This research was facilitated by a fellowship awarded to the first author and a research grant awarded to the second author, both from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
What Do We Know When We Know a Person Across Contexts? Examining Self-Concept Differentiation at the Three Levels of Personality
Article first published online: 21 FEB 2013
© 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Personality
Volume 81, Issue 4, pages 376–389, August 2013
How to Cite
Dunlop, W. L., Walker, L. J. and Wiens, T. K. (2013), What Do We Know When We Know a Person Across Contexts? Examining Self-Concept Differentiation at the Three Levels of Personality. Journal of Personality, 81: 376–389. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12018
We gratefully acknowledge the competent research assistance of Amanda Riches and Kim McWilliams and the comments and critiques of Jeremy Frimer.
- Issue published online: 10 JUL 2013
- Article first published online: 21 FEB 2013
- Accepted manuscript online: 6 NOV 2012 04:50AM EST
- self-concept differentiation;
- psychological adjustment;
- life narratives;
- personal goals;
- behavioral traits
Previous research examining self-concept differentiation (SCD) has been characterized by (a) a focus on behavioral traits and (b) the conflation of mean-level and inter-contextual differentiation. In two studies, we considered non-conflated measures of SCD at the three levels of personality description in relation to adjustment.
In Study 1, participants completed measures of adjustment, rated their behavioral tendencies (dispositional traits), produced a list of goals (characteristic adaptations), and recalled a self-defining memory (life narratives), from within professional and personal domains. In Study 2, the procedure was modified: Participants reporting either low or high levels of adjustment subsequently rated their behavioral traits, provided a list of goals, or produced a self-defining memory, from five contexts.
In Study 1, adjustment related positively to SCD at the level of characteristic adaptations but negatively to SCD at the level of life narratives. In Study 2, well-adjusted participants exhibited a greater degree of SCD at the level of characteristic adaptations but a greater degree of thematic consistency at the level of life narratives, relative to those low in adjustment.
These results highlight the dynamic nature of SCD across levels of personality and align with the notion that differentiation represents virtue and vice.