In Search for the Adaptive Self: A Model of Adaptive Self-Concept

Keywords: adaptive self, self-concept, self-knowledge, self-awareness, quiet ego


The main aim of this article is to present a descriptive social-cognitive model of the adaptive self-concept (ASC) which integrates knowledge concerning the relationship between two aspects of the self—self-awareness and self-knowledge—and optimal functioning. We propose that adaptive self-awareness is moderately frequent, non-ruminative, focused on inner states, and motivated by curiosity. Adaptive self-knowledge is defined as accurate, complex, integrated and consisting of easily accessible self-beliefs, both abstract and concrete. The broader context for the ASC model is discussed, including its regulatory and interpersonal functions and factors which influence ASC development. The limitations of the model are discussed and suggestions are made for future investigations.


Assor, A., Roth, G., & Deci, E. L. (2004). The emotional costs of perceived parents’ conditional regard: A self-determination theory analysis. Journal of Personality, 72, 47–89.

Assor, A., & Tal, K. (2012). When parents’ affection depends on child’s achievement: Parental conditional positive regard, self-aggrandizement, shame and coping in adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 249–260.

Bacro, F. (2011). Perceived attachment security to father, academic self-concept and school performance in language mastery. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 992–1002.

Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psycho-logist, 54, 462–479.

Bauer, J. J., & Wayment, H. A. (2008). The psychology of the quiet ego. In H. A. Wayment & J. J. Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological perspectives on the quiet ego (pp. 3–19). American Psychological Association Books.

Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Escaping the self. Basic Books.

Bigler, M., Neimeyer, G. J., & Brown, E. (2001). The divided self revisited: Effects of self-concept clarity and self-concept differentiation on psychological adjustment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 396–415.

Block, J. (1961). Ego identity, role variability, and adjustment. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 25, 392–397.

Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment (2nd ed.). Basic Books.

Brown, K. W., & Holt, M. P. (2011). Experiential processing and the integration of bright and dark sides of the human psyche. In K. Sheldon, T. Kashdan, & M. Steger (Eds.), Designing the future of positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward (pp. 147–159). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brycz, H., & Karasiewicz, K. (2011). Metacognition and self-regulation: The Metacognitive Self Scale. Acta Neuropsychologica, 9, 263–498.

Burnkrant, R. E., & T. J. Page, Jr. (1984). A modification of the Fenigstein, Scheier, and Buss Self Consciousness Scales. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 629–637.

Campbell, J. D., Assanand, S., & Di Paula, A. (2003). The structure of the self-concept and its relation to psychological adjustment. Journal of Personality, 71, 115–140.

Campbell, J. D., Trapnell, P. D., Heine, S. J., Katz, I. M., Lavallee, L. F., & Lehman, D. R. (1996). Self-concept clarity: Measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 141–156.

Colvin, C. R., & Block, J. (1994). Do positive illusions foster mental health? An examination of the Taylor and Brown formulation. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 3–20.

Colvin, C. R., Block, J., & Funder, D. C. (1995). Overly positive self-evaluations and personality: Negative implications for mental health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 1152–1162.

Conway, M. (2005). Memory and the self. Journal of Memory and Language, 53, 594–628.

Creed, A. T., & Funder, D. C. (1998). The two faces of private self-consciousness: Self report, peer-report, and behavioral correlates. European Journal of Personality, 12, 411–431.

Crocker, J. (2002). The costs of seeking self-esteem. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 597–615.

Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 392–414.

Debeer, E., Hermans, D., & Raes, F. (2009). Associations between components of rumination and autobiographical memory specificity as measured by a Minimal Instructions Autobiographical Memory Test. Memory, 17, 892–903.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.

Diehl, M., Hastings, C. T., & Stanton, J. M. (2001). Self-concept differentiation across the adult life span. Psychology and Aging, 16, 643–654.

Donahue, E. M., Robins, R. W., Roberts, B. W., & John, O. P. (1993). The divided self: Concurrent and longitudinal effects of psychological adjustment and social roles on self-concept differentiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 834–846.

Duval, T. S., & Wicklund, R. A. (1972). A theory of objective self-awareness. Academic Press.

Fenigstein, A. (2009). Private and public self-consciousness. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 495–511). Guilford Press.

Fenigstein, A., Scheier, M. F., & Buss, A. H. (1975). Public and private self-consciousness: Assessment and theory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43, 522–527.

Ferguson, G., Hafen, C. A., & Laursen, B. (2010). Adolescent psychological and academic adjustment as a function of discrepancies between actual and ideal self-perceptions. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1485–1497.

Förster, J., Marguc, J., & Gillebaart, M. (2010). Novelty categorization theory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 736–755.

Freitas, A. L., Gollwitzer, P., & Trope, Y. (2004). The influence of abstract and concrete mindsets on anticipating and guiding others’ self-regulatory efforts. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 739–752.

Ghorbani, N., Watson, P. J., & Hargis, M. B. (2008). Integrative Self-Knowledge Scale: Correlations and incremental validity of a cross-cultural measure developed in Iran and the United States. The Journal of Psychology, 142, 395–412.

Gillath, O., Sesko, A. K., Shaver, P. R., & Chun, S. D. (2010). Attachment, authenticity, and honesty: Dispositional and experimentally induced security can reduce self- and other-deception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 841–855.

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.

Greenwald, A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American Psychologist, 35, 603–618.

Griffin, D., & Bartholomew, K. (1994). Models of the self and other: Fundamental dimensions underlying measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 430–445.

Harrington, R., & Loffredo, D. A. (2011). Insight, rumination, and self-reflection as predictors of well-being. The Journal of Psychology, 145, 39–57.

Harter, S. (2012). Emerging self-processes during childhood and adolescence. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (2nd ed., pp. 680–715). Guilford Press.

Heppner, W. L., Kernis, M. H., Lakey, C. E., Campbell, W. K., Goldman, B. M., Davis, P. J., & Cascio, E. V. (2008). Mindfulness as a means of reducing aggressive behavior: Dispositional and situational evidence. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 486–496.

Hervás, G. Y., Vázquez, C. (2011). What else do you feel when you feel sad? Emotional overproduction, neuroticism and rumination. Emotion, 11, 881–895.

Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94, 319–340.

Hodgins, H. S., Weibust, K. S., Weinstein, N., Shiffman, S., Miller, A., Coombs, G., & Adair, K. C. (2010). The cost of self-protection: Threat response and performance as a function of autonomous and controlled motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1101–1114.

Hodgins, H. S., Yacko, H., & Gottlieb, E. (2006). Autonomy and nondefensiveness. Motivation and Emotion, 30, 283–293.

Hong, R. Y., Triyono, W., & Ong, P. S. (2013). When being discrepant from one’s ideal or ought selves hurts: The moderating role of neuroticism. European Journal of Personality, 27, 256–270.

Ingram, R. E. (1990). Self-focused attention in clinical disorders: Review and a conceptual modal. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 156–176.

Jankowski, T. (2008). Integrująca rola uważności w kształtowaniu koncepcji siebie [Mindfulness as an integrating factor for the self-concept structure]. Przegląd Psychologiczny, 51, 443–464.

Kernis, M. H., & Goldman, B. M. (2006). A multicomponent conceptualization of authenticity: Theory and research. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 283–357.

Klein, S. B., Cosmides, L., Tooby, J., & Chance, S. (2002). Decisions and the evolution of memory: Multiple systems, multiple functions. Psychological Review, 109, 306–329.

Knee, C. R., & Zuckerman, M. (1998). A nondefensive personality: Autonomy and control as moderators of defensive coping and self-handicapping. Journal of Research in Personality, 32, 115–130.

Koch, E. J., & Shepperd, J. (2004). Is self-complexity linked to better coping? A review of the literature. Journal of Personality, 72, 727–760.

Lakey, C. E., Kernis, M. H., Heppner, W. L., & Lance, C. E. (2008). Individual differences in authenticity and mindfulness as predictors of verbal defensiveness. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 230–238.

Lanciano, T., Curci, A., Kafetsios, K, Elia, L., & Zammuner, V. L. (2012). Insecure attachment and dysfunctional rumination: The mediating role of emotional intelligence abilities. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 753–758.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Da Capo Books.

Langer, E., & Moldoveanu, M. (2000). The construct of mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 1–9.

Lavallee, L. F., & Campbell, J. D. (1995). The impact of personal goals on self-regulation processes elicited by daily negative events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 341–352.

Leary, M. R., Adams, C. E., & Tate, E. B. (2006). Hypo-egoic self-regulation: Exercising self--control by diminishing the influence of the self. Journal of Personality, 74, 1803–1831.

Leary, M. R., Adams, C. E., & Tate, E. B. (2010). Hypo-egoic self-regulation. In R. H. Hoyle (Ed.), Handbook of personality and self-regulation (pp. 474–497). Wiley–Blackwell.

Leary, M. R., & Tangney, J. P. (2012). The self as an organizing construct in the behavioral and social sciences. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (2nd ed., pp. 1–18). Guilford.

Linville, P. W. (1985). Self-complexity and affective extremity: Don’t put all your eggs in one cognitive basket. Social Cognition, 3, 94–120.

Linville, P. W. (1987). Self-complexity as a cognitive buffer against stress-related illness and depression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 663–676.

Lutz, C. J., & Ross, S. R. (2003). Elaboration versus fragmentation: Distinguishing between self-complexity and self-concept differentiation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, 537–559.

Luyckx, K., Vansteenkiste, M., Goossens, L., & Duriez, B. (2009). Basic need satisfaction and identity formation: Bridging self-determination theory and process-oriented identity research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 276–288.

Lynch, M. F., La Guardia, J. G., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). On being yourself in different cultures: Ideal and actual self-concept, autonomy support, and well-being in China, Russia, and the United States. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 290–304.

Lyubomirsky, S., & Tkach, C. (2003). The consequences of dysphoric rumination. In C. Papageorgiou & A. Wells (Eds.), Rumination: Nature, theory, and treatment of negative thinking in depression (pp. 21–41). John Wiley & Sons.

McAdams, D. P., Anyidoho, N. A., Brown, C., Huang, Y. T., Kaplan, B., & Machado, M. A. (2004). Traits and stories: Links between dispositional and narrative features of personality. Journal of Personality, 72, 761–784.

McConnell, A. R. (2011). The multiple self-aspects framework: Self-concept representation and its implications. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 3–27.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1999). A five-factor theory of personality. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality (pp. 139–153). Guilford.

McKay, R. T., & Dennett, D. C. (2009). The evolution of misbelief. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 493–510.

McKenzie, K. S., & Hoyle, R. H. (2008). The Self-Absorption Scale: Reliability and validity in non-clinical samples. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 726–731.

Moore, S. A, & Zoellner, L. A. (2007). Overgeneral autobiographical memory and traumatic events: An evaluative review. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 419–437.

Mor, N., & Winquist, J. (2002). Self-focused attention and negative affect: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 638–662.

Niemiec, C. P., Brown, K. W., Kashdan, T. B., Cozzolino, P. J., Breen, W. E., Levesque-Bristol, C., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Being present in the face of existential threat: The role of trait mindfulness in reducing defensive responses to mortality salience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 344–365.

Oppenheimer, L. (2002). Self or selves? Theory and Psychology, 12, 97–128.

Procaccia, R., Veronese, G., & Castiglioni, M. (2014). Self-characterization and attachment style: A creative method of investigating children’s construing. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 27, 174–193.

Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (1987). Self-regulatory perseveration and the depressive self-focusing style: A self-awareness theory of reactive depression. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 122–138.

Rafaeli-Mor, E., & Steinberg, J. (2002). Self-complexity and well-being: A review and research synthesis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6, 31–58.

Robins, R. W., & Beer, J. S. (2001). Positive illusions about the self: Short-term benefits and long-term costs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 340–352.

Ryan, R. M., & Brown, K. W. (2003). Why we don’t need self-esteem: On fundamental needs, contingent love, and mindfulness. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 71–76.

Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., Grolnick, W. S., & La Guardia, J. G. (2006). The significance of autonomy and autonomy support in psychological development and psychopathology. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Theory and method (Vol. 1, pp. 795–849). John Wiley & Sons.

Sedikides, C., & Skowronski, J. J. (1997). The symbolic self in evolutionary context. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 80–102.

Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Rawsthorne, L. J., & Ilardi, B. (1997). Trait self and true self: Cross-role variation in the Big-Five personality traits and its relations with psychological authenticity and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1380–1393.

Showers, C. J., Abramson, L. Y., & Hogan, M. E. (1998). The dynamic self: How the content and structure of the self-concept change with mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 478–493.

Showers, C. J., & Zeigler-Hill, V. (2007). Compartmentalization and integration: The evaluative organization of contextualized selves. Journal of Personality, 75, 1181–1204.

Showers, C. J., & Zeigler-Hill, V. (2012). Organization of self-knowledge: Features, functions, and flexibility. In M. R. Leary & J. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 105–123). Guilford Press.

Silvia, P. J., & Duval, T. S. (2001). Objective Self-Awareness Theory: Recent progress and enduring problems. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 230–241.

Silvia, P. J., Eichstaedt, J., & Phillips, A. G. (2005). Are rumination and reflection types of self-focused attention? Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 871–881.

Silvia, P. J., & O’Brien, M. E. (2004). Self-awareness and constructive functioning: Revisiting “the human dilemma.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 475–489.

Smits, I., Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Luyckx, K., & Goossens, L. (2010). Why do adolescents gather information or stick to parental norms? Examining autonomous and controlled motives behind adolescents’ identity style. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1343–1356.

Suedfeld, P. (2009). Integrative complexity. In M. Leary & R. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 354–366). Guilford Press.

Sumner, J., Griffith, J. W., Mineka, S., Rekart, K. N., Zinbarg, R. E., & Craske, M. G. (2011). Overgeneral autobiographical memory and chronic interpersonal stress as predictors of the course of depression in adolescents. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 183–192.

Swann, W. B., Jr., Stein-Seroussi, A., & Giesler, B. (1992). Why people self-verify. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 392–401.

Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193–210.

Tokar, D. M., Withrow, J. R., Hall, R. J., & Moradi, B. (2003). Psychological separation, attachment security, vocational self-concept crystallization, and career indecision: A structural equation analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50, 3–19.

Trapnell, P. D., & Campbell, J. D. (1999). Private self-consciousness and the five-factor model of personality: Distinguishing rumination from reflection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 284–304.

Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1987). Action identification and human behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 3–15.

Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1989). Levels of personal agency: Individual variation in action identification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 660–671.

Verschueren, K., Doumen, S., & Buyse, E. (2012). Relationships with mother, teacher, and peers: Unique and joint effects on young children’s self-concept. Attachment and Human Development, 14, 233–248.

Wakslak, C. J., Nussbaum, S., Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (2008). Representations of the self in the near and distant future. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 757–773.

Wasylkiw, L., Fabrigar, L. R., Rainboth, S., Reid, A. & Steen, C. (2010). Neuroticism and the architecture of the self: Exploring neuroticism as a moderator of the impact of ideal self-discrepancies on emotion. Journal of Personality, 78, 471–492.

Wayment, H. A., Bauer, J. J., & Sylaska, K. (2014). The quiet ego scale: Measuring the compassionate self-identity. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Wegner, D. M., & Bargh, J. A. (1998). Control and automaticity in social life. In D. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 446–496). McGraw–Hill.

Wegner, D. M., & Vallacher, R. R. (1986). Action identification. In R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior (pp. 550–582). Guilford.

Williams, J. M. G, Barnhofer, T., Crane, C., Herman, D., Raes, F., Watkins, E., & Dalgleish, T. (2007). Autobiographical memory specificity and emotional disorder. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 122–148.

Wu, C. (2009). The relationship between attachment style and self-concept clarity: The mediation effect of self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 42–46.

How to Cite
Jankowski, T., & Bąk, W. (2021). In Search for the Adaptive Self: A Model of Adaptive Self-Concept. Roczniki Psychologiczne, 23(4), 309-328.