What is it about?

Our study takes a closer look at how we judge ourselves today compared to our past selves. It's generally thought that as we think back, we view past versions of ourselves less positively than who we are now, which might seem like we're trying to convince ourselves that we're getting better. But is this just wishful thinking or can we trust these perceptions of ourselves over time? Our experiments examine this question and shed light on the answer.

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Why is it important?

Our findings question a long-held belief that positive self-perceptions across time are mainly a result of motivation to self-enhance. It turns out that basic comparison processes, combined with the reality that the social ecology favors positive traits and growth, can lead to positive self-views even without motivation. In fact, we show that these same processes can also lead to negative self views, despite motivation to avoid them. This research offers a fresh view on our understanding of the way the self emerges over time. More broadly, we join a growing interest in understanding the interactions among the individual self, the social ecology, and social cognitive factors in explaining outcomes that may have traditionally been viewed as biases of individual motivation, attitudes, or beliefs.

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This page is a summary of: A cognitive–ecological approach to temporal self-appraisals., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, November 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000369.
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