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Sources of Self-Concept Clarity

Chapter

Abstract

How we define ourselves shapes our cognition, affect, behavior, and motivation. Optimal functioning is in part contingent on having a clear sense of ourselves (Campbell et al. J Person Soc Psychol 70:141–156, 1996). But what shapes self-concept clarity? In the current chapter, I provide an overview of findings about sources of self-concept clarity. By and large, findings to date indicate effects of self-confirmation, anxiety, and uncertainty on self-concept clarity. I also provide recommendations for future investigations, with an eye toward potential moderators of the effects of self-confirmation, anxiety, and uncertainty on self-concept clarity (including the nature of self-beliefs, trait and state self-concept clarity, and self-focus) as well as additional potential antecedents of self-concept clarity (including trait self-concept clarity, situational stability, interpersonal power, group identification, reflected appraisals, social acceptance, and mood). I attend to the distinction between self-concept clarity and self-esteem, and I consider explanations of self-concept clarity from extensions of relevant existing theory [including distinctiveness hypothesis (McGuire and Padawer-Singer, J Person Soc Psychol 33:743–754, 1976), Identity Consolidation Theory (McGregor, Defensive zeal: compensatory conviction about attitudes, values, goals, groups, and self-definition in the face of personal uncertainty. In: Spencer S, Fein S, Zanna M (eds) Motivated social perception: the Ontario symposium, vol 9, pp 73–92. Erlbaum, Mahwah, 2003), Optimal Distinctiveness Theory (Brewer, Optimal distinctiveness theory: its history and development. In: Van Lange PAM, Kruglanski AW, Higgins ET (eds) Handbook of theories of social psychology, vol 2, pp 81–98. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 2012), Self-Verification Theory (Swann, Self-verification: brining social reality into harmony with the self. In: Suls J, Greenwald AG (eds) Social psychological perspectives on the self, vol 2, pp 33–66. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, 1983), Sociometer Theory (Leary, Sociometer theory. In: Van Lange PAM, Kruglanski AW, Higgins ET (eds) Handbook of theories of social psychology, vol 2, pp 141–159. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 2012; Leary and Baumeister, The nature and function of self-esteem: sociometer theory. In: Zanna MP (ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 32, pp 1–62. Academic Press, San Diego, 2000), Terror Management Theory (Greenberg and Arndt, Terror management theory. In: Van Lange PAM, Kruglanski AW, Higgins ET (eds) Handbook of theories of social psychology, vol 1, pp 398–415. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 2012; Greenberg et al., The causes and consequences of a need for self-esteem: a terror management theory. In: Baumester RF (ed) Public self and private self, pp 189–212. Springer, New York, 1986), Uncertainty-Identity Theory (Hogg, Uncertainty-identity theory. In: Zanna MP (ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 39, pp 69–126.Elsevier Academic Press, San Diego, 2007; Uncertainty-identity theory. In Van Lange PAM, Kruglanski AW, Higgins ET (eds) Handbook of theories of social psychology, vol 2, pp 62–80. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 2012)].

Keywords

Self-concept clarity Self-esteem Self-concept Identity Self-confirmation Anxiety Uncertainty Self-verification Self-maintenance Self-concept change 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Knox CollegeGalesburgUSA

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