Accessibility of Private and Public Aspects of Traits Descriptive of Oneself and Others


Previous research has shown that compared to mental representations of others, mental representations of ourselves are characterized by relatively greater accessibility of private, unobservable content, as opposed to content that is public and observable. Are those differences preserved when individuals focus on their own public selves and/or on private selves of others? Participants were asked to make social judgments involving traits that, in their view, were highly descriptive of either public or private selves of themselves, their best friend, or an acquaintance. Results demonstrated that highly self-descriptive traits were more accessible in social judgments involving individuals’ private rather than public selves. This was true not only for traits descriptive of one’s private self but also for traits descriptive of one’s public self. Furthermore, other-descriptive traits, including traits that were highly descriptive of representations of private selves of others, were more accessible in social judgments involving public rather than private selves.

Psychological Reports