Self-ambivalence and resistance to subtle self-change attempts

Self-ambivalence and resistance to subtle self-change attempts

By
Kenneth G. DeMarree, Kimberly Rios Morrison, S. Christian Wheeler, Richard E. Petty
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
2011, Vol. 37, Issue 5, Pages 674-686

Recent research has demonstrated the malleability of self-views to subtle situational influence but has not uncovered features of the self-concept representation that make it susceptible to such change. Using research on attitude ambivalence as a foundation, the current article predicted that the self would be most likely to respond to a subtle change induction when the targeted self-beliefs were objectively ambivalent (e.g., possessed both positive and negative features). Using self-esteem conditioning (Experiment 1) and outgroup stereotype priming (Experiment 2), it was found that people were more susceptible to subtle change inductions as objective self-ambivalence increased. Notably, the consistency between dominant self-views (positive or negative) and the change induction did not influence these results. These effects held for objective ambivalence, but not subjective ambivalence, and only when the objective ambivalence measure was relevant to the change induction. Mechanisms of the observed moderation and the implications of self-ambivalence for understanding self-change are discussed.