Beliefs About the Causal Structure of the Self-Concept Determine Which Changes Disrupt Personal Identity

40 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016

See all articles by Stephanie Chen

Stephanie Chen

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Oleg Urminsky

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

Personal identity is an important determinant of behavior, yet how people mentally represent their self-concept is not well understood. In the studies reported in this paper, we examine the age-old question of what makes us who we are. We propose a novel approach to identity which suggests that the answer lies in people’s beliefs about how the features of identity (e.g., memories, moral qualities, personality traits) are causally related to each other. Features that are involved in many cause-effect relationships with other features of one’s identity are perceived as more defining to a person’s self-concept. In three experiments, using both measured and manipulated causal centrality, we find support for this approach. For both judgments of one’s self and of others, we find that some features are perceived as more causally central than others and that changes in those more causally central features are believed to be more disruptive to identity.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Stephanie and Urminsky, Oleg and Bartels, Daniel M., Beliefs About the Causal Structure of the Self-Concept Determine Which Changes Disrupt Personal Identity (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2733371 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2733371

Stephanie Chen

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Oleg Urminsky (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Daniel M. Bartels

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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