Possible Selves Psychology

Self-concept is an individual’s theory about oneself. That is the person an individual was in the past, is current, and can possibly be in the future including group memberships and social roles (Dunkel & Kerpelman, 2006). Self concept that is well functioning helps an individual to make sense of the present, assists in positive self feelings preservations, predict the future, and also helps in motivation guidance. According to Dunkel & Kerpelman (2006), the future oriented contents of self concept component have been named possible selves. Dunkel & Kerpelman (2006) explained that possible selves are what an individual believes he/she might become in a more distal or near future, and therefore significant in motivation and goal setting.

King  & Kitchener (1994) pointed out that reflective judgment theories describes reasoning development from adolescents to adulthood. It describes epistemic assumptions changes, and how they affect the development of reflective and critical thinking skills, and other related constructs in adults and young adults, particularly college students. Reflective judgment theory is characterized by seven developmentally related but distinct sets of assumptions about the knowing process, and how it is acquired.  The seven stages are broadly summarized into three levels;

  1. Pre-reflective reasoning– the belief that knowledge is gotten from a figure in authority, or through firsthand observation. The people holding these assumptions have a belief that whatever they know is totally correct. It is from stage one to three
  2. Quasi-reflective reasoning– these people recognizes that knowledge contains uncertainty elements, which they attribute to some information missing, or to the methods of getting the evidence. It is from stage four to five
  3. Reflective reasoning– the people holding these assumptions accept that knowledge cannot have certainty. However, they are bound by it and make judgment which they are certain relatively ad most reasonable based on their available data evaluation. It is from stages six to seven (King & Kitchener, 1994).

Application of the theories in encouraging a student who dismisses the value of education

As Dunkel & Kerpelman (2006) asserted, possible selves’ theory focuses on the future and allows for malleability, self improvement and personal growth. Because possible selves according to Dunkel & Kerpelman (2006) provide both positive images of an individual’s self attaining of the future goals and the negative images of an individual self failing to realize the goals. The student can be encouraged to focus on the future, because through possible selves he will improve his well being and be optimistic about the future. The student may be dismissing the education value now, an indication that may be things are not going well at current, but a promise of change is suggested by possible self. Through possible self, the student can improve his ability to self regulate and to self control because it will help him focus on his future goals and reduce the distractions that influence him to dismiss education value at now. The student should also adopt school focused possible selves to have success in his academic attainment including his immediate ones such as passing his end term exams.

Certainly the student may be at the pre-reflective thinking stage of the reflective judgment model. The student may be pessimistic about education simply because he has not focused on what to be in future, or he has not analyzed the available evidence of the value of education. Therefore, the student should focus and think reflectively. He should seek knowledge from different sources, evaluate the evidence available across broad contexts and also seek the opinion of reputable people. Lastly, the student should compare his beliefs and compare the available evidence and opinions across different contexts and he will change his perception of the value of education (King & Kitchener, 1994).








Dunkel, C., & Kerpelman, J. (2006). Possible selves: Theory, research and applications. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.




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