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Self & identity
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Self expansionis the desire of expanding the self is a central human motivation which serves to increase one’s potential efficacy to achieve goals by acquiring social and material resources, perspectives, and identities (Aron et al., 1991).

Another usage relates to the expansion of the self-concepts and people’s potential to act effectively by incorporating new self-related beliefs of themselves (Gardner et al., 2002).

Cognitive mechanism in close relationshipEdit

Much of the researches on self-expansion have focused on the impact of close relationship on cognitive contents of self.

It has been proposed that people store information about relationship partners in the form of relational schemas (Baldwin, 1992). They include “an interpersonal script for the interaction pattern, a self-schema of how self is experienced in that interpersonal situation, and a schema for the other person in the interaction” (Baldwin, 1992, p. 461). In other words, cues that bring a particular partner to mind would activate the mental representations of self and the other as well as the corresponding aspects of self-knowledge within the schema (Ogilvie & Ashmore, 1991). As a result, self-expansion is beneficial by fitting in new features of resources, perspectives, characteristics of close others into their own self-concept.

Experiments demonstrated that cognition representations of the self and close others can be linked (Aron et al., 1991). This connectionist network also explains that representations of self and close others have many stronger links, whereas representations of more distant others are fewer and weaker (Smith, Coats, & Walling, 1999). In fact, even outsiders would link mental representations of two persons who have close relationship with each other (Sedikides, Olsen & Reis, 1993).

Role played in Attraction theoriesEdit

Other studies show that this self-related motive also played a role in human attraction. For example, “Falling in love” leads to changes in content and organization of self-concept, and an increase in self-esteem and self-efficacy (Aron, Paris, & Aron, 1995).

Another implication of the motivational aspect of the model has generated many studies that suggested the affectively positive nature of self-expanding behaviours (e.g. Aron et al., 2000). Couples who performed novel, arousing self-expanding activities have more satisfying relationship as they feel more connected to with their partners (Aron et al., 2000). That is, apart from the desire to be expanded to achieve higher potential efficacy, there is a key motivation in experiencing the expanding process. Despite this, the positive emotions associated with the fast self-expansion early in the relationship would diminish over time (Leary, 2007), which might somewhat link to the gradual decline in long-term relationship satisfaction.

Furthermore, quite ironically speaking, self-expansion seems to provide motivation for entering new relationships (Aron & Aron, 1997). Findings of the two longitudinal studies done by Aron, Paris and Aron (1995) suggested that entering into a new relationship increase the diversity of spontaneous self-concept and perceived self-efficacy.

Include other in the selfEdit

The model of self-expansion is based on the notion to “include others in the self”, an idea posited by Aron and Aron (1986) that involves the extent to which one’s self overlaps with the partner’s self, and in so doing, people’s sense of self can become broadened to include others. It has been argued that this process of “inclusion of other in the self” has to be regarded as complementary but distinctive from that of self-expansion. To be more precise, the chance to expand the self by including another in the self acts as the major motivation for forming a relationship, whereas the experience of rapid self-expansion provide the major motivation to maintain and deepen that particular relationship (Lewandowski, Aron, Bassis, & Kunak, 2006).

One of its implications is that people enter and maintain relationship (Aron & Aron, 1986) because one can expand the self and gain access to more resources and perspectives by including the partner in the self. In this context, one might imply that greater attractiveness would be found between those with different interests, or greater perceived dissimilarity, than one’s own, especially in the early stages of relationship development. It was supported by Amodio and Showers’ prediction (2005) that lower similarity allows maximum self-expansion. The effect is particularly evident under conditions in which a relationship is perceived to be likely, but not in the opposite ambiguous conditions (Aron, Steele & Kashdan, 2002).

Other implicationsEdit

Another method of self-expansion is by identifying with groups (Smith & Henry, 1996). Studies have shown that people who identify highly with their in-groups display more stronger interconnection within their mental representation of oneself and in-group. This provides evidence to people’s self-concept being expanded in order to include the group.

We seek to include groups in the self because doing so increases our confidence that we can meet the demands of our world and achieve goals.[1]| Wright, S.C., Aron, A., & Tropp, L.R. (2002).

Fodor (2009) describes the expansion of the self as a consequence of creating new schemas via Aha-experience (insight).


  1. Wright, S.C., Aron, A., & Tropp, L.R. (2002). “Including others (and groups) in the self: self-expansion and intergroup relations”. In J.P. Forgas, K.D.Williams (Eds.), “The Social Self: Cognitive, Interpersonal, and Intergroup Perspectives”(pp. 350). New York: Psychology Press. 

Further readingEdit

Aron, A. (2003). "The self and close relationship." In M.R. Leary, & J.P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 442-461). New York: Guilford.

Aron, A., & Aron, E. (1986). Love as the expansion of self: Understanding attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere.

Aron A., & Aron, E. N. (1997). Self-expansion motivation and including other in the self. In S. Duck (Ed.), Knowledge handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research and interventions (2nd ed., pp. 251-270). New York: Wiley.

Aron, A., Aron E.N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 241 – 253.

Aron, A., Normon, C.C., Aron, E.N., MscKenna, C., & Heyman, R.E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.

Aron, A., Paris, M., & Aron, E.N. (1995). Falling in love: Prospective studies of self-concept change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1102 – 1112.

Aron, A., Steele, J., & Kashdan, T. (2002). Attraction to others with similar interests as moderated by perceived opportunity for a relationship. Manuscript in preparation.

Baldwin, M.W. (1992). Relational schemas and the processing of social information. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 461-484.

Carmichael, C.L., Tsai, F.F., Smith, S.M, Caprariello, P.A., & Reis, H.T. (2007). "The self and intimate relationship." In C. Sedikides, & S.J. Spencer (Eds.), The Self (pp. 285-309). New York: Psychology Press.

Fodor M. (2009). Self-expansion. Budapest: Psychology Books.

Gardner, W.L., Gabriel, S., & Hochschild, L. (2002). When you and I are “we”, you are not threatening: the role of self-expansion in social comparison. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 239–51

Leary, M.R. (2007). Motivational and emotional aspects of the self. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 317–44

Lewandowski, G.W., Aron, A., Bassis, S., & Kunak, J. (2006). Losing a self-expanding relationship: Implications for the self-concept. Personal relationship, 13, 317-331.

Ogilvie, D.M., & Ashmore, R. D. (1991). Self-with-other representation as a unit of analysis in self-concept research. In R.C. Curtis (Ed.), The relational self: Theoretical convergences in psychoanalysis and social psychology (pp. 282-314). New York: Gilford.

Sedikides, C., Olsen, N., & Reis, H.T. (1993). Relationships as natural categories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 71-82.

Smith, E.R., Coats, S., & Walling, D. (1999). Overlapping mental representations of self, in-group, and partner: Further responses time evidence and a connectionist model. Journal of Personality and Social Bulletin, 25, 873-882.

Smith, E.R., Henry, S. (1996). An in-group becomes part of the self: response time evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 635–42.

Wright, S.C., Aron, A., & Tropp, L.R. (2002). “Including others (and groups) in the self: self-expansion and intergroup relations”. In J.P. Forgas, K.D.Williams (Eds.), The Social Self: Cognitive, Interpersonal, and Intergroup Perspectives (pp. 350). New York: Psychology Press.

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