The Quiet Ego: Motives for Self-Other Balance and Growth in Relation to Well-Being

Abstract

The quiet ego is a way of construing the self that transcends egotism, not by neglecting the self but rather by facilitating a balance of concerns for the self and others as well as by facilitating the growth of the self and others. This study examines whether the Quiet Ego Scale (QES—Wayment et al. in J Happiness Stud 16:999–1033, 2015) correlates significantly with measures that specifically reflect balance and growth in terms of value orientations and motivation, and whether these values and motives can help explain the relation between QES and well-being. We randomly split our sample of 1117 college students into five groups (Ns ranged from 213 to 231) and examined the correlations between QES and measures of values and motives (Ego and Ecosystem Goals—Crocker and Canevello in J Personal Soc Psychol 98:1009–1024, 2008; Growth Motivation Index (GMI)—Bauer et al. in J Happiness Stud 16:185–210, 2015; Universal Values—Schwartz et al. in J Personal Soc Psychol 103:663–668, 2012). As predicted, QES was strongly related to compassionate goal motives, experiential and reflection GMI subscales, and weakly and negatively related to self-image goals. QES was most strongly and consistently correlated with values of universalism, benevolence, and self-direction that reflecting a balance of self- and other-concern. QES was positively (but somewhat inconsistently) correlated with stimulation, achievement, power, security, and tradition, and with hedonism, albeit weakly. QES was unrelated to conformity. A regression analysis found growth and balance motives significantly accounted for much of the shared variance between QES and well-being. Our results underscore the centrality of growth and balance values to the quiet ego construct.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to Schwartz et al. (2012), and most recently, Ralston et al. (2011), the first-order value clusters can be further combined into two sets of second-order clusters. The first set are called “self-focused” and “other-focused” values. Self-focused values include power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, and self-direction, and these values primarily regulate how an individual expresses personal interests and characteristics. Other-focused values include benevolence, universalism, tradition, conformity, and security, and these values primarily regulate how individuals relate socially to others. As with our other hypotheses regarding the QES representing a balanced approach to self- and other concern, we expected that QES would correlate positively with both self- and other-focused values. The second set of second-order values are called “growth” and “self-protective” values. Growth values (hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, and benevolence) reflect motivations related to eudaimonic growth (Bauer 2008). Given that quiet ego is theorized to reflect growth-mindedness, we expected that the QES should be related to growth values. Self-protective values include conformity, tradition, security, and power and help individuals cope with “uncertainty in the social and physical world” (Schwartz 2012, p. 14). Again, given that QES reflects both self- and other concern, we expected a modest relationship between QES and self-protective values. Achievement is believed to share elements of self-protection and growth and is not included in either second-order value cluster. Thus, we expected QES to be most positively related to self-focused values, and to a lesser extent, self-protection values (both values reflecting self-concern), with other-focused values (concern for others), and with growth.

  2. 2.

    We conducted a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the 10 value items, with the values loading onto their respective latent factors: self-enhancement (SE), self-transcendence (ST), openness to change (OC), conservation (C). The four latent variables were allowed to correlate. Model fit was improved by adding correlated error terms. We incrementally added these error terms to the model and observed improvement in model fit and compared factor loadings and correlations among the latent factors. A final model that added 10 pairs of correlated error terms fit extremely well, X 2(11) = 15.81, p = 25, CFI = 1.0, NNFI = 1.0, SRMR = .02, RMSEA = .02, 90% CI [.00, .04]. The final factor loadings and between factor correlations were all significant (p < .001) and extremely similar to those found in the initial model. The factor loadings were as follows: Self-Enhancement (power = .40, achievement = .92), Self-Transcendence (benevolence = .66, universalism = .83), Openness to Change (self-direction = .91, stimulation = .76), and Conservation (security = .47, conformity = .40, tradition = .74). The first-order value clusters were also intercorrelated (range .44 to .73), similar to results investigating the factor structure of the SVS (Perrinjaquet et al. 2007; Schwartz and Boehnke 2004).

  3. 3.

    According to Schwartz et al. (2012), universally, the values are typically ranked in this order: benevolence, universalism, self-direction, security, conformity, hedonism, achievement, tradition, stimulation, and power. Overall, our study respondents reported the values of achievement and security as most important, followed by self-direction, universalism, and benevolence. The lowest ranked value was nearly always power. We calculated the relative rank of our sample’s values (across the five samples). The ranked order of values in our sample differed from universal preferences, most notably because achievement and security were typically ranked first and second in our sample (Spearman rank correlations ranged from .46 to .49).

  4. 4.

    Here we wish to give a sense of the relative strength of relations between QES and its predicted correlates. The correlation between QES and other-focused values was significantly stronger than the one between QES and self-focused values, z = 4.67, p < .001. The correlation between QES and other-focused values was significantly stronger than the one between QES and self-focused values, z = 4.67, p < .001.Correlation between GMI and growth values was significantly stronger than between GMI and self-protection values, z = 7.07, p < .001. Correlations between GMI and self-focused values and other-focused values were statistically equivalent, z = −1.70, p = .11. Compassionate goals were more strongly correlated with other-focused values compared to self-focused values, z = 8.36, p < .001); more strongly correlated with growth values compared to self-protection values, z = 5.71, p < .001. Self-image goals were more strongly correlated with self-protection values compared to growth values, z = 6.62, p < .001), and only modestly (but equally) associated with both self-focused values and other-focused values, z = .61, p = .54.

  5. 5.

    The indirect path from QES to well-being, via the ratio of compassionate to self-image goals was .08, SE = .01, z = 5.69, p < .001, 95% CI [.05, .11]. The indirect path from QES to well-being, via the GMI was .07, SE = .02, z = 3.71, p < .001, 95% CI [03, .10].

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Wayment, H.A., Bauer, J.J. The Quiet Ego: Motives for Self-Other Balance and Growth in Relation to Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 19, 881–896 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9848-z

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Keywords

  • Quiet ego
  • Values
  • Growth motivation, ecosystem and ecosystem goals
  • Well-being