Four studies tested whether uncertainty about the self-concept can motivate people, particularly individualists who define themselves in terms of their personal traits and characteristics, to perceive their material possessions as extensions of themselves (i.e., as self-expressive). In Study 1, European American participants rated their favorite pair of blue jeans as more self-expressive after being induced to feel self-uncertain, whereas Asian American participants did not. In Study 2, participants who scored high on a measure of individualism rated their cars as more self-expressive following a self-uncertainty manipulation. In Study 3, individualists (but not collectivists) rated their favorite possessions as more self-expressive after being subject to self-uncertainty; a manipulation of self-irrelevant uncertainty did not produce these results. In Study 4, thinking about a self-expressive (relative to utilitarian) possession bolstered self-certainty among individualists, but not collectivists. Implications for research on culture, the self-concept, and possessions are discussed.
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