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Hitlin, Steven (2003). Values as the Core of Personal Identity: Drawing Links between Two Theories of Self. Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(2), 118-137.


Personal identity is an underanalyzed level of the self, often regarded erroneously as too idiosyncratic for proper social psychological analysis. The two dominant theories of self, identity theory and social identity theory, mention but rarely explicate the concept of personal identity. In this paper I address this gap by making two moves, one conceptual and one empirical. First, I argue that values are a cohesive force within personal identity. Conceptualizing values as the core of one's personal identity leads toward understanding the cohesion experienced among one's various social identities. In the second, empirical move, I use measures of a key dimension along which values are arrayed (self-enhancement vs. self-transcendence) to illustrate how a values-based conception of personal identity influences the formation of a role identity. Specifically, theoretically relevant values along the self-enhancement/self-transcendence dimension are significant predictors of the volunteer identity, even when previous measures of the identity are controlled. I conclude by discussing the utility of values for studying a level of the self often considered too ideographic for sociological analysis.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Psychology Quarterly


Hitlin, Steven