The fantasy, ideal, and ought selves: Content, relationships to mental health, and functions

Jane Bybee, Suniya Luthar, Edward Zigler, Rolande Merisca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The present study explored the fantasy self, a previously neglected construct, and complemented work documenting maladaptive mental health correlates of actual-ought discrepancy by tying the ought self to prosocial and achievement-oriented behaviors. To distinguish and identify defining aspects of the fantasy, ideal, and ought selves, content analyses were used in Study 1 to examine 81 participants' possible self-descriptions. In Study 2, personality and behavioral correlates of each self-image type were identified using peer and self reports from 74 participants. The fantasy self contained desires for celebrity, wealth, power, travel, and magical abilities. Those preoccupied with their fantasy self were antisocial and nonconformists, scoring low on conscientiousness, social competence, and academic performance. The ideal self-image contained self-centered aspirations (e.g., career success, autonomy, popularity, intelligence). Participants' preoccupation with their ideal self was correlated with anxiety, self-consciousness, and vulnerability. The ought self contained desires to be caring, honest, hard-working, responsible, and ethical. Individuals preoccupied with these obligations were more altruistic, warm, and achievement-oriented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-53
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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