By Donald J. Scandell & Donald Scandell (1998).
Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 13(4), 579-593.
The purpose of this study was to examine the personality correlates of private and public self-consciousness from a Five-Factor perspective, comparing the results obtained using simple as opposed to partial correlational techniques. Previous research has not controlled for the significant inter-correlation between public and private self-consciousness. This may have produced spurious results. Research participants completed the Self-consciousness Scale (Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975) and the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Both simple and partial correlation revealed a significant relationship between public self-consciousness and Neuroticism. Private self-consciousness was significantly correlated with Neuroticism, Openness and Agreeableness (negatively). However, when the effect of public self-consciousness was controlled through partial correlation, the relationship between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism was nonsignificant. This suggests the relationship between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism is spurious.
Self-consciousness refers to the stable internal dispositional tendency to focus attention on the self. This attentional process can be directed either toward public or private aspects of the self. Public self-consciousness refers to attending to oneself as a social object, concern with how others view the self, and the impression that one makes on others (Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975; Scheier, Buss, & Buss, 1978). Private self-consciousness refers to attending to one's thoughts, feelings and motives, and the inner unshared part of the self.
Attending to private as opposed to public aspects of the self has implications in terms of the processing of self-relevant information and the development of self-schemata. For instance, Nasby (1989) obtained results suggesting that private and public self-consciousness were related to the extent of development of private and public self-schemata, respectively. Also, individuals high in private self-consciousness were more likely to reject false information about the self (Davies, 1994); and had a greater need to obtain information about themselves than a need to protect their self-esteem (Franzoi, Davis, & Markwiese, 1990).
A number of studies have suggested that individuals high in public self-consciousness are concerned with how they were perceived by others. High publics, for example, were more likely to exhibit compliance with group pressure to give incorrect answers on a perceptual rating task (Froming & Carver, 1981); were more sensitive to interpersonal rejection (Fenigstein, 1979); were more concerned about their physical appearance to others (Miller & Cox, 1982); were more likely to adapt their behavior in order to conform to the expectations of a partner, and were more anxious concerning being evaluated negatively by a peer (Doherty & Schlenker, 1991). In general, individuals high in public self-consciousness engage in self-presentational tactics designed to maximize social approval and reduce negative evaluations by others (Doherty & Schlenker, 1991).
However, public self-consciousness is not synonymous with social desirability. In two different samples, Turner, Scheier, Carver, and Ickes (1978) found .06 and .01 correlations between public self-consciousness and the Crowne-Marlowe Social Desirability scale. Froming and Carver (1981) reported a .04 between public self-consciousness and scores on the Crowne-Marlowe scale.
The construct of self-consciousness has also been employed to understand the self-regulation of behavior. Carver and Scheier (1987) and Nasby (1997) suggested that individuals differentially use private and public standards to guide behavior. Individuals high in public self-consciousness attempt to match behavior to public standards, while individuals high in private self-consciousness self-regulate behavior based upon private standards (Froming & Carver, 1981).
The personality structures associated with that self-focusing process have not been examined adequately. Understanding the personality correlates of self-consciousness would help clarify the relationship between how one processes information about the self and the resulting personality structure. For instance, is the process of habitually attending to the private parts of self related to the development of specific traits?
Table 1 provides a summary of the results concerning the personality correlates of self-consciousness. Although some studies were not specifically designed to examine the personality correlates of self-consciousness, they were included in Table 1 if the methodology included administration of the Self-consciousness Scale (Fenigstein et al., 1975) and an objective personality inventory. Due to the number of studies included, and the wide range of tests employed, the results of individual studies will not be discussed except in summary form.
Public self-consciousness has been found to be related to a number of personality traits including shame and neuroticism (Darvill, Johnson, & Danko, 1992; Pilkonis, 1977), thoughtfulness (Turner, Scheier, Carver, & Ickes, 1978), emotionality (Carver & Glass, 1976; Davies, 1982), sociability (Carver & Glass, 1976), conscientiousness, apprehension, and tension (Davies, 1982), trait anxiety (Dickstein, Wang, & Whitaker, 1981), empathetic concern, personal distress, and fantasy (Davis & Franzoi, 1991), anxiety, conformity, orthodoxy, affiliation, social recognition, exhibition, and affective intensity (Tunnell, 1984). Also, significant negative correlations have been found between public self-consciousness and emotional stability, energy level, tolerance, risk taking, innovation, autonomy and achievement (Tunnell, 1984).
Private self-consciousness has been significantly related to psychoticism (Darvill et al. 1992), thoughtfulness, imagery and emotionality (Turner et al., 1978), neuroticism (Pilkonis, 1977) investigative and artistic interests (Carson & Mowsesian, 1993), state (Wells, 1985) and trait anxiety (Dickstein et al., 1981; Wells, 1985), field independence (Davies, 1984), aggressiveness (Workman & Beer, 1992), affective intensity (Flett, Boase, McAndrew, Blankstein & Pliner, 1986), psychological mindedness (Trudeau & Reich, 1995) and emotionality (Davies, 1982). Significant negative relationships have been obtained between private self-consciousness and a naive positive self-presentation style (Darvill et al., 1992).
The research findings concerning the personality correlates of self-consciousness are difficult to interpret for several reasons. First, there is the problem associated with spurious correlations caused by the significant inter-correlation between public and private self-consciousness. Private and public self-consciousness have generally been found to be correlated in the .30-.39 range (Davies, 1982, 1984; Carver & Glass, 1976; Scheier & Carver, 1985; Turner et al., 1978). Since none of the studies included in Table 1 employed techniques that controlled for the inter-correlation between public and private self-consciousness, it is not possible to determine unique variance.
In a number of studies, public and private self-consciousness have been found to be significantly correlated to the same variables. For instance, both public and private self-consciousness were found to be significantly correlated with thoughtfulness (Turner et al. 1978), neuroticism (Pilkonis, 1977), emotionality (Davies, 1982; Turner et al. 1978), trait anxiety (Dickstein et al. 1981), affective intensity (Flett et al., 1986), and personal distress and fantasy (Davis & Franzoi, 1991). Partial correlation or multiple regression techniques would provide a mechanism to control for the confounding of public and private self-consciousness. A comparison of results obtained from partial and simple correlation was chosen since it is considered the approach most suitable to detecting spurious relationships (Reid & Smith, 1989).
A second problem with the literature investigating the personality correlates of self-consciousness is that a wide array of personality tests have been employed, making the integration and comparison of results cumbersome. Some framework which can integrate the results concerning personality correlates would be helpful. Although not without dissenting viewpoints, proponents of the Five-Factor Model of personality have argued for its comprehensiveness (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Goldberg, 1993; John, 1990; McCrae, 1991). Developed from a factor analytic tradition (Fiske, 1949; McCrae & Costa, 1985; Norman, 1963), the Five-Factor Model posits that personality can best be described in terms of the interaction of five traits: Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. The debate concerning the relative merits versus weakness of the Five-Factor Model is beyond the scope of this paper, however, it is evident that a considerable amount of personality research is currently being conducted using the Five-Factor framework. Moreover, the test developers have made efforts to understand the relationship between the Five-Factor model and others systems of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
The purpose of this study was to examine the personality correlates
of self-consciousness from a Five-Factor perspective, comparing the results
obtained from simple and partial correlation procedures in order to detect
potentially spurious relationships.
Research participants (84 women and 27 men) were recruited from undergraduate class at a University located in the northeastern United States. As an inducement for their voluntary participation, participants were paid $5.00. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 49 years. The mean age was 20.5 years, the median was 20.0 years, the mode was 18.0 years. Eighty-nine percent of the sample were between 18 and 22 years old.
All participants were asked to complete the Self-consciousness Scale, the NEO-Five Factor Inventory, and a brief demographic questionnaire.
The Self-consciousness Scale (SCS, Feningstein et al., 1975) is a 23-item inventory designed to measure the dispositional tendency to focus on the self. Participants respond to each statement on a 0 (extremely uncharacteristic) to 4 (extremely characteristic) scale. Factor analysis by Feningstein et al. (1975) suggests the Self-consciousness Scale is composed of three subscales: private self-consciousness (10 items), public self-consciousness (7 items) and social anxiety (6 items). Although there has been a debate in the literature concerning the factor structure of the Self-consciousness Scale (Anderson, Bohon, & Berrigan, 1996; Burnkrant & Page, 1984; Mittal & Balasubramanian, 1987; Piliavin & Charng, 1988), the factor structure obtained by Feningstein and his associates has been replicated by other authors (Bernstein, Teng, & Garbin, 1986; Britt, 1992; Scheier & Carver, 1985). Additionally, translations for use with Spanish (Banos, Belloch, & Perpina, 1990), Italian (Comunian, 1994), Brazilian (Teixeira & Gomes, 1995), Dutch (Vleeming & Engelse, 1981), German (Heinemann, 1979), Swedish (Nystedt & Smari, 1989) and Chinese (Shek, 1994) populations have generally supported the three factor solution identified by Feningstein et al. (1975).
Previous research has documented predictive, concurrent, discriminant, and construct validity for the scale (Carver & Glass, 1976; Carver & Scheier, 1978; Davies, 1982, 1984; Franzoi, 1983; Froming & Carver, 1981; Scheier et al., 1978; Turner, 1978). Adequate reliability has been established. The test-retest correlation for private and public self-consciousness, respectively, were .79 and .84 over a two week interval (Fenigstein et al., 1975). Alpha levels have ranged from .63 to .75 for private self-consciousness, from .76 to .84 for public self-consciousness, and from .68 to .79 for social anxiety (Anderson et al, 1996,; Bernstein et al., 1986; Britt, 1992, Scheier & Carver, 1985).
The NEO-Five Factor Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1992) is a brief 60-item version of the NEO-PI-R. As with the NEO-PI-R, the NEO-Five Factor Inventory is a measure of the Five-Factor Model of personality and yields scores on the following domains: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Each item on the test is scored on a five-point scale. Internal consistency estimates for the NEO-Five Factor Inventory have been found to range from .68 for Agreeableness to .86 for Neuroticism (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The NEO-Five Factor Inventory is highly correlated with the NEO-PI-R, with coefficients ranging from .87 to .92 except for Agreeableness (.77). The NEO-Five Factor Inventory was developed by culling items from the NEO-PI-R that demonstrated the best discriminant and convergent validity (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
During recruitment, potential participants were informed that a study was being conducted validating a new personality inventory with several established ones, and that they would be asked to complete several inventories. All participants completed the measures in the following order: Demographic information, Self-consciousness Scale, and NEO-Five Factor Inventory.
Means and alpha coefficients obtained in the current study for the Self-consciousness Scale were consistent with previous research (private self-consciousness: M = 24.7, SD = 4.7, and alpha = .68; public self-consciousness: M = 18, SD = 4.4, alpha = .75; and social anxiety alpha = .80. Alpha coefficients for the NEO-FFI were as follows: Neuroticism = .82; Extraversion = .76, Openness = .77; Agreeableness = .77; Conscientiousness: alpha = .85).
The correlation between public and private self-consciousness was significant, r = .33, p < .001. Likewise, the correlation between public self-consciousness and social anxiety was significant, r = .39, p = .001. Private self-consciousness and social anxiety were not significantly related (r = -.04, p = .680). Partial correlations between the NEO-FFI domains and private self-consciousness controlled for the effects of public self-consciousness, since private and public self-consciousness were significantly correlated. Partial correlations between NEO-FFI scores and public self-consciousness controlled for the effects of both private self-consciousness and social anxiety, as these were both significantly related to the public self-consciousness.
Table 2 presents the zero-order and partial correlations between the three factors of the Self-consciousness Scale (private self-consciousness, public self-consciousness, social anxiety) and the NEO-Five Factor Inventory. In terms of public self-consciousness, both zero-order correlations (r = .47, p < .001) and partial correlations (r = .28, p < .01) were significantly related to Neuroticism scores, and to no other NEO-Five Factor Inventory personality domains.
The simple correlation between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism was significant (r = .28, p < .01). However, when the effect of public self-consciousness was partialed out, the correlation between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism was no longer significant (r = .14, p > .05), suggesting a spurious relationship.
Both simple and partial correlational techniques found a significant
relationship between private self-consciousness and the domains of Openness
(zero order r = .40, p < .001; partial r =.39, p < .001) and Agreeableness
(zero order r = -.23, p < .05; partial r = -.19, p < .05).
The purpose of this study was to examine the personality correlates of self-consciousness from a Five-Factor perspective, comparing the results obtained using simple and partial correlations. Both procedures support an association between public self-consciousness and Neuroticism. Moreover, the relationship between public self-consciousness and Neuroticism remained significant even when the variance associated with private self-consciousness and social anxiety were statistically controlled through partial correlation. These results are consistent with previous findings supporting a relationship between public self-consciousness and anxiety (Dickstein et al., 1981; Tunnell, 1984), personal distress (Davis & Franzoi, 1991), Neuroticism as measured by the Eysenck Personality Inventory (Pilkonis, 1977) and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-revised (Darvill et al., 1992) and shame (Darvill et al., 1992).
From a Five-Factor perspective, Neuroticism involves the general tendency to experience negative affect such as anxiety, hostility, depression, shame, vulnerability and impulsiveness. Although the direction of causality cannot be determined, the link between public self-consciousness and Neuroticism may have clinical implications. When individuals high in public self-consciousness focus attention on the self, the personality structure on which they focus is characterized by negative emotions and feelings of personal vulnerability. A strategy that may be helpful in working with individuals high on both Neuroticism and public self-consciousness may be to have them direct attention away from the public aspects of self by either focusing on private parts of self or on the environment. Cognitive techniques, such as thought stopping and insertion of more positive self-statements may be helpful.
The simple correlation between private self-consciousness and the NEO-FFI domain of Neuroticism was significant. However, the partial correlation (controlling for public self-consciousness) between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism was nonsignificant. This suggests that the association between private self-consciousness and Neuroticism found here in the simple correlation and elsewhere (Pilkonis, 1977; Davies, 1982; Wells, 1985) is spurious, due to the common variance private self-consciousness shares with public self-consciousness. The current results suggest that the construct of private self-consciousness is not related to the personality trait of Neuroticism.
A significant relationship was found between private self-consciousness and Openness to Experience. This positive association between private self-consciousness and Openness may help to explain and integrate previous results. Private self-consciousness has been found to be related to higher levels of imagery (Turner et al., 1978), psychological mindedness (Trudeau, & Reich, 1995), interests in investigative and artistic occupations (Carson & Mowsesian, 1993), affective intensity (Flett et al., 1986), Psychoticism (Darvill et al., 1992), fantasy (Davis & Franzoi, 1991) and emotionality (Davies, 1982; Turner et al., 1978). All of these traits are theoretically related to the Five-Factor model's domain of Openness. According to Costa and McCrae (1992), individuals high in Openness are imaginative, intellectual curious, enjoy fantasy, have an appreciation for art and beauty, are more focused on internal affective states and tend to experience their emotions more intensely than others. This is not to say that private self-consciousness and Openness are identical, or that Openness can subsume all of the variance associated with private self-consciousness. Rather, there exists a relationship between private self-consciousness and Openness. Previous findings in the literature concerning the personality correlates of private self-consciousness can be organized in terms of the construct of Openness.
Both the simple and partial correlation approaches suggested a relationship between Agreeableness and private self-consciousness, such that higher levels of private self-consciousness are related to lower levels of Agreeableness.
Low levels of Agreeableness have been associated with skepticism, competitiveness, egocentricism and critical thinking (Costa & McCrae, 1992). Although the finding of a relationship between Agreeableness and private self-consciousness was somewhat unexpected, it is consistent with the findings of Workman and Beers (1992), who found an association between private self-consciousness and aggressiveness.
Public and private self-consciousness have been related to the differential processing of self-relevant information (Nasby, 1997; 1989). This differential processing has been interpreted in terms of the self-focusing process, to either private or public parts of the self. The current results suggest that in addition to the focus of attention, the personality traits associated with this self-focusing process should also be considered. Individuals high in public self-consciousness direct their self-focus on a personality structure characterized by negative affectivity and Neuroticism. When privately self-conscious individuals focus attention inward, the structures on which they are focusing are characterized by Openness and Skepticism.
Due to the correlational nature of the results, it is not possible to determine the directionality of the relationship between private self-consciousness and the traits of Openness and Agreeableness, and public self-consciousness and Neuroticism. However, rather than a single direction of causality, it may be more appropriate to consider how structure and process result in self-reinforcing cycles. Specifically, individuals who are publicly self-conscious may tend to experience more negative affect, which in turn creates an increased tendency to focus on the public aspects of self. Similarly, focusing on the private parts of self may lead to the development of higher levels of Openness and lower levels of Agreeableness, and these traits may in turn increase the tendency to focus on the private aspects of self. Future research may explore the relationship between structural aspects of personality (i.e. traits) and the dynamics of the self-focus process.
Future research should use the NEO-PI-R to examine the relationship between public self-consciousness and the facets of Neuroticism, and private self-consciousness and the facets of Agreeableness and Openness.
Authors Test Public Private
Darvill et al. DCQ
(1992) EPQ-R Neuroticism Psychoticism,
Turner et al. Guilford-
Paivio ns higher imagery
Carver & Glass EASI
Harder et al. PFQ2
(1993) PFQ2 Guilt ns ns
Pilkonis (1977) EPI Neuroticism Neuroticism
Davies (1982) 16
Females = Artistic
Mikawa et al. Rotter
(1986) Levenson ns ns
STAI trait anxiety
Davies (1984) Embedded-
Rod & Frame ns Field Independent
Advanced ns ns
Flett et al.
(1986) Intensity significant
Tunnell (1984) JPI
(-) risk taking
PRF affiliation N/I
Nasby (1989) PRF ns ns
Zaks & ns
Beers (1992) Walters'
Reich (1995) logical Minded
Davis & Franzoi IRI
Empathetic Perspective Taking
Personal Personal Distress
Note: Personality traits listed under Private and Public headings refers to statistically significant correlates. N/I = scale not included, ns = nonsignificant, DCQ = Dimensions of Conscience Questionnaire, EPQ-R Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised, PQF = Personal Feelings Questionnaire, EPI = Eysenck Personality Inventory, 16 PF = 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire, SCII = Strong Campbell Interest Inventory, JRI = Jackson Personality Inventory, PRF = Personality Research Form, Rotter I-E = Rotter Internal External Locus of Control scale, IRI = Interpersonal Reactivity Index. (-) = negative relationship.
Correlations between NEO-FFI and Self-Consciousness Scale
Legend for Chart:
A - Public, r
B - Public, Partial r
C - Private, r
D - Private, Partial r
E - Social Anxiety, r
F - Social Anxiety, Partial r
D E F
.14 .44[c] .32[c]
-.02 -.32[c] -.35[c]
Openness .08 -.04 .40[c]
.39[c] -.06 .09
-.19[a] .09 .16
.02) -.01 .02
Note: The partial correlation between private self consciousness and the NEO-FFI domain scores controls for the effect of public self consciousness; the partial correlation between public self-consciousness and the NEO-FFI scores controls for private self-consciousness and social anxiety. The partial correlation between social anxiety and the NEO-FFI controls for public self-consciousness.
a p < .01. b p < .001. c p <
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