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Keywords:

  • state authenticity;
  • self;
  • autobiographical narratives;
  • affect and emotion;
  • need satisfaction

Abstract

Objective

We propose that the experience of state authenticity—the subjective sense of being one's true self—ought to be considered separately from trait authenticity as well as from prescriptions regarding what should make people feel authentic.

Methods

In Study 1 (N = 104), online participants rated the frequency of and motivation for experiences of authenticity and inauthenticity. Studies 2 (N = 268) and 3 (N = 93) asked (local or online, respectively) participants to describe their experiences of authenticity or inauthenticity. Participants in Studies 1 and 2 also completed measures of trait authenticity, and participants in Study 3 rated their experience with respect to several phenomenological dimensions.

Results

Study 1 demonstrated that people are motivated to experience state authenticity and avoid inauthenticity and that such experiences are common, regardless of one's degree of trait authenticity. Coding of Study 2's narratives identified the emotions accompanying and needs fulfilled in each state. Trait authenticity generally did not qualify the nature of (in)authentic experiences. Study 3 corroborated the results of Study 2 and further revealed positive mood and nostalgia as consequences of reflecting on experiences of authenticity.

Conclusions

We discuss implications of these findings for conceptualizations of authenticity and the self.