The self has three parts: individual, relational, and collective. Typically, people personally value their individual self most, their relational self less, and their collective self least. This self‐hierarchy is consequential, but underlying processes have remained unknown. Here, we propose two process accounts. The content account draws upon selves' agentic–communal content, explaining why the individual self is preferred most. The teleology account draws upon selves' instrumentality for becoming one's personal ideal, explaining why the collective self is preferred least.
In Study 1 (N = 200, 45% female, Mage = 32.9 years, 79% Caucasian), participants listed characteristics of their three selves (individual, relational, collective) and evaluated those characteristics in seven preference tasks. Additionally, we analyzed the characteristics' agentic–communal content, and participants rated their characteristics' teleological instrumentality. Study 2 (N = 396, 55% female, Mage = 34.5 years, 76% Caucasian) used identical methodology and featured an additional condition, where participants evaluated the selves of a friend.
Study 1 reconfirmed the self‐hierarchy and supported both process accounts. Study 2 replicated and extended findings. As hypothesized, when people evaluate others' selves, a different self‐hierarchy emerges (relational > individual > collective).
This research pioneers process‐driven explanations for the self‐hierarchy, establishing why people prefer different self‐parts in themselves than in others.
- Journal of Personality, EarlyView.