Andreas Nehrlich, Jochen E. Gebauer, Constantine Sedikides, Andrea Abele
Individual self > relational self > collective self—But why? Processes driving the self‐hierarchy in self‐ and person perception

Journal of Personality, 2019: 87, issue 2, pp. 212-230
ISSN: 0022-3506 (print); 1467-6494 (online)

Objective:The self has three parts: individual, relational, and collective. Typically,people personally value their individual self most, their relational self less, and theircollective self least. This self-hierarchy is consequential, but underlying processeshave remained unknown. Here, we propose two process accounts. Thecontentaccountdraws upon selves’agentic–communal content, explaining why the individ-ual self is preferred most. Theteleology accountdraws upon selves’instrumentalityfor becoming one’s personal ideal, explaining why the collective self is preferredleast.Method:In Study 1 (N5200, 45% female,Mage532.9 years, 79% Caucasian), par-ticipants listed characteristics of their three selves (individual, relational, collective)and evaluated those characteristics in seven preference tasks. Additionally, we ana-lyzed the characteristics’agentic–communal content, and participants rated theircharacteristics’teleological instrumentality. Study 2 (N5396, 55% female,Mage534.5 years, 76% Caucasian) used identical methodology and featured an addi-tional condition, where participants evaluated the selves of a friend.Results:Study 1 reconfirmed the self-hierarchy and supported both process accounts.Study 2 replicated and extended findings. As hypothesized, when people evaluateothers’selves, adifferentself-hierarchy emerges (relational>individual>collective).Conclusions:This research pioneers process-driven explanations for the self-hierarchy, establishing why people prefer different self-parts in themselves than inothers.