When I and me are different: Assimilation and contrast in temporal self-comparisons

Karlene Hanko, Jan Crusius, Thomas Mussweiler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


In two studies, we show that comparisons with past or possible future selves shape current self-evaluation and that the direction of this influence is determined by one's current comparison focus. In Study 1, participants primed to focus on similarities versus dissimilarities were asked to remember an introverted or extraverted past self and then to evaluate their current level of extraversion. Participants who focused on similarities assimilated current self-evaluations to the past self, whereas those who focused on dissimilarities contrasted current self-evaluations away from the past self. In Study 2, participants imagined a possible future self that differed from their current self in terms of body weight. Participants who imagined a moderate weight change exhibited assimilation to the possible self, whereas those who imagined an extreme weight change exhibited contrast. These studies highlight the important role cognitive factors such as comparison focus play in shaping the consequences of temporal self-comparisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


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