepancy influence affect.


Journal Article

Two studies examined whether the type of emotional change experienced by individuals is influenced by the magnitude and accessibility of the different types of self-discrepancies they possess. In both studies, subjects filled out a measure of self-discrepancy a few weeks prior to the experimental session. Subjects were asked to list up to 10 attributes each for different self-states--their actual self, their ideal self (their own or others' hopes and goals for them), and their ought self (their own or others' beliefs about their duty and obligations). Magnitude of self-discrepancy was calculated by comparing the attributes in the actual self to the attributes in either the ideal self or the ought self, with the total number of attribute pairs that matched being subtracted from the total number of attribute pairs that mismatched. In Study 1, subjects were asked to imagine either a positive event or a negative event and were then given a mood measure and a writing-speed task. Subjects with a predominant actual:ideal discrepancy felt more dejected (e.g., sad) and wrote more slowly in the negative event condition than in the positive event condition, whereas subjects with a predominant actual:ought discrepancy, if anything, felt more agitated (e.g., afraid) and wrote more quickly in the negative event condition. In Study 2, subjects were selected who were either high in both kinds of discrepancies or low in both. Half of the subjects in each group were asked to discuss their own and their parents' hopes and goals for them (ideal priming), and the other half were asked to discuss their own and their parents' beliefs concerning their duty and obligations (ought priming). For high-discrepancy subjects, but not low-discrepancy subjects, ideal priming increased their dejection whereas ought priming increased their agitation. The implications of these findings for identifying cognitive-motivational factors that may serve as vulnerability markers for emotional problems is discussed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Higgins, ET; Bond, RN; Klein, R; Strauman, T

Published Date

  • July 1, 1986

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 51 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 5 - 15

PubMed ID

  • 3735070

Pubmed Central ID

  • 3735070

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-1315

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-3514

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/0022-3514.51.1.5


  • eng