Egoistic and Moralistic Biases in Self-Perception: The Interplay of Self-Deceptive Styles With Basic Traits and Motives



The literature on personality traits and defense mechanisms suggests individual differences in two self-favoring tendencies, which we label “egoistic bias” and “moralistic bias.” The two biases are self-deceptive in nature and can be traced to two fundamental values, agency and communion, that impel two corresponding motives, nPower and nApproval. The two sequences of values, motives, and biases form two personality constellations, Alpha and Gamma. Associated with Alpha is an egoistic bias, a self-deceptive tendency to exaggerate one's social and intellectual status. This tendency leads to unrealistically positive self-perceptions on such traits as dominance, fearlessness, emotional stability, intellect, and creativity. Self-perceptions of high Alpha scorers have a narcissistic, “superhero” quality. Associated with Gamma is a moralistic bias, a self-deceptive tendency to deny socially deviant impulses and to claim sanctimonious “saint-like” attributes. This tendency is played out in overly positive self-perceptions on such traits as agreeableness, dutifulness, and restraint. The Alpha-Gamma conception provides an integrative framework for a number of central issues in personality psychology.