"On being American Indian: Current and possible selves"

Fryberg, S. A. & Markus, H. R. (2003). On being American Indian: Current and possible selves. Journal of Self and Identity, 2, 325-344.


Three studies using different methods (spontaneous self-descriptions, possible selves, and endorsement of independence/interdependence) examined American Indian (AI) and European American (EA) self-understanding at three age levels (Junior High—6–8th grade, High School—9–12th grade, and University). AI, in comparison to EA, generated fewer statements overall, used fewer categories of response, and made reference to fewer positive attributes and abilities. Reflecting a pervasive concern with interdependence, AI were more likely to describe themselves in terms of other-focused actions (e.g., I work hard because others are counting on me) and to endorse interdependence than were EA. However, reflecting a simultaneous concern with some aspects of independence, AI emphasized self-improvement in their self-descriptions, achievement in their possible selves, and strongly endorsed items relating to self-knowledge. AI reported more feared selves related to poverty and deviant behavior than did EA. Both AI and EA High School and University students were more likely to strongly endorse independence than were Junior High school students from both groups. In general, AI independence appears to emphasize individuality, but this concern for self does not preclude a concern for and a connection to others.

People Involved: 
Status of Research: 
Related Fields: