College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Second Advisor

Kimberly Quinn, PhD

Third Advisor

Shelly Rauvola, PhD


course of this dissertation, I introduce the idea of the true self construct as a personalized route to individual meaning and stability at a time in history when external direction regarding values and purpose is in decline. Setting aside the question of the ontological status of the true self, I emphasize that beliefs about and representations of the true self have distinctive psychological impact and cite research supporting this assertion. I then review evidence of the aptness of such true self-orientations in supporting well-being, fulfillment of basic psychological needs, and resilience against threat. Across two studies, I investigated the effectiveness of connecting with one’s true self-orientations for defending against three levels of personal morality threat severity. Compelling support arose for well-being being positively related to participants’ belief in having a true self. Evidence consistently suggested this to be the case across threat severity, but moderate evidence also supported the possibility that true self-orientations are ineffective against strong threat (Study 1). Participants highly preferred to engage with their true self-concepts across threat condition, and in doing so reported significantly higher subjective vitality than those who explored self-flexibility. Other well-being outcomes were unaffected by threat and connection to different self-conceptualizations (Study 2). I then consider theoretical implications and propose multiple pathways for fruitful future exploration. In particular, trait-level true self-orientations seem most effective for predicting well-being, and people may need additional guidance to effectively utilize their true self-orientations for active coping support.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons