Mental Representations of the Self, Significant Others, and Nonsignificant Others: Structure and Processing of Private and Public Aspects

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Abstract

Using prior research on self and social inference (e.g., S. M. Andersen, 1984) and significant-other representations in social perception (S. M. Andersen & S. W. Cole, 1990), the present study examined a dual-factor conceptualization of self-other differences based on perspective differences and emotional-motivational relevance. Both factors were assumed to contribute to how private versus public aspects of the self, significant others, and nonsignificant others are structured in memory. In an idiographic-nomothetic design, participants' response latencies in completing sentences to characterize private and public aspects of each person were measured, and participants rated how well a pooled, randomized set of these predicates described each aspect of each person. Evidence showed differences in featural richness (availability), distinctiveness, and free-retrieval latency (accessibility) supporting the dual-factor conceptualization of self-other differences.

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