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Actual Self

Definition of the Actual Self

The term actual self was introduced by Tory Higgins in 1987, as part of his self-discrepancy theory. From this perspective, the actual self is a cognitive structure (cognitive schemata, or representation) that contains all attributes that a person believes that are self-descriptive. These self-descriptive attributes are not necessarily issued by the owner of the actual self; they also can be issued by other people. For example, if I believe that I am a punctual person, then punctuality is part of my actual self. Similarly, if my colleagues describe me as being punctual and I am aware of this description, then punctuality is an attribute contained in my actual self. In conclusion, the actual self is a cognitive structure (or schemata, or representation) that includes all self-describing attributes that a person is aware of, regardless whether these characteristics resulted from self-evaluations or evaluations provided by others.

Similar Terms: the True Self


  • Cognitive Structure
  • Negative Information
  • Individualistic Culture
  • Online Interaction
  • External Contingency

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Correspondence to Laurențiu P. Maricuțoiu .

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Măroiu, C., Maricuțoiu, L.P. (2017). Actual Self. In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

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