Selves that are hoped-for, feared and expected: An exploration of possible selves and ethnicity

Teion Lichelle Wells, Purdue University


The possible selves' theory asserts that healthy individuals hold future cognitive representations (i.e., hopes, fears, and expectations) of themselves (Markus & Nurius, 1986), and move towards positive possible selves and away from negative ones. Research using possible selves continues to expand, including recent efforts evaluating multicultural aspects of self identity. However, such research often employs cross-cultural, between-country comparisons. The current study proposes that within-country variation of sub-cultural groups is also worthy of investigation, and assumes that ethnicity represents sub-cultural group membership. This study sought to use participants' written responses to the Possible Selves Questionnaire to explore the construct of possible selves and ethnic differences. Using 136 college students from four ethnic groups, the inter-relationships among gender, ethnicity, and types, numbers, and balances of possible selves were explored. Also evaluated were self perceptions of capability and likelihood of accomplishing hoped-for and expected possible selves and preventing feared possible selves. Findings revealed that all participants regarded their ethnic identification as important. In addition, all participants generated more hoped-for than feared or expected possible selves, with most unexpectedly generating almost equivalent number of feared and expected possible selves. More hoped-for to feared than expected to feared balanced possible selves were produced. Across gender and ethnicity, there were differences on perceived capability of accomplishing positive or preventing negative possible selves, as well as differences in numbers and types of balanced possible selves produced. Gender differences were found regarding self perceived likelihood of accomplishing positive or avoiding negative possible selves. Findings suggest that additional research using the possible selves' theory may prove substantive in understanding the relationship between culture, gender, ethnicity, and other moderating variables of interest.




Merritt, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Personality|Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server