Date of Award

8-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Lowell Gaertner

Committee Members

James K. McNulty, Michael Olson, Russel Zaretski

Abstract

The present study prospectively examines factors that affect whether self-enhancement exerts favorable or unfavorable effects on both psychological and physical well-being in a context that is less controllable than other contexts in which self-enhancement has been examined (e.g., academic performance), an at risk population of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients. In particular, the present study (a) examines whether self-enhancement differentially predicts psychological and physical well-being when self-enhancement is related or unrelated to the well-being outcomes, and (b) whether self-enhancement interacts with severity of circumstances (i.e., course of MS) to predict psychological and physical well-being, as suggested by O’Mara, McNulty, & Karney (2011). In addition to the baseline assessment, participants completed measures of self-enhancement (outcome-related and outcome-unrelated), and psychological and physical well-being every 30 days for 90 days, for a total of four assessments. The pattern of findings suggests that in less controllable contexts, self-enhancement is a doubled-edged sword. Outcome-related self-enhancement was trending towards a positive, cross-sectionally association with physical well-being, and a measure of prior outcome-unrelated self-enhancement (collectivistic tactical self-enhancement) was positively associated with subsequent physical well-being only for individuals with less severe MS. Further, prior outcome-related self-enhancement was associated with better subsequent psychological well-being but worse subsequent physical well-being, and although prior collectivistic tactical self-enhancement is associated with favorable subsequent physical well-being for individuals with less severe MS, it is also associated unfavorable psychological well-being regardless of MS severity. The discussion addresses the contributions of the present study to the literature, strengths and limitations of the present study, and directions for future research.

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