A test of a triadic conceptualization of future self-identification

Michael T. Bixter, Samantha L. McMichael, Cameron J. Bunker, Robert Mark Adelman, Morris A. Okun, Kevin J. Grimm, Oliver Graudejus, Virginia S.Y. Kwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


People encounter intertemporal decisions every day and often engage in behaviors that are not good for their future. One factor that may explain these decisions is the perception of their distal future self. An emerging body of research suggests that individuals vary in how they perceive their future self and many perceive their future self as a different person. The present research aimed to (1) build on and extend Hershfield's et al. (2011) review of the existing literature and advance the conceptualization of the relationship between the current and future self, (2) extend and develop measures of this relationship, and (3) examine whether and how this relationship predicts intrapsychic and achievement outcomes. The results of the literature review suggested that prior research mostly focused on one or two of the following components: (a) perceived relatedness between the current and future self in terms of similarity and connectedness, (b) vividness in imagining the future self, and (c) degree of positivity felt toward the future self. Additionally, differences in how researchers have labeled the overall construct lead us to propose future self-identification as a new label for the three-component construct. Our research built on existing measures to test the validity of a three-component model of future self-identification. Across three samples of firstyear undergraduates, this research established the psychometric properties of the measure, and then examined the relationships between the components and four outcome domains of interest: (1) psychological well-being (self-esteem, hope), (2) imagination of the future (visual imagery of future events, perceived temporal distance), (3) self-control, and (4) academic performance. We demonstrated that the three components of future self-identification were correlated but independent factors. Additionally, the three components differed in their unique relationships with the outcome domains, demonstrating the utility of measuring all three components of future self-identification when seeking to predict important psychological and behavioral outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0242504
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2020


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