Kaitlin E. Boyd, Michaela M. Eames, Katharine M. Ellis, Morgan A. Hale, Bridget Petersen Lynch



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This research explores the relation between self-enhancement motivation (i.e., the motive to have and maintain positive feelings about the self) and autonomy (i.e., the motive to feel in charge of one's own life). Extensive research shows that people are motivated to feel positively about the self. However, a small set of studies noted that people who feel in charge of their lives and decisions (i.e., high in autonomy) are not motivated to have a positive sense of self in the same way as their peers. In Study 1, 338 participants completed a series of self-report measures to assess recently identified self-enhancement strategies and levels of autonomy. Using multiple regression, Study 1 provided evidence that approach oriented self-enhancement is consistent with autonomy. Study 1 supports the universality of self-enhancement by identifying strategies used by autonomous individuals to self-enhance. Based on these results, Study 2 experimentally examined the association between self-enhancement and levels of autonomy. In Study 2, 105 participants completed an impossible maze task, were provided with false negative feedback, and were randomly assigned to one of three possible coping strategies (two manipulated to encourage self-enhancement or a control condition). After participating in the coping strategy (or control), participants completed a series of self-report well-being measures. Data from Study 2 will be analyzed using multiple regression. It is expected that people will have greater psychological well-being when they self-enhance in a way consistent with their levels of autonomy. Study 2 will provide evidence for the benefits of specific strategies of self-enhancement based on level of autonomy.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Erin O'Mara

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Reconciling Autonomy and Self-Enhancement: Is Consistency the Key to Well-Being?