Temporal differences in trait self-ascription: When the self is seen as an other

Emily Pronin, Lee Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Seven studies exploring people's tendency to make observer-like attributions about their past and future selves are presented. Studies 1 and 2 showed temporal differences in trait assessments that paralleled the classic actor-observer difference. Study 3 provided evidence against a motivational account of these differences. Studies 4-7 explored underlying mechanisms involving differences in the focus of attention of the sort linked to the classic actor-observer difference. In Study 4, people perceived past and future selves from a more observer-like perspective than present selves. In Studies 5 and 6, manipulating attention to internal states (vs. observable behavior) of past and future selves led people to ascribe fewer traits to those selves. Study 7 showed an inverse relationship for past and present selves between observer-like visual focus and salience of internal information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Actor-observer
  • Introspection
  • Self-perception
  • Temporal distance
  • Visual perspective


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