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2.5: Self-Discrepancy Theory

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Self-Discrepancy Theory

2.5: Self-Discrepancy Theory

One influential perspective on what motivates people's behavior is detailed in Tory Higgin's self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987). He proposed that people hold disagreeing internal representations of themselves that lead to different emotional states.  

According to the self-discrepancy theory, people hold beliefs about what they’re really like—their actual self—as well as what they would ideally like to be—their ideal self—and what they think they should be—their ought self. Ideally, people prefer to close the gap between their actual self and their ideal or ought beliefs. If they fall short, any discrepancies may lead to specific emotional and motivational consequences. For instance, someone who procrastinates likely experiences a discrepancy in their actual and ought selves—they don't complete a task but should be so they feel dissatisfied with their self (Orellana-Damacela, Tindale, & Suarez-Balcazar, 2000).

The theory is applicable to a number of other situations, including making career choices (Tsaousides & Jome, 2008) and understanding mental health (Veale et al., 2016).  

Ego Depletion 

While this term is accurately explained in the video, the concept itself has come under fire due to an inability to reproduce results that were originally published over 20 years ago. As a result, the entire literature surrounding ego depletion has been rendered suspect and should be consumed with caution (Radel, Gruet, & Barzykowski, 2019). 


Suggested Reading


Self-discrepancy Theory Actual Self Ideal Self Ought Self Emotional Consequences Motivational Consequences Promotion Focus Prevention Focus

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