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No Self to Spare: How the Cognitive Structure of the Self Influences Moral Behavior, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes


People represent knowledge about their self-concept in terms of multiple cognitive structures or self-aspects. “Self-overlap” refers to the extent to which people perceive their various self-aspects as interconnected, such that their thoughts and feelings about themselves are similar across these self-aspects. The present research shows self-overlap influences moral behavior. Specifically, people high in self-overlap (interconnected self-aspects) are more likely to behave ethically than people low in overlap (independent self-aspects), because they tend to see their actions as “self-diagnostic” (i.e., representative of the type of person they are). In six studies, we find this pattern of behavior for chronic/measured (Studies 1 and 2) and situational/manipulated self-overlap (Studies 3 – 6). We show that people low in self-overlap behave as though they have “no self to spare”—unless their actions are presented as non-diagnostic for inferences about the self (Study 5), or unless they do not value the context-relevant moral characteristic (e.g., being altruistic; Study 6). Finally, we introduce a 7-item measure of perceptions of self-diagnosticity (SDS).




Rima Toure-Tillery, Alysson Light

Date Published



Toure-Tillery, Rima, and Alysson Light. 2018. No Self to Spare: How the Cognitive Structure of the Self Influences Moral Behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.: 48-64.


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