Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

pp 1-4

Date: Latest Version

Actual Self

  • Cristina MăroiuAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, West University of Timișoara
  • , Laurențiu P. MaricuțoiuAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, West University of Timișoara Email author 

Definition of the Actual Self

The term actual self was introduced by Tory Higgins in 1987, as part of his self-discrepancy theory. From this perspective, the actual self is a cognitive structure (cognitive schemata, or representation) that contains all attributes that a person believes that are self-descriptive. These self-descriptive attributes are not necessarily issued by the owner of the actual self; they also can be issued by other people. For example, if I believe that I am a punctual person, then punctuality is part of my actual self. Similarly, if my colleagues describe me as being punctual and I am aware of this description, then punctuality is an attribute contained in my actual self. In conclusion, the actual self is a cognitive structure (or schemata, or representation) that includes all self-describing attributes that a person is aware of, regardless whether these characteristics resulted from self-evaluations or evaluations provided by others.

Similar Terms: the True Self

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