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Possible Selves

Michael F. Hock, Irma F. Brasseur and Donald D. Deshler

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


The term possible selves has been reintroduced to the field of psychology by Hazel Markus, professor of psychology at Stanford University. Markus defined possible selves as, “the ideal selves that we would very much like to become. They are also the selves we could become and the selves we are afraid of becoming” ( Markus & Nurius, 1986 , p. 954). Markus stated that these ideas are motivating and can inspire us to attain goals related to future possible selves. When individuals have clear goals and specific plans for attaining those goals, they become motivated and willing to put forth the effort necessary to fulfill the desired goals. For example, a student who likes video games might have a hoped-for possible self as a highly successful video game programmer. She might be more likely to work hard in her algebra class if she saw the connection between attaining the desired possible self and the skills she would learn in algebra. Markus also reports that individuals work just as hard to avoid possible selves they fear. For example, if a student has a feared possible self of having a job they dislike, he may be motivated to work hard and put forth effort to avoid such a future. Whether the person is working hard to attain or to avoid a possible self, thinking about possible selves can increase a person's motivation to put forth effort to attain specified goals. In short, possible ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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