Research Article: How females think about themselves and how they assume that significant others think about them: The influence of perspective taking on self-referential processing

Date Published: May 31, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Saskia Doreen Forster, Barbara Drueke, Sara Britz, Siegfried Gauggel, Verena Mainz, Valerio Capraro.


People maintain a positive self-concept through positive self-appraisals (Self-Serving Bias Effect, SSBE) and a diminished memory for self-threatening information (Mnemic-Neglect Effect, MNE). Other people also influence a person’s self-concept. This study investigated SSBE and MNE in 60 females by using a trait-judgment paradigm applying two perspectives (self- and third-person appraisals) and a recall task. Additionally, self-esteem was assessed as an associated factor. SSBE and MNE were found in both kinds of appraisal perspectives. Interestingly, participants saw themselves as even more positive in reflected appraisals. SSBE and self-esteem were associated only in self-appraisals, indicating a larger SSBE on self-appraisals with raising self-esteem. In conclusion, both what females think about themselves and how they assume that others think about them preserve their overall positive self-concept.

Partial Text

A stable and positive self-concept is fundamental to psychological functioning and behavior. Metacognitive or self-referential knowledge, i.e., reflections on and knowledge about one’s own abilities, characteristics, sensations, attitudes, and preferences is necessary in many everyday situations in order to be able to act in a targeted and socially appropriate manner. For example, people often rely on their self-knowledge when inferring others’ mental states in social interactions [1]. In recent years, various empirical studies have investigated specific processes related to the self, in order to develop models of how people arrive at conclusions about themselves (e.g., [2]). These studies examined different aspects of self-referential processing, including ownership [3], the processing of self-related cues [4], autobiographic memory [5], the accuracy of meta-perception regarding the self [6], or individual judgments of personality traits [7, 8]. According to these studies, self-referential processes differ from other forms of information processing, such as references to other people’s mental states or semantic processing [9].

The means and standard deviations of the participants’ task performance (percentage of chosen adjectives, reaction times, percentage of adjectives recalled) are shown in Tables 1 and 2 and in Figs 1–3.

Because the concept of self is essential for psychological functioning and behavior in a goal-directed and socially appropriate manner, we examined self-referential processes to gain a better understanding of how one’s self-concept is formed, enhanced, and protected. We were specifically interested in exploring how an assumed opinion of a significant other differs from people’s own opinion about themselves. Prior research has confirmed that significant others do influence how people feel about themselves [10, 15]. Nevertheless, the overlap between self-appraisals and reflected appraisals of one’s own personality traits is not perfect [12]. In order to investigate the influence of two different perspectives (first person and third person) on appraisals of one’s self, two effects that have already been identified, SSBE and MNE, were examined in greater detail. Additionally, we also analyzed the association between reaction time and SSBE, which has been less frequently considered in previous studies, but which we introduced as SSRTE. Finally, we investigated how one’s self-esteem is related to self-appraisals versus reflected appraisals.




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