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What Will I Be? Exploring Gender Differences in Near and Distant Possible Selves


We investigated whether the possible selves of men and women align with the gender-differentiated social roles that are projected to vary across the lifespan. Across two studies (Study 1: N = 211 and Study 2: N = 314) of college students in the Midwestern U.S., we found that gender differences in possible selves were larger when projected into the distant future (e.g., 10–15 years) than the near future (1 year). In addition, the relationship between career and family possible selves varied depending on gender and temporal distance, with a tradeoff between career and family observed primarily among women and for distant possible selves (Study 1). Supporting role congruity theory, both genders hoped for role-congruent selves but feared role-incongruent selves (Study 2).

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We thank Cliff Evans and Amanda Johnston for their help with this research. We also thank research assistants Maegan Addis, Sarah Banchefsky, Susan Craft, Steve Kalgreen, Kyle Kurowski, Nicole Kramer, Kristine Mack, and Kelsey Nocks.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth R. Brown.

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Brown, E.R., Diekman, A.B. What Will I Be? Exploring Gender Differences in Near and Distant Possible Selves. Sex Roles 63, 568–579 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9827-x

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  • Social roles
  • Possible selves
  • Gender differences