Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Two investigations were carried out to examine self-perceptions and the role of motivation in individual-based social identification. It was hypothesized that states of threatened self-esteem would lead individuals to self-ascribe traits belonging to a valued social target. In experiment 1, subjects performed a task, following which they received one of two performance feedback treatments (success; failure). They were then assigned a famous historical figure, Napoleon Bonaparte, and half were led to believe that they shared his day of birth. Ratings made of both the target and the self revealed that conditions of failure feedback (regardless of the birthday manipulation) led to more elevated self-ascriptions of Napoleon-specific negative (socially undesirable) traits, but not of negative traits in general. For positive (socially desirable) traits, the opposite influence of failure feedback was found (i.e., lower self-ascription of Napoleon-specific items), though only for those in the matched-birthday condition. In experiment 2, an identical manipulation of performance feedback was employed, whereafter subjects selected a famous figure whom they "most respected and admired," as well as one whom they "least respected and admired," from a list of individuals generated by their peers. Self-evaluations on traits with either of three referents (most valued target; least valued target; no target) indicated a pattern consistent with the findings of the initial experiment, though, unfortunately, the least valued target condition had to be dropped from analyses due to the violation of a statistical assumption. For negative traits, those experiencing ostensible failure gave higher self-ratings specifically on those items believed to characterize their most valued target. No effects were obtained on self-reports involving positive traits. The overall trend suggested that an interplay of self-consistency and self-enhancement motives may have guided subjects' responses. It is speculated that the endorsement of target-specific traits invoked by failure may have represented attempts to generate a more favourable self-image by identification with the target, and that this association-building may have been restricted to the realm of negative traits by the countervailing need to present a self-image that was consistent with the feedback as well.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.