Do autonomous individuals strive for self positivity?: a test of the universality of self-enhancement

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in General Psychology


Department of Psychology


Advisor: Erin M. O'Mara


The present research explored the self-enhancement strategies autonomous individuals use and tried to determine which strategies are best for psychological well-being. We examined whether autonomous individuals self-enhance through seeking out positive information about the self, rather than avoiding negative information. The former was hypothesized to be positively associated with well-being while the latter was not. Previous research suggests that individuals high in autonomy and low in controlledness do not self-enhance; however, recent work suggests that self-enhancement is a universal human motivation. In Study 1, to examine patterns of self-enhancement at varying levels of autonomy and controlledness, participants (N = 175) completed the Self-Enhancement and Self-Protection Strategies scale (SSS; Hepper, Gramzow, & Sedikides, 2010) and the General Causality Orientation Scale (GCOS; Deci & Ryan, 1985a). Results suggested autonomy predicted engaging in approach--but not avoidance--oriented self-enhancement strategies, while controlledness was associated with both approach and avoidance oriented strategies. In Study 2, to examine patterns of self-enhancement, autonomy, and well-being, 378 participants completed baseline measures of autonomy, self-enhancement, and well-being at Time 1. At Time 2, participants (N = 105) completed impossible mazes, were given false negative feedback, engaged in a self-enhancement coping strategy either congruent or incongruent with their level of autonomy, and finally completed the same battery of well-being measures as in Time 1. Results suggest there is no support for the hypothesis; while controlling for controlledness and Time 1 well-being, there was no effect of self-enhancement strategy on well-being nor did the effect of self-enhancement strategy on well-being vary by one's level of autonomy or self-enhancement strategy.


Self-efficacy Research, Self-perception Research, Self-reliance Research, Self-talk Research, Psychology; self-enhancement; well-being; autonomy; self-protection

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2013, author