Fluidity in the self-concept: the shift from personal to social identity



Dominant personality models of the self-concept (e.g. self-schema theory) conceive of the self as a relatively stable cognitive representation or schema. The self-schema controls how we process self-relevant information across a myriad of situations. Conversely, self-categorization theory argues that self-perception is highly variable and context-dependent. It was hypothesized in two studies (N=114 and 200) that the effect of personal self-schemas on information-processing would be eliminated when the context makes a conflicting higher-order identity salient. Results largely supported self-categorization theory. Across various dependent measures (trait endorsements, response latencies, and confidence in self-descriptions), participants generally responded in line with the salient identity, even if this pattern of responding directly contradicted their personal self-schema. Implications for dominant personality models of the self-concept are examined. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.