THE CONGRUENCE OF PAST AND IDEAL
SELF CONCEPTS IN THE AGING MALE
J STEkLING DIMMITT
.1 [*I -ITiiril.:., P, LE iLD TO Ti-F GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
T"E I.'tl.ERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PF.J.FTIL Fi.I.FILI Mi T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DLIftLEE F O.)CTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNi\'ERSIT- OF FLORIDA
u,. n r. 1959
I should like to express my gratitude to my chairman, Dr. Justin
E. Harlow, not only for his assistance with this study, but also for the
encouragement he has given me throughout my doctoral program. In
many ways Dr. Harlow has served to guide me toward professional
identity as a clinical psychologist. For providing me with a model, I
shall always be deeply indebted to him.
I should like also to offer my sincere gratefulness to the other
members of my committee. Dr. Richard J. Anderson gave me gener-
ous help with the statistical operations in this study. And, he gave me
the benefit of his breadth of knowledge and scholarship in the interpre-
tation of the results. Dr. Dorothy A. Rethlingshafer shared with me
her research wisdom, thus allowing me to avoid the pitfalls of an in-
adequate research design and procedure. To Dr. Elmer D. Hinckley,
for replacing a committee member at the last hour of my work, I ex-
press my sincere appreciation. And finally, for the generous support
that Dr, Theodore Landsman has given me during the formulation and
pursuit of my research, I offer my heartfelt thanks.
Dr. Will A. Justiss, Director of the Moosehaven Research Labora-
tory, was very helpfid in arranging for my use of the facilities there. I
am also indebted to the Loyal Order of Moose Fraternity for granting me
iii & k
the privilege of woricing at Moosehaven and using their members as
I should like to acknowledge my debt to Mr. Carroll M. Wright
for his cooperation in allowing me to obtain subjects at the Memorial
Home Community. Miss Ethyl Ml. Neelands, one of the residents at
this community), merits special acknowledgment for her very able
assistance in contacting subjects and setting up testing sessions.
I am particularly grateful to those persons who served as subjects
in this study. Their generosity, interest, and helpfulness will always
In closing I should like ta acknowledge those "behind the scenes. "
My wife, Joan, and my daughter, Michele, are deserving of my highest
praise and gratefulness as they have borne the brunt of rather severe
neglect and have yet reirained sympathetic and understanding during
the long months of this research.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ....................................... vi
I PROBLEM ......................................... 1
II METHOD........................................... 12
HI RESULTS ................. .......................... 23
IV DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ..................... 30
V SUMMARY ............. ............................ 37
APPENDIX .......................... ............................ 42
REFERENCES ................................ ............ 47
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................. 51
LIST OF TABLES
I. t Tests Between Past Self Concept and Ideal Self
Concept Means For Groups E and Cy and Between
Adolescent Self Concept and Ideal Self Concept
leans For Group Ca ................. 25
2. t Test Between the Past-Ideal Self Concept Differ-
ence Score Means of Gote E and Cy . . . .. 27
3. t Teats Between the Adolescent-Ideal Self Concept
Difference Score Mean of Ca and the Past-Ideal
Self Concept Difference Score Means of E and Cy 28
It is a part of the normal life cycle to age. Thus, scientific
inquiry into the process of aging becomes important as it contributes
to our knowledge of life as a whole. Basic research has not been the
greatest impetus for the study of the aging, however. Stimulation has
come principally from social need. With regard to this need three
major factors seem to be prominent determiners. The first of these
is the increased longevity of people due to improved medical and health
practices. The second factor has resulted from the first. Increased
longevity changed the character of our population from one largely com-
posed of the younger and middle ages to one heavily weighted by aging
persons. Social change has produced the third factor. It has become
accepted as a norm of our society that persons of 65 should retire. The
retiree comes from some 40 or more years of work, where the job de-
fined what he did, to a situation of leisure where activities must be
initiated by the person himself. Social problems were a natural conse-
quence of these factors, and science has been enlisted to help with their
Psychology, in no small way, has risen to meet the social need.
Psychologists are contributing to knowledge of the aging through the use
of their special skills in studying learning, motivation, psychomotor
abilities, intelligence, and personality. The area of personality in-
vestigation has been the one which seems to be receiving the major
emphasis at the present time. Most of the research effort with regard
to the personality of the aging has been concentrated on the personal ad-
justment of the aging person. As a case in point, the title "Personal
and Social Adjustment" defined a principal segment of interest at a
recent conference on psychological research in aging (Anderson, 1956).
This orientation seems to stem from the practical need for arriving at a
formula for successful aging.
With regard to most research on the personality of the aging, the
study to be presented here seemed to be less practical in orientation. In
essence, the present study attempted to relate the aging person's involve-
ment with the past to a certain hypothetical level of personality organi-
There are several vantage points from which personality organi-
zation may be studied. Important among these is that one emphasized by
Theorists such as Rogers (1951) and Snygg and Combs (1949). These
Iriste see as significant data the person's own self descriptions. Rog-
*W lOroup, using methodology ensuing from the Q-sort technique of
slipenson and following the implications of Rairny's study (Raimy, 1948)
of Laage in self with sueehsful psychotherapy, has done pioneer research
IO this point of view.
The concepts and research techniques of self theorists and
researchers were depended upon rather heavily in the present study.
This dependency may be clarified by the following history.
Theorizing about the self which is pertinent to psychology be-
gan with William James (1890). His chapter on self in the Principles
is considered a classic in self theory. And rightly so, as every self
theorist following James has been influenced by him either indirectly
James thought of the self as a summation of everything which a
person saw as belonging to him. He distinguished such aspects of the
self as a material self, a social self, a spiritual self, and a pure ego.
The spark of James' self theory failed to kindle a flame, how-
ever, as psychology had turned to the investigation of phenomena that
could better be studied within the rigorous context of scientific method-
ology. The self was not the proper subject matter of the psychology of
the time as it could not be discovered through introspection. Neverthe-
less, the spark continued to glow. Calkins (1900, 1915) fanned it
Sgorously and, with somewhat less vigor, so did Knight Dunlap (1914)
)id the karly social psychologist, James Mark Baldwin (1906).
JMead (1934), gathering strength from the teachings of Cooley,
414d on and contributed to the continuity of self theory during the days of
.#tivioriam. His ideas. ticularly those which concerned the social ori-
of the self, have be .Are influential with regard to recent theory.
In his presidential address to the Eastern Psychological
Association, Gordon Allport (1943) probably did much toward elevating
the station of self as a concept. Although Allport's paper was con-
cerned with ego, some of the meanings that he attributed to this con-
struct are now seen as being the province of the self. A direct result
of Allport's paper was the theorizing of Chein (1944). This theorist,
in his attempt to reconcile some of the conflicting meanings of ego
listed by Allport, distinguished between a self and an ego. He defined
the self as a "content of awareness" around which a "cognitive-motiva-
tional" structure (the ego) was built.
It has actually been within the past decade that the concept of self
has been significantly revived as a productive construct. Outstanding in
this revival have been the contributions of Snygg and Combs (1949) and
Rogers (1951). These self theorists have had an impact not only on
psychology, but also on education, the ministry, medicine, nursing, and
As Hall and Lindzey (1957, p. 468) pointed up in their chapter on
Rogers' theory, the self in its contemporary usage has come to have two
distinct connotations. It can refer to a person's beliefs about himself,
or it can refer to a constellation of psychological processes governing
Recent theory (Rogers, 1951, p. 498) holds that beliefs about one's
self develop from contact with other persons. To use the language of
communication theorists, the self is a product of a person's interpre-
tation of the feedback of his interpersonal behavior. Some theorists,
for example, Jourard (1958, Ch. 9), conceptualize the active agent
which does the interpreting as the ego. Thus, the ego is seen as the
agent which constructs the self. As the individual's behavior in rela-
tion to others is fed back to him, the ego selects and assimilates the
Within the hypothetical structure of the self two constructs that
theorists have found useful are the self concept and the ideal self con-
cept. Snygg and Combs (1949) and Rogers (1951) made much use of
the former. The latter gained impetus through the research of Rogers
and his colleagues (1954). In the present study the self concept, defined
in terms of the data that contribute to it, consists of an individual's
description of the way he is; and the ideal self concept, defined in a like
manner, consists of an individual's description of the way he would like
to be. When looked at in this fashion a certain characteristic of these
constructs stands out. This characteristic is that of temporality. The
self concept is concerned with the present and the ideal self concept with
the future. This was an interesting observation, especially in light of
the relatively recent contributions of existential psychoanalysis (May,
Angel, and Ellenberger, 1958). Existential analysts have been struck
by their clinical finding that the most stirring human experiences, such
as joy, fear, depression, anxiety, occur more significantly in the
dimension of time than that of space. As a consequence they placed
time in the center of the psychological picture. Time was studied not
as an analogy to space (clock time), but as it related to the subjective
time of one's inner experience.
Ellenberger (1958, p. 104) held that the most immediate experi-
ence of time is the "flowing of life. lH said,
Flowing time is automatically structured in the ir:. versaile
sequence of past, present, and future, each of them being
experienced in a basically different way. Present is the
'constantly now'; past is what 'leaves us, although it remains
more or less accessible to memory; future is that toward
which we are going and is more or less open to previewing
Considering the definitions of the self concept and ideal self
concept presented above and the contributions of existential theorists, it
seemed logical to add another construct to the self structure in order to
complete a temporal frame of reference. A past self concept was postu-
la:'.. It was defined by the data that contributed to It as consisting of
the individual's description of the way he used to be. As memory is
significantly involved in the description of one's past, the research con-
tinuity of motivated memory (Meltzer, 1930; Gilbert, 1938; Osgood, 1953)
seemed to be important in connection with this construct.
In an attempt to bring together the preceding information before
going into the actual problem of the present study, the following sum-
mary is presented: the present investigator held with recent theorists
that valid personality data may be derived from the individual's own
self description. As it is conceived in the present study, such data
contribute to our knowledge of one level of personality, namely the
level that Leary (1957) has called "conscious communication. The
hypothetical self structure is seen as the constituent of this level. The
self structure consists of the self concept, the ideal self concept, and
the past self concept. Their most salient characteristic is that of
temporality. These constructs are directly concerned with the indi-
vidual's description of himself in relation to perceived time.
In summarizing the proceedings of a recent national conference
concerned with research planning in aging, Anderson (1956, pp 283-284)
noted that a number of conferees emphasized the need for studies inves-
tigating the self of the aging person. A survey of the literature and of
proposed studies registered with the Bio-Sciences Research Exchange
showed that such an emphasis was indicated as there were found only
four studies which were directly concerned with the self of the older
person. Following is a brief review of these studies.
Through the use of a self concept questionnaire technique, Mason
(1956) found that economic conditions were significant factors in the
feelings of self-worth of the aging person. She studied an indigent, in-
stitutionalized group and a middle class, independent group of aging
persons. A young group was used as a control along the age dimension.
The indigent, institutionalized group had significantly more negative
feelings regarding self-worth than did the independent group. The latter
viewed self-worth more negatively than the young controls.
In a study designed to answer the question, "How do people of
different ages classify themselves with respect to broad age categories?"
Tucknan and Lorge (1954) asked groups of persons varying in ages from
slightly below 20 through the 80's to circle whether they considered
themselves young, middle-aged, or old. Most every respondent below
30 saw himself as young. Less than 1 per cent of those between 30 and
59 classified themselves as old. Up to the age of 59, there was a steady
increase in the percentage of people classifying themselves as middle-
aged and a corresponding decrease in the percentage of "young" classi-
fications. Persons in their sixties and seventies primarily classified
themselves as middle-aged and young. About half of the subjects 80
and over saw themselves as old. The investigators held that their
findings supported the notion that age classification is a function of the
person's self concept. One generalization that seemed appropriate from
this study was that aging people tend to hold on to the picture of themselves
as younger than they actually are for as long as possible.
The third study which touched on the self of the aging person was
directed toward establishing a relationship between anxiety over retire-
ment and the self concept of the aging individual (Walter, 1956). Using
a modified version of the index of Adjustment and Values as a measure
of self concept, and measuring anxiety over retirement with a scale
which was tailored for this study, Walter found that those individuals
who have positive self concepts were not nearly so anxious over im-
pending retirement as those with negative self concepts.
The only study directly relevant to the present investigation was
referred to by Peck (1956, p 53). It was relevant in that the concept
"past self" was used. Peck mentioned a study being done by the Kansas
City Studyl group which was attempting to assess the amount of dis-
crepancy between the aging person's perceived present self and per-
ceived past self. Through personal correspondence with Dr. Bernice
Neugarten (1958), a member of the Kansas City Study team, the present
investigator found that their approach to this assessment took the form
of a single question. They asked aging persons, "How have you changed
most in the past ten years?" Dr. Neugarten stated that the responses
elicited from this question had not been systematically analyzed. It
was her impression, however, that the responses were relatively flat;
that is, they were stereotyped to the point of being uninformative.
Though no research has concerned itself with the problem of the
present study, Haire (1950, p. 55) has made a succinct statement of this
problem. While addressing himself to the topic of the aging in an indus-
trial society, he said,
We base our thinking for the most part on studies and theory
made up from experience with the adolescent and the early
IThe Kansas City Study of Adult Life is being conducted by the
Committee on Human Development of the University of Chicago.
middle aged. What happens to the need for achievement in
older people when the time for achievement is clearly much
Less than formerly? What happens to restriving and the
need for counteraction when the time is so limited? It seems
likely that many of these things which in the young are essen-
tially thoughts of the future, must subside in favor of evalua-
tions of the past, and that one's ego ideal must progressively
become not 'I will be' but 'I have been. '
Though the language vehicles are not the same, Haire's latter
statement was the essence of the basic hypothesis tested in the present
study. The hypothesis was arrived at in the following way.
It is obvious to anyone who has ever considered the matter that
aging persons are profoundly involved with their pasts. And, as it is
very rare indeed to hear an aging person refer to his past in a deroga-
tory way, it would seem that he has idealized his past. Unquestionably,
Hairs was stating this contention. And, the social theorist Parsons
(1954) seemed to be hinting in this direction when he pointed out that
aging persons, in their reaction to our youth-valued culture, tend to
idealize not present day youth but the youth they themselves might have
had. The conceptual language of self theory was ideally suited to the
generating of testable hypotheses concerning these observations.
If it is assumed that the aging person does idealize his past, then,
from the standpoint of his self structure, it would seem to follow that he
might also idealize his past self concept. Should the latter be true, then
it would be expected that the aging person's past self concept would tend
to be congruent with his ideal self concept. This statement conveys the
most significant aspect of the problem that was investigated. Within
the context of the method used to investigate this problem, the major
hypotheses stated formally were: (1) there is no significant difference
between the past and ideal self concepts of aging males and, (2) the
difference between the past and ideal self concepts of aging males is
significantly smaller than the difference between the past and ideal self
concepts of young males.
Several other hypotheses were also tested, but they are most
appropriately brought out and stated in the context of the chapter on
method that follows.
There were three groups of 40 subjects each used in this study.
One of the groups contained young males between the ages of 18 and 35.
The other two groups consisted of aging males who were 65 years of
age or older.
It was not feasible to attempt the drawing of representative
samples of aging men or young men, nor was it possible to select ran-
dom samples of these two age groups. The samples selected were
Certain criteria were used in selecting subjects. For the aging
groups the following were used: (1) male, (2) 65 years old, or older,
(3) neither severely disabled, chronically ill, nor senile, (4) literate,
and (5) neither severely nor moderately emotionally disturbed. Young
subjects were selected on the basis of being: (1) male, (2) between the
ages of 18 and 35, (3) neither severely disabled nor chronically ill, (4)
literate, and (5) neither severely nor moderately emotionally disturbed.
Of the two aging groups one was designated as the experimental
group, symbolized by E. The other was a comparison group, symbolized
by Ca. E consisted of 11 aging persons residing in the usual community
setting and 29 who lived at Moosehaven2 in Orange Park, Florida. The
typical educational level was around the 8th grade; however, there were
several persons in the group who had college degrees, including one
person with aPh. D. and an M.D. Most of the members of the group
were retired, but some were still quite actively engaged in business
and professional work.
All of the aging comparison group (Ca) subjects came from
communities for the aging. Four subjects were from Moosehaven and
the other 36 were from the Memorial Home Community3 of Penney
Farms, Florida. The educational level of Ca was much higher than
that of E--the mode for the former being a college degree. Though all
Ca subjects were residing in a retirement community, many were
carrying on some professional or business activity.
The reader has doubtless noticed that the sample drawn from
the Moosehaven population was not proportional to the sample drawn
from the Memorial Home Community. This biasing came about because
group Ca was added to the design after most of the E group data had al-
ready been collected. Nearly all the potential subjects at Moosehaven
2A community for the aging which is operated and subsidized by
the Loyal Order of Moose fraternity (Kleemeier, 1954).
3The Memorial Home Community was originally a retirement
home for aging ministers; however, about one-fourth of its population
is now made up of lay persons.
had been used, thus the investigator had to turn to the Memorial Home
Community for the major portion of the Ca sample.
Most of the subjects making up the young group (Cy), another
comparison group, were college students. But, there were those in
Cy who were out in the world of work. Of the latter, the educational
level ranged from 10th grade to college degree and the occupational
level from filling station attendant to public relations man for a large
The non-institutional subjects in E were obtained through con-
tact by telephone. They were told of the study and asked to volunteer.
There were no refusals. The Moosehaven constituent of E volunteered
by responding to a notice placed on the institution's bulletin boards.
The four Moosehaven residents used in Ca were obtained in the
same manner as above. The Memorial Home Corrmmunity segment of
Ca was obtained on an individual, personal contact and volunteer basis.
Only three persons out of 40 contacted did not volunteer. One person of
this group decided not to cooperate after coming to the initial experimen-
Thirty-one subjects of Cy were recruited from a University of
Florida fraternity. No fraternity person contacted failed to volunteer.
The remaining nine subjects in this group were also obtained by personal
contact. No one refused.
As it was brought out in Chapter I, principal interest in the
study was directed toward investigating the idea that the past self
concepts of aging males tend to be congruent with their ideal self
concepts. In testing this hypothesis an experimental and two compari-
son groups were used. Their size and general characteristics were
discussed in the preceding section. The rationale for these three
groups was as follows: Group E, the experimental group, provided
the means for testing the hypothesis that there is no significant dif-
ference between past and ideal self concepts of the aging male. A
measure of E subject's past and ideal self concept was obtained. These
measures were compared with each other as a direct test of the hypoth-
The young comparison group Cy was used for two principal
reasons. One reason was that(Cy)served to control for the fact that
past-ideal self concept congruence, as hypothesized in the aging group,
might also occur in a different age group. With regard to this control,
it was hypothesized that there is a significant difference between the
past and ideal self concepts of young males. The second reason was
that Cy could be compared to E with regard to past-ideal self concept
difference scores, thus providing a test of the hypothesis that the
4A past-ideal difference score was obtained by summating the
discrepancies scores of each individual item of the past andklcal self
difference between past and ideal self concepts of aging males is
significantly smaller than the difference between the past and ideal self
concepts of young males.
Obviously, E and Cy subjects looked back on different seg-
ments of their lives when they were requested to produce a past self
concept. An attempt to control for this possible bias was made by
adding another group of aging males. This group.Ca, instead of being
asked to produce a past self concept was requested to describe them-
selves as adolescents. For convenience this production was termed
an "adolescent self concept. It had been determined by pilot work that
the young subjects, for the most part, looked back on the middle adoles-
cent period when asked to give a past self. Therefore, the aging and
young comparison groups looked back on the same period of their lives
in the experiment.
It was expected that the self descriptions obtained from Ca would
not differ significantly from those of Cy. Thus, three additional hypotheses
were generated: (1) that there is a significant difference Detween the
adolescent and ideal self concepts of aging males; (2) that the adolescent-
ideal self concept difference scores of aging males do not differ signifi-
cantly from the past-ideal self concept difference scores of young males;
and (3) that adolescent-Ideal self concept difference scores of Cy group
aging males are significantly larger than the past and ideal self concept
difference scores of E group agin.e males.
The Interpersonal Adjective Check List (LaForge & Suczek,
1955), a check list developed by researchers at the Kaiser Foundation
Psychology Research Project,was used in this study. A copy of the
Interpersonal Adjective Check List (IACL), as it was used, may be
seen in the Appendix.
The IACL was designed to quantify a person's conscious descrip-
tion of himself relative to interpersonal traits. It was tailored to fit
the interpersonal theoretical schema of Leary (1957). However, as
this schema attempts to deal with all the interpersonal aspects of
personality, the IACL is comprehensive and therefore had usefulness
independent of Leary's system. Its value as a measure of self is quite
obvious when it is remembered that the self is seen as a product of an
individual's interpersonal behavior.
The initial source for the items of the IACL was a 334 item check
list which was representative of lists of traits existing in the psychological
literature up to 1950. Over a five year period, during which time the
list went through four revisions, the IACL was administered to several
thousand subjects. The most frequent administration called for a
description of the self. The form which was used in this study is the
fourth revision. It consists of 128 words or phrases. An intensity di-
mension is built into the check list so that there are 16 intensity one
items, 48 intensity two items, 48 intensity three items, and 16 items
having an intensity of four. Intensity one reflects a mild or necessary
amount of the trait; intensity two, a moderate or appropriate amount
of the trait; intensity three, a marked amount of the trait; and inten-
sity four, an extreme amount of the trait. In devising the intensity
ratings for the items, the rule was set up that intensity one words
should be answered "yes" by about 90 per cent of the normative popu-
lation, intensity two by about 67 per cent, intensity three by about 33
per cent, and intensity four by about 10 per cent.
A reliability coefficient of .78 was obtained with the 1ACL on a
sample of 77 females who were retested after a two-week interval. The
validity of this instrument is based upon the judgments of from four to
six psychologists that each item included refers to an important aspect
of self. Further information regarding rationale, construction, and
revisions of this test are available in detail elsewhere (Freedman, Leary,
Ossorio, & Coffee, 1951, pp. 156-159; LaForge & Suczek, 1955; Leary,
1957, pp. 455-463). Examples of the use of the IACL in research may
be seen in the studies of LaForge, Freedman, Leary, Naboisek, and
Coffee (1954) and Leary and Harvey (1956).
Each subject described himself by use of the IACL on two
occasions and each session was at least four hours apart. Examina-
tion of the sample IACL in the Appendix will disclose that there are
spaces for two ratings at the left of each item. Prior to beginning
the second rating session, the subject's initial session responses were
removed from the test booklet so that he would not have access to his
initial self descriptions.
Group E and Cy subjects were requested on one occasion to
rate themselves relative to the way they used to be (past self concept).
On another occasion they were requested to rate themselves relative
to the way they would like to be (ideal self concept). Instructions for
past and ideal self concept ratings respectively were as follows:
These words and phrases are to help you describe the way you
used to be. Please respond to them as if you are picturing the
way you were in the past.
Read each word and phrase. Place a check mark in front of the
ones that you feel describe the way you used to be. Leave the
answer spaces blank in front of the words and phrases that are
not descriptive of the way you were.
Look at the example below. This person has found number 1 to
be descriptive of the way he used to be, so he checked it. Num-
ber 2 did not describe his past self, so he left it blank.
These words anC phr.stes are to help you describe the way you
would most like to be. Please respond to them as if you are
picturing your ideal self.
Read each word and phrase. Place a check mark in front of
the ones that you feel describe the way you wish you were.
Leave the answer spaces blank in front of the words and
phrases that are not descriptive of the way you would like to
Look at the example below. This person has found number I
to be descriptive of the way he would like to be, so he checked
it. Number 2 did not describe his ideal self, so he left it
U well behaved
( ) suspicious
Group Ca subjects also had two experimental sessions. During
one session Ca subjects were asked to check the list relative to their
ideal selves. During the second session they were requested to check
the list in relation to the way they now see themselves as having been
as adolescents. Instructions used to obtain the ideal self concept were
the same as those used with the other groups. To obtain the adolescent
self concept, the following were used:
These words and phrases are to help you describe the way you
were as an adolescent. Please respond to them as if you are
picturing yourself as you were around the ages of fifteen or
Read each word and phrase. Place a check mark in front of the
ones that you feel describe the way you were around fifteen or
sixteen. Leave the answer spaces blank in front of the words
and phrases that are not descriptive of the way you were then.
Look at the example below. This person has found number 1
to be descriptive of the way he was as an adolescent, so he
checked it. Number 2 did not describe him at this period, so
he left it blank.
At the beginning of the initial experimental session an attempt
was made to establish rapport with the subjects by talking with them
informally about the study with which they had volunteered to help. At
this time the study was presented to them as one concerned with a per-
son's attitude toward himself. After this "getting acquainted" period
the subject was handed the IACL and an instruction sheet. He was re-
quested to read the instructions. After the subject had finished reading
the instructions, the examiner reviewed them carefully with him. When
the examiner was assured that the subject completely understood the
instructions, he asked the subject to begin checking the list. The
examiner remained close by to clear up any difficulties arising for the
subject during a session. On several occasions during the session the
examiner asked the subject to verbalize what he was doing so that any
failures to maintain the proper temporal set would be detected.
At the second experimental session subjects were oriented to
the task briefly. Then the same procedure as was followed in the first
session was resumed with the only difference being in instruction. At
the end of this final session those who were interested learned the real
nature of the study.
Most of the subjects were tested in small groups of from three
to five persons. However, about one-fifth of the subjects were tested
individually. About two-thirds of Cy were tested as a group. It was
assumed that the young subjects would have far less difficulty in main-
taining the proper sets.
As order of presentation of instructions might have created a
bias, a counterbalanced instruction order was introduced. Approximately
half of the subjects m each group had a task sequence which was the re-
verse of that used with the other half.
The various hypotheses tested in this study were as follows:
1. There is no significant difference between the past and ideal
self concepts of aging males.
2. There is a significant difference between the past and ideal
self concepts of young males.
3. There is a significant difference between the adolescent and
ideal self concepts of aging males.
4. The difference between the past and ideal self concepts of aging
males is significantly smaller than the difference between the
past and ideal self concepts of young males.
5. The adolescent-ideal difference scores of aging males do not
differ significantly from the past-ideal self concept difference
scores of young males.
6. The adolescent-ideal difference scores of the aging comparison
group differ significantly from the past-ideal difference scores
of the experimental group.
As it was pointed out in the preceding chapter, two methods were
employed for obtaining summary scores for each individual. The method
was dictated by the kind of comparison made. In testing hypotheses 1-3
within group comparisons were being made. The method for obtaining
summary scores for these comparisons was a simple addition of the
individual item scores obtained under the different instructions. For
example, in E the individual item scores under the instructions to
produce a past self concept were added for each subject. The individual
item scores for the ideal self concept were also sumnniated. Thus, each
E subject had a summary score for his past self concept and his ideal
self concept. For within-group comparison mean past self concept
and mean ideal self concept measures were used.
The other method for obtaining a summary score was dictated by
the between-group comparison called for in hypotheses 4-6. In testing
these hypotheses, a difference score sumnary technique was needed.
This technique will be elaborated upon later in the present chapter.
To test the hypotheses listed on the preceding page, the t test
for assessing the significance of difference between means was used.
The t formula for independent groups (raw data formula) was the specific
statistical technique employed.
One of the principal hypotheses of this study was that there is no
significant difference between the past and ideal self concepts of aging
males. The data presented in Table I were concerned with this hypothesis.
t Tests Between Past Self Concept and Ideal Self Concept
Means For Groups E and Cy and Between Adolescent Self
Concept and Ideal belf Concept Means For Group Ca
Past or Adolescent Ideal
Group Mean Mean t df p
E 100.07 94.72 1.50 78 ns*
Cy 98.75 85.52 2.22 78 0.05
Ca 79.92 83.35 0.61 78 ns*
It will be noted in Table 1 that the t for the past and ideal self
concept means of E was 1. 50. A t of this magnitude was not significant.
Thus, it was inferred that the difference that did occur between past
and ideal self concept means was dueb chance variability in this
As it was pointed out in the preceding chapter, one reason for
the addition of the young comparison group was to control for the possi-
bility that past-ideal self concept congruence might also occur in younger
males. It was hypothesized that in a young group there would be a statis-
tically significant difference between past and ideal self concepts. This
hypothesis was supported by the data presented in Table 1.
The t for the Cy past and ideal self concept means was 2. 22.
A t of this size was significant at the 0. 05 level of confidence. A
difference as large as that obtained here would occur in less than 5 -
per cent of cases by chance.
It was hypothesized that the aging comparison group, the group
requested to produce adolescent and ideal self concepts, would closely
resemble Cy in certain respects. As with the past and ideal self con-
cepts of the Cy group, it was predicted that Ca would show a statistically
significant difference between adolescent and ideal self concepts. This
prediction was not supported.
As shown in Table 1, the difference between adolescent and
ideal self concept means for Ca yielded a t of 0. 61. A t of this size
would be expected by chance; therefore, it was inferred that the differ-
ence between the adolescent and ideal self concept means of Ca occurred
on the basis of chance variation in this sample.
As it was pointed out earlier in this chapter, hypotheses 4-6
require a difference score summary method. There are several tech-
niques by which a difference score may be extracted from two measures
obtained with the IACL. The most sensitive difference score was derived
by summating the discrepancy scores between individual items of the past
and ideal self concept and adolescent and ideal self concept measures.
This is to say, for example, that item 1 Jndnr past self concept in-
structions was compared with itecn I under ideal self concept instructions.
Any discrepancy between the responses to this item was noted and added
to any discrepancy obtained from the other 127 item comparisons for
each individual subject. The total of these individual item comparison
discrepancies constituted the difference score for the subject. Means
of the difference scores obtained in this manner were utilized in the t
analyses appearing in Tables 2 and 3.
It was expected that past-ideal self concept difference scores of
aging males should be small when compared to past-ideal self concept
difference scores in young males. Table 2 presents data in support of
this hypothesis. That these difference scores were also significantly
different from one another was also supported.
t Test Between the Past-Ideal Self Concept Difference
Score Means of Groups E and Cy
Mean Past-Ideal Difference Score
E Cy t df p
47.22 79.50 4.68 78 0.01
The mean difference score for E was 47. 22-smaller than the
mean for Cy by 32. 28 points. Interpreting the t test between these means,
such a difference would occur less than 1 per cent of the time by
chance. Thus, the difference between theme means was statistically
It was predicted that group Ca should produce difference scores
similar to those of Cy. Thus, mean adolescent-ideal self concept dif-
ference scores should not be significantly different from past-ideal
*elf concept difference scores in group Cy. And, adolescent-ideal
self concept difference scores should be larger and should differ signi-
ficantly from the past-ideal self concept difference scores of E. Table
3 indicates that two of these predictions were verified
t Tests Between the Adolescent-Ideal Self Concept Difference
Score Mean Of Ca and the Past-Ideal Self Concept Difference
Score Means Of E and Cy
Difference Score Mean t df p
E 47.22 2.80 78 0.01
Cy 79.50 2.39 78 0.02
As it was predicted, mean difference scores for Ca were larger
than those of E. And when these mean difference scores were compared
in a t test they yielded a t of 2. 80. A t as large as this would be expected
to occur by chance less than 1 per cent of the time; therefore, the hypoth-
esis that Ca and E mean difference scores would differ significantly from
one another was supported.
A t of 2. 39 was obtained with Ca and Cy mean difference scores.
It would be anticipated that a t of this magnitude would occur less than 2
per cent of the time by chance. Thus, contrary to hypothesis, Ca and
Cy mean difference scores were significantly disparate.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Most pertinent to the principal interest of this study were the
data and statistical operations that either supported or failed to support
the position that aging males of 65 or older tend to idealize their past
self concepts. A logical hypothesis stemming trom this idea was that
there is no significant difference between the past and ideal self con-
cepts of the aging males. Results of a direct test of this hypothesis,
that is, the direct comparison of measures of past and ideal self con-
cepts of aging males, supported it. That there was a statistically
significant difference between these same measures in the young group
also lent support to this hypothesis. Results of the direct adolescent-
ideal self concept comparison in the aging comparison group failed to
conform to expectation. But prior to analysis of the difference score
data, the fact that the aging comparison group showed no statistically
significant difference between adolescent and ideal self concepts was
tentatively interpreted as further support for the major hypothesis. At
this time the interpretation was tendered that idealization of the past
was so strong that the aging person even idealized his adolescence.
This interpretation became suspect when the difference scores were
It was noted that the aging comparison group had a relatively
large mean difference score (see Table 3). It did not seem feasible
that such a difference score, if valid, could go along with another set
of data which seemed to support the idea of no significant difference
between adolescent and ideal self concepts (Table 1). This led to an
examination of the raw data which revealed that direct summations of
scores with the IACL yielded spurious, artificial results. This in-
strument was not built for such a scoring technique, and because it was
used in this way difference effects were obscured. For this reason all
the results presented in Table I were seen as unreliable and were con-
The calculation of difference scores avoided the difficulty men-
tioned. Thus, the data and statistical operations involving difference
scores became the focus of interest (see Tables 2 and 3).
A comparison between the past-ideal self concept mean difference
scores of the aging and young groups revealed that the aging group had a
significantly smaller mean difference score. This finding strongly sup-
ported the notion that aging persons tend to idealize their past self
concept. Further support for this contention was found in the results
presented in Table 3. These findings gave indication of stability of the
results presented in Table 2. As it has been stated previously, the aging
comparison group was put into the design in order to have a control for
the young group. Both of these groups looked back on the same age range
as they described their past; therefore, they should have produced re-
sults which were similar. Such was the case. Like the young comparison
group, the aging comparison group had a significantly larger adolescent-
ideal self concept mean difference score than the past-ideal self concept
mean difference score of the experimental group. And, although there
was a statistically significant disparity between the adolescent-ideal self
concept mean difference score of the aging comparison group and the
pst-ideal mean difference score of the young group, the trend of the
former was definitely away from idealization of the adolescent self concept.
The results of this investigation were accepted as demonstrating
that aging males tend to idealize their past self concepts. Further, this
demonstration showed one aspect of the impact of involvement with the
past on the personality organization of the aging male. These findings
were also seen as supporting the suppozitioni of H.'ire (:50) ar. Parsons
(1954) which were brought out in Chapter I.
It was interesting to speculate why the aging male is so involved
with the past and why he tends to idealize it. The reasons that seemed to
hold up best were those which have to do with social forces. Bateson
(1950, p. 52) has made a pertinent statement regardingg this issue. He
The question of what aging means in psychological terms can only
be answered in terms of the local psychology which determines
what aging means in the particular community concerned . .
Man lives by propositions whose truth depends upon his believing
them. If he believes that : old are no good, weak, stibbbcrn,
whatever terms of abuse he likes to attach to them, then to
a great extent that will become true of the old in the popula-
tion where that is believed, and the old themselves will
believe it and will reinforce the general belief that it is so.
With respect to our "local psychology, Parsons (1954) has
made some cogent observations. He has pointed up the significant
tendency in our society for all age groups to idealize youth, and he has
emphasized that because youth patterns are so important, the negative
status of the aging person is thrown into particularly strong relief.
These observations began to suggest why the older person involves him-
self with the past. A quotation from Dr. Halbert Dunn (1959, p. 7),
who is Chief of Vital Statistics and who is himself in the 70's, seemed
appropriate in terms of tying the observations together. Dr. Dunn, con-
cerning himself with personal dignity of the aging person, said:
With advancing age, personal dignity is usually rudely handled.
On the whole, most of us accommodate to the loss of attractive-
ness which sets in at middle age. This loss is compensated
during those years by our ability to work and our prestige,
which is usually at its peak. Gradually, however, we begin to
lose even these assets. . The crushing blow to human
dignity is to lose the useful and respected roles that were en-
joyed at younger ages. . At retirement, the man loses
his contact with the line of work in which he was qualified. His
knowledge about it becomes 'old fashioned, and soon he finds
himself no longer consulted. In general, the older person is
still respected for what he was but not for what he is. Yet
respect for what one is is the foundation upon which personal
dignity rests. A person must feel that he is useful to those
around him. Personal dignity requires one to live in the
present and for the future, not in the past.
Most experts implied that the younger person is easily able to
find new avenues for gaining respect, but they saw the aging person as
facing a blind alley. May (1958, p. 69) has aaid, "What an individual
seeks to become determines what he remembers of his has been. In
this sense the future determines the past." If the aging person is made
to feel that there is no future for him and that his self respect is tied
up with his past, then the "has been" tends to become the future. Or,
to use the terminology employed in the present study, the past self
concept tends to become the ideal self concept. As a case in point, a
quotation from one of the experimental group subjects is presented.
This man, a 73-year-old former inventor, said, "I have to look back-
wards--to live my life in retrospect. It's like my brother said, 'you
and I have a great future behind us'. "
Under the social conditions that have been emphasized by the
observers presented here, it seemed quite reasonable that the aging
person should turn to the past and idealize it. However, cross-cultural
studies would be needed in order to verify the role of society in this
phenomenon. Lipset (1950, p. 64) has pointed out that rural Ireland
might be an ideal area for cross-cultural comparison with regard to the
aging. Lipset said that adulthood is achieved very late in Ireland due to
the fact that this status is not reached until a man takes over the family
farm. It is not unc -ITmon for a man of 40 or more to be in the status
position of an adolescent in our society. Thus, old age is something to
be looked forward to and to be respected.
The reader has doubtless noticed that no mention has been made
of the aging female. Aging female subjects were purposely left out of
the sample because it was guessed that there would be a sex factor in-
volved in the present study. The aging female does not appear to be
so involved with the past. She, unlike the aging male, usually continues
in the activities that have given her self-respect throughout her life. It
was supposed that she would show significantly less tendency to idealize
her past self concept than the aging male. This conjecture would hold
for the typical woman who is a contemporary of the aging male of the
present study. However, if the typical present generation woman depends
upon her extra-domestic occupation for self-esteem, then possibly she
will also tend to idealize her past when she is old.
It was believed that this study contributed to the continuity of
research on negatively motivated memory. Comprehensive reviews of
this research have been presented elsewhere (Meltzer, 1930; Gilbert,
1938; Osgood, 1953). The principal stimulation for the study of the effect
on memory of the unpleasant was the Freudian hypothesis of repression.
According to his hypothesis, events, etc., that produced strong anxiety
would be pushed out of the conscious mind and therefore be unavailable
to memory under ordinary circumstances. The principal difficulty in
testing this hypothesis has been the problem of being assured that the
subject has sufficient anxiety with regard to the test material to be said
to be under negative motivation. Those experiments that have come
closest to this condition (Koch, 1930; Sharpe, 1938) have been inter-
preted as verifying the Freudian hypothesis, It was assumed by the
present investigator that the experimental group subjects were under
sufficient anxiety to be said to be negatively motivated with regard to
admitting unpleasant things about their past. Results indicated that the
past self concept was idealized. This finding was held to be supporting
of the Freudian repression hypothesis.
It would be pure guesswork to say whether the past self concept
has any dynamic significance, or not. Further research is needed to
answer this question. Certainly, results of the present study suggest
that the past self concept tends toward being equal to the ideal self con-
cept in the aging male. If by the use of another self concept measure-
meat the past and ideal self concepts of aging males are shown to be
not significantly different, then it would seem to follow that the past
self concept would have the same relationship to the personal adjustment
of aging males as does the ideal self concept in younger persons (Block
& Thomas, 1955; Butler & Haigh, 1954; Hanlon, Hofstaetter. & O'Conner,
1954; Raymaker, 1956; Turner & Vanderlippe, 1958). That is, the
wider the difference between the past self concept and the (present)
self concept, the poorer the adjustment of the aging male.
The present study was concerned with demonstrating one effect
that profound involvement with the past has on the personality of the
aging male of 65 or older. For the purpose of this investigation, per-
sonality was seen as being multileveled. The level of conscious self-
description was the one dealt with here. The hypothetical organization
ofthis level was a self structure which consists of a self concept, an
ideal self concept, and a past self concept. These constructs were
defined as the subject's description of the way he is, the way he would
like to be, and the way he used to be, respectively.
The major interest of this investigation was to support the ob-
servation that the aging male tends to idealize his past. In terms of
the language vehicles used, this would mean that the aging person tends
to see his past self concept as being close to his ideal self concept.
The Interpersonal Adjective Check List (IACL), developed by
LaForge and Suczek, was selected for use as a measure of the various
aspects of self. This check list consisted of 128 self-referent words or
phrases which were assumed to be adequate in aiding a person to describe
Three groups of 40 males each were used in this study. Two of
these groups were made up of normal aging males. The third group
consisted of normal young males between the ages of 18 and 35. One
of the aging groups was designated the experimental group. From
ilese subjects a past and ideal self concept was obtained. These meas-
ures were compared as a direct test of the hypothesis that there is no
statistically significant difference between past and ideal self concepts
in the aging male. In order to control for the fact that younger males
might also show significant past-ideal congruence, the young group
(referred to as the young comparison group) was utilized. Two more
hypotheses were generated from the addition of the young group. The
first, that there is a statistically significant difference between the
past and ideal self concepts of young males; and second, that past-
ideal self concept difference scores of aging males are significantly
smaller than those of young males. The third group, the aging com-
parison group, was added in order to control for the possible bias
introduced by having the experimental group and young comparison
group look back on different parts of their lives as they produced a
past self concept. In addition to an ideal self concept, this group was
required to produce a description of themselves as adolescents (ado-
lescent self concept), thus looking back on a period of life similar to
that recaptured by the young subjects in their production of a past self
concept. It was predicted that the aging comparison group would produce
self measures of much the same magnitude as the young comparison group.
Thus, it was hypothesized that they would produce self measures Lhat would
not differ significantly from one another. It was also hypothesized
that the aging comparison group would have adolescent-ideal differ-
ence scores which would differ significantly from the past-ideal
difference scores of the young comparison group.
With regard to procedure, each subject described himself by
use of the IACL on two occasions. The experimental group and young
comparison group subjects were requested on one occasion to describe
themselves as they used to be (past self concept). On another occasion
they were requested to describe themselves as they would like to be
(ideal self concept). Subjects of the aging comparison group also had
two sessions. During one session they described their ideal self. At
another time, they described themselves as they were as adolescents
(adolescent self concept).
The various hypotheses were tested by use of the t test for
assessing the significance of difference between means. Results ob-
tained by testing the significance of difference between past and ideal
self concept measures of the experimental group, between past and
ideal self concept measures of the young comparison group, and between
the adolescent and ideal self concept measures of the aging comparison
group, appeared to support the hypothesis that there is no statistically
significant difference between past and ideal self concepts in the aging
male. But it was determined through further analysis and a recheck of
the raw data that these results were unreliable. Under this circum-
stance, these results were rejected.
The difficulties involved in the direct comparison of two aspects
of self concept were avoided when difference scores were calculated. A
comparison between past-ideal self concept mean difference scores of
the aging group and young comparison group indicated that the aging
group had significantly smaller mean difference scores than the young
comparison group. This result strongly supported the hypothesis that
aging males tend to idealize their past self concept.
As it was hypothesized, the aging comparison group produced
mean difference scores that were similar to those of the young comparison
group. Results obtained by comparing the difference scores of the aging
comparison group with those of the experimental group and the young
comparison group gave further support to the notion that aging males
tend to idealize their past self concept.
The results of the present study were accepted as demonstrating
that aging males tend to idealize their past self concept. This demon-
stration was accepted as supporting the observation that aging males
idealize their past.
It was speculated that aging persons are involved with their past
and tend to idealize the past because of two major social factors opera-
tive in this culture. The first is that our culture is youth oriented; that
is, youth is valued very highly in our culture. The second factor is
that aging persons tend to be respected for what they used to be and
not for what they are.
By assuming that the experimental group subjects were strongly
motivated not to admit unpleasantries about their past self, this study
was seen as supporting the hypothesis that unpleasant memories tend
to be repressed.
S ell thought of
S akes a good impression
S ble to give orders
S ble to take care of self
S) n be indifferent to others
S an be strict if necessary
S irm but just
S :an be frank and honest
S) critical of others
) can complain if necessary
S often gloomy
able to doubt others
( frequently disappointed
( ) able to criticize self
( ) apologetic
( ) can be obedient
( ) usually gives in
( ) grateful
( ) admires and imitates others
( ) appreciative
) very anxious to be approved of
( ) cooperative
( ) eager to get along with others
( ) friendly
S) affectionate and understanding
( ) considerate
( ) encourages others
( ) helpful
) hie-hearted annA iinslfish
respected by others
self-reliant and assertive
likes to compete with others
hard-boiled when necessary
stern but fair
straightforward and direct
resents being bossed
hard to impress
touchy and easily hurt
often helped by others
very respectful to authority
accepts advice readily
trusting and eager to please
always pleasant and agreeable
wants everyone to like him
sociable and neighborly
kind and reassuring
tender and soft-hearted
enjoys taking care of others
gives freely of self
( ) always giving advice
( ) acts important
( ) bossy
( ) dominating
( ) boastful
( ) proud and self-satisfied
( ) thinks only of himself
( ) shrewd and calculating
( ) impatient with other's mistakes
( ) self-seeking
( ) outspoken
( ) often unfriendly
( ) bitter
( ) complaining
( ) jealous
( ) slow to forgive a wrong
( ) self-punishing
( ) shy
( ) passive and unaggressive
( ) meek
( ) dependent
( ) wants to be led
( ) lets others make decisions
( ) easily fooled
( ) too easily influenced by friends
( ) will confide in anyone
( ) fond of everyone
( ) likes everybody
( ) forgives anything
( ) oversympathetic
( ) generous to a fault
( ) overprotective of others
( tries to be too successful
S expects everyone to admire him
S manages others
S somewhat snobbish
S egotistical and conceited
S cold ahd unfeeling
S cruel and unkind
S frequently angry
S rebels against everything
S distrusts everybody
S always ashamed of self
S obeys too willingly
S) hardly ever talks back
S clinging vine
S likes to be taken care of
S will believe anyone
( wants everyone's love
agrees with everyone
S friendly all the time
S loves everyone
S too lenient with others
S tries to comfort everyone
S too willing to give to others
S spoils people with kindness
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J. Sterling Dimmitt was born on August 22, 1925 in Sherman,
Texas. He attended Kemper Military School, Texas A. and M., the
University of Colorado, and was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree
by Austin College in May 1948. Another Bachelor of Arts degree was
awarded him by the University of Oklahoma in August 1952. A year
later he received the Master of Science degree from this institution.
Mr. Dimmitt was a teaching fellow (clinician) with the University
of Florida Psychological Clinic from July 1, 1957 through June 30,
1958. On July 1, 1958 he joined the staff of the College of Health Re-
lated Services of the University of Florida as research associate. He
holds this position at present.
Mr. Dimmitt is a member of Psi Chi and Phi Sigma honorary
societies. His professional memberships include the American
Psychological Association and the Florida Psychological Association.
This dissertation was prepared under the direction of the
chairman of the candidate's supervisory committee and has been
approved by all members of that committee. It was submitted to the
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate Council,
and was approved as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
August 8, 1959
Dean, College of Artdtsd
Dean of the Graduate School
Sup visory Committee:
f' ) .. .,