Better possible self or better other? Gender affects who is more inspirational
Youngjee Han (Sungkyunkwan University) and Myungwoo Nam (Sungkyunkwan University), 2017, 45(2), 191–204

This article opens with the question “What motivates people to pursue their goals?” That opener hooked me immediately, as it’s a question that has interested me for some time. Most recently it’s something I’ve thought about in a role I have writing health promotion material for a website in New Zealand. What inspires and motivates someone to change their harmful lifestyle behaviors to those that will support their health and well-being?

The authors state that we use ideal standards to motivate us to achieve our goals (or at least reduce the gap between who we are now and who we aspire to be). These standards may be derived internally or externally, depending on our self-construal. In other words, we’re inspired either by the idea of a better possible self (ourselves being fitter/healthier in the future) or by a better other person (someone we know who is achieving the goal of better health and fitness).

So, which works better for whom? The authors found that men, who tend to be independent in their self-construal, are more motivated to achieve goals when they consider a better possible self as their ideal standard, whereas women, who tend to be more interdependent in their self-construal, are more inspired when they contemplate a better other as their comparator.

What does that mean in terms of health promotion? It means having more than one approach. Women need to have inspiring role models to motivate them, whereas men need to be encouraged to see themselves in the future as they wish to be. Now we just need to find ways to do that! 

Julie O'Brien | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal