Beliefs About the Causal Structure of the Self-Concept Determine Which Changes Disrupt Personal Identity
40 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2016
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: Suggested Citation