Interesting read and research: We feel more authentic when we’re with other people and we behave as they expect

This study that I found via BPS digest has a personal interest to me as I’m doing research on authenticity myself. The results as summarized by Chris Jarrett may seem a bit contradictory at first:

The researchers found that feelings of authenticity varied more within individuals than between them – in other words, being true to ourselves appears to be influenced more by who we’re with and what we’re doing, rather than it being a strongly fixed trait. Another finding was that more intense feelings of authenticity correlated with being more open to external influence, and tended to be reported more often when in the company of other people, regardless of whether they were friends, family or coworkers.

In general, feeling authentic tended to go hand in hand with positive psychological emotions and feelings, including better mood, higher energy and the experience of “flow”, whereas the opposite was true for self-alienation. However, self-alienation was not the mirror opposite of authenticity. For example, situations that participants said satisfied their needs for meaning and purpose correlated with more authenticity, but not less self-alienation. In fact, self-alienation, unlike authenticity, was rarely related to specific activities.

This is bluntly said interesting! In one of the papers I submitted for review we state that both conceptions and perceptions play a vital role in thinking about authenticity. This research seems to add another element to the puzzle. Imagine this: we found that the personal ambitions of a youngster plays an important role in how an adult that guides him or her is perceived as authentic. Now, combine this with the view that authenticity is not a given of a person but has a lot to do with the social interaction,  how the other perceives you and his or her expectations.

I’ll be chewing a lot on this the coming weeks, I guess.

Abstract of the study:

We examined the components and situational correlates of state authenticity to clarify the construct’s meaning and improve understanding of authenticity’s attainment. In Study 1, we used the day reconstruction method (participants assessed real-life episodes from ‘yesterday’) and in Study 2 a smartphone app (participants assessed real-life moments taking place ‘just now’) to obtain situation-level ratings of participants’ sense of living authentically, self-alienation, acceptance of external influence, mood, anxiety, energy, ideal-self overlap, self-consciousness, self-esteem, flow, needs satisfaction, and motivation to be ‘real’. Both studies demonstrated that state authentic living does not require rejecting external influence and, further, accepting external influence is not necessarily associated with state self-alienation. In fact, situational acceptance of external influence was more often related to an increased, rather than decreased, sense of authenticity. Both studies also found state authentic living to be associated with greater, and state self-alienation with lesser: positive mood, energy, relaxation, ideal-self overlap, self-esteem, flow, and motivation for realness. Study 2 further revealed that situations prioritizing satisfaction of meaning/purpose in life were associated with increased authentic living and situations prioritizing pleasure/interest satisfaction were associated with decreased self-alienation. State authenticity is best characterized by two related yet independent components: authentic living and (absence of) self-alienation.


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