How temporal distance from past selves influences self-perception

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Abstract

The present studies examine how perceived temporal distance from past selves influences perceptions of the current self. Participants recalled their past self either at age 9 or 15. These two past selves differ in levels of identification with gender and thus denote different standards of comparison. Three hypotheses were tested. Temporal distance should determine whether recalled past selves produce assimilation or contrast effects on the current self. Second, temporal comparison effects should be weaker when people recall their past in terms of stable, relatively enduring characteristics (e.g. traits). Third, past selves should to a greater extent be biased by stereotypical knowledge about former lifetime periods the farther away individuals feel from past selves. Past selves coloured by stereotypical knowledge are more extreme and should thus produce stronger judgemental effects on the current self. The results supported the hypotheses. Implications for autobiographical remembering are discussed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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