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Possible Selves

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Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences
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Future selves; Potential selves


A possible self is a potential self derived from self-knowledge, past experiences, social interactions, and cultural context. Possible selves consist of “goals, aspirations, motives, fears, and threats” (Markus and Nurius 1986).


According to Markus and Nurius (1986), possible selves are components of the larger self-concept. Possible selves are cognitively fleshed-out potential versions of an individual that represent the individual’s values, expectations, hopes, goals, and fears (Markus and Nurius 1986). Thus, a possible self is an expression of what an individual wishes to be and what an individual hopes not to become.

Possible Selves

Importantly, Markus and Nurius (1986) suggest that while the past self can influence possible future selves, possible selves are future-oriented schemas of the self.


Possible selves are thought to serve two purposes. First, possible selves motivate individuals into action, to...

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Correspondence to Gabriela Carrasco .

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Carrasco, G. (2020). Possible Selves. In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

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