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Journal of Adolescence 2000, 23, 343±354

doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0319, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on

Adolescent egocentrism: a comparison among adolescents


and adults
KRISTINA D. FRANKENBERGER

Reformulation of adolescent egocentrism suggests that personal fable and imaginary


audience ideations extend into adulthood. To test this proposition, adolescents (aged
14±18) and adults (aged 20±89) completed subscales of the adolescent egocentrism,
self-consciousness and interpersonal reactivity scales. An across scale comparison first
ensured that adolescent egocentrism measures were comparable across age. Next,
MANOVAs revealed higher egocentrism scores for adolescents vs. adults (p5 0?05),
but no difference between adolescents and younger (19±30) adults after splitting
adults into younger (19±30), middle (31±59) and older (60+) subgroups. Results
suggest that personal fable and imaginary audience are not confined to adolescence.
# 2000 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents

Introduction

Adolescent egocentrism, a concept first formulated by Elkind (1967), accounts for the
proclivity among adolescents to be self-focused in thought. According to Elkind, adolescent
egocentrism gives rise to two mental constructions, the imaginary audience and the personal
fable. Recognizing that other people think thoughts of their own, adolescents anticipate that
those thoughts will center on them. In this respect, adolescents play to an imaginary
audience, perceiving that others share the adolescents' own self concerns. The personal fable
is a ``story'' in which adolescents convince themselves that their emotions and experiences
are entirely unique. To a certain extent, feelings of uniqueness result in feelings of
immortality or invulnerability.
Elkind's egocentrism is an extension of Piaget's stages of cognitive development. In
Piagetian terms, egocentrism refers to ``a failure to differentiate or distinguish clearly between
one's own point of view and another's'' (Flavell, 1985, p. 124). Some form of egocentrism
occurs at each of Piaget's four stages of cognitive development. Adolescent egocentrism
occurs at the last stage, formal operations, when the child is able to consider abstract and
other hypothetical ideas rather than focusing on concrete evidence. An important element of
formal operations is being able to think about thinking. While this ability frees the child from
object centration (i.e. focusing attention on one interesting or salient object), it produces self
centrationÐa belief that one's own concerns are also the focus of other people's
thoughts.
Although early research on adolescent egocentrism generally supported the theory, later
research failed to link the onset of adolescent egocentrism to formal operational thought
(Lapsley and Murphy, 1985; Lapsley et al., 1989). It was the absence of a developmental link
that impelled Lapsley and his colleagues to rethink adolescent egocentrism. Under Lapsley's

Reprint requests and correspondence should be addressed to Kristina D. Frankenberger, Associate Professor of
Marketing, Western Oregon University, Division of Business and Economics, 345 N. Monmouth Avenue,
Monmouth, Oregon 97361, U.S.A. (E-mail: frankek@wou.edu)

0140-1971/00/030343+12 $3500/0 # 2000 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents
344 K. D. Frankenberger

(Lapsley et al., 1989; Lapsley, 1993) ``new look'' at adolescent egocentrism, Elkind's cognitive
approach is integrated with Blos's (1962) separation±individuation process. This approach
submits that the purpose of the imaginary audience is to allow adolescents to express anxiety
associated with the loss of former dependency on their parents, while the personal fable
provides a coping mechanism to deal with this anxiety by helping adolescents attain
individuationÐthe formation of a new self.
Additional research on adolescent egocentrism is needed. Some experts note a dearth
of empirical research on the subject (Suls, 1989; Keating, 1990) and others doubt its
plausibility. According to Quadrel et al. (1993), ``tests have not supported Elkind's (1967)
claim of a personal fable that is endemic to adolescence, nor of adults being less egocentric
in this regard'' (p. 105). Indeed, Lapsley's (1993) re-examination of adolescent egocentrism
allows that ``the propensity for engaging object relational ideation [i.e. the imaginary
audience] and for constructing personal fables is probably not restricted to adolescence''
(p. 567). This study extends prior research by determining whether egocentrism is endemic
to adolescence, the position originally posed by Elkind, or whether it extends into adulthood
as Lapsley's recent conceptualization suggests.

Hypotheses

Early research on adolescent egocentrism suggests that personal fable and imaginary
audience constructions decline as children reach middle or late adolescence; however, early
empirical results were often inconsistent. Data patterns could follow the expected inverted U
(i.e. peaking at around 12±14 years and declining thereafter), show steady declines, or show
no difference at all across age or grade levels (Buis and Thompson, 1989). Females appear
more prone to egocentric tendencies than males (Elkind and Bowen, 1979; Enright et al.,
1979, 1980), but there is no evidence suggesting that sex differences are dependent on age.
Although research sometimes treats college students in their early twenties as ``late''
adolescents (e.g. Enright et al., 1979, 1980), no research to date specifically investigates what
happens to personal fable and imaginary audience ideations from adolescent to adult. The
lack of research may be due in part to conceptual and methodological comparability problems
that arise when applying adolescent specific theory and constructs to adults. To resolve the
conceptual problem of applying adolescent egocentrism to adults, this study employs
Lapsley's theoretical repositioning of the personal fable and imaginary audience as less
dependent on developmental stages and more the result of intrapsychic and interpersonal
changes (Lapsley and Murphy, 1985; Lapsley, 1993). The revised theory allows the personal
fable and imaginary audience to be important to adolescent identity development, but not
limited to adolescence.
The methodological problem of comparability of scales across adolescent and adult
populations is resolved in this study by comparing measures of adolescent egocentrism to
conceptually similar and dissimilar scales. If adolescent egocentrism scales are related to
conceptually similar measures after accounting for age, then the egocentrism scales are
appropriate for use on adolescent as well as adult populations. Two subscales of the self-
consciousness scale (Fenigstein et al., 1975; Scheier and Carver, 1985), private self-
consciousness and public self-consciousness, are used to make similarity comparisons. These
scales are conceptually similar to adolescent egocentrism but are appropriate for use across a
wide range of ages. An additional level of cross-population scale validity is accrued if
Egocentrism across adolescents and adults 345

theoretically opposed scales are unrelated to egocentrism. For the theoretically opposed
comparison two subscales of the interpersonal reactivity scale (Davis, 1994) representing
concern for others are used: empathy and interpersonal reactivity. Scales are described in the
next section. First, the following hypotheses are made:

1. Personal fable will be positively related to private self-consciousness, and imaginary


audience will be positively related to public self-consciousness.
2. None of the egocentrism nor self-consciousness subscales will be related to
theoretically opposed subscales of interpersonal reactivity.
3. Females will exhibit higher levels of personal fable and imaginary audience than
males. It is assumed that age has no interaction effect with sex that would produce
different levels of egocentrism for males and females at different ages.
4. The personal fable and imaginary audience will decline from adolescence into early
and late adulthood, the assumption being that if egocentrism declines over
adolescence, it should keep declining into adulthood.

Method

Participants and procedure


Survey methodology was used to collect data from 223 adolescents and 131 adults for a total
sample size of 354. Because prior research on adolescent egocentrism has historically used
white middle class samples, participants were drawn from a predominantly white, middle
class neighborhood in a medium sized city in the Pacific Northwest. Adolescents participated
by volunteering to complete the survey during one of their high school health classes. Adults
residing in the same zip code as the high school were contacted by mail. A total of 1000
surveys were mailed. Adult participants completed the survey and returned it in a postage
paid envelope.
Adolescents ranged in age from 14 to 18 (M=15?91, S.D.=1?14) and were nearly equally
split among male and female respondents. Adults ranged in age from 20 to 89 (M=51?11,
S.D.=17?84) and were 73 per cent female. Sex demographics match regional census reports
except for the 19 to 59 age group, which is skewed toward female. This type of bias has been
documented in other surveys, which attracted either female (Gannon, Nothern and Carrol,
1972) or older (Finn et al., 1983) respondents disproportionately.

Instrument
The instrument was a pen and paper survey containing measures of adolescent egocentrism,
self-consciousness, and interpersonal reactivity. Adolescent egocentrism was measured using
the imaginary audience and personal fable subscales developed by Enright et al. (1980). Each
is a five-item, five-point, Likert-type scale anchored by ``not important'' (1) and ``very
important'' (5). Examples of scale items include ``Accepting the fact that others don't know
what it's like being me'' for the personal fable, and ``Trying and being able to figure out if two
people are talking about me when they are looking my way'' for the imaginary audience. A
total score was obtained for each scale by summing the values of the five items in the scale.
346 K. D. Frankenberger

These scales have been used widely in the literature on adolescent egocentrism and have
demonstrated reasonable levels of reliability and validity (Enright et al., 1980).
Two subscales were selected from the revised self-consciousness scale (Scheier and Carver,
1985) to represent concepts parallel to the personal fable and imaginary audience scales. The
private self-consciousness scale measures internal aspects of the self that are not accessible to
others, for example, ``I'm always trying to figure myself out.'' Because it measures thoughts
related to unique feelings and beliefs about the self, it was intended to correspond with the
personal fable. The public self-consciousness scale was selected to coincide with the
imaginary audience, as it measures ``self-aspects which are a matter of public display''
(Scheier and Carver, 1985, p. 687). A representative item is ``I'm concerned about what
other people think of me.'' Respondents indicated the extent to which each scale item was
``Not at all like me'' (0) to ``A lot like me'' (3). Private self-consciousness is a nine item scale,
whereas public self-consciousness is a seven-item scale. Scores were obtained by summing
values across items in each scale. The revised self-consciousness scale has demonstrated good
internal structure and was developed specifically for use on non-college student populations
(Scheier and Carver, 1985).
Two measures representing concern for others were selected from the interpersonal
reactivity scale (Davis, 1994). These included the empathic concern and perspective taking
scales. The measures consist of seven-item, five-point Likert-type scales ranging from ``Does
not describe me well'' (0) to ``Describes me very well'' (4). Representative items include
``Sometimes I don't feel very sorry for other people when they are having problems'' (reverse
score) for empathic concern, and ``I sometimes try to understand my friends better by
imagining how things look from their perspective'' for perspective taking. These scales were
intended to contrast theoretically with the self-concern nature of the egocentrism and self-
consciousness scales and were included for the purpose of examining discriminant validity
among those scales. Davis (1983) reports reliabilities for his interpersonal reactivity subscales
ranging from 0?71 to 0?77 for internal reliability, and 0?62 to 0?71 for test±retest reliability.
The scales also correlate well with other published measures of empathy (Davis, 1983) and
are appropriate for use across adolescent and adult populations (Davis, 1994).

Results

Hypotheses one and two regarding scale comparability across adolescents and adults were
tested by comparing age controlled correlation coefficients for convergence and discrimina-
tion between the scales. This analysis was coupled with a factor analysis of the six subscales.
Multivariate analysis of variance was used to test for the hypothesized age and sex differences
for egocentrism. A Cronbach's alpha level of 0?05 was used for all statistical tests.

Scale comparability across adolescents and adults


Cronbach's alpha coefficients for the adolescent and adult samples are given in Table 1. As
shown, internal consistency is good with alpha values ranging from 0?69 to 0?84. These
scores, which compare favorably to those reported by Enright et al. (1980; egocentrism a
=0?83; self-consciousness a=0?70), indicate that the scales are reliable across populations.
Statistics in Table 2 are presented in a manner similar to Campbell and Fiske's (1959)
method for assessing scale reliability and validity. Table 2 shows the combined group Pearson
correlation coefficients for the six subscales, partialling out the effect of age group
Egocentrism across adolescents and adults 347

Table 1 Coefficient alpha values for adolescent and adult samples


Coefficient alpha
Adolescents Adults Full sample
Variable name No. of items Scale range (n=223) (n=131)
Egocentrism
Personal fable 5 1±5 0?82 0?82 0?83
Imaginary audience 5 1±5 0?74 0?69 0?75
Self-consciousness
Private self-consciousness 9 0±3 0?71 0?73 0?71
Public self-consciousness 7 0±3 0?84 0?81 0?83
Interpersonal reactivity
Empathic concern 7 0±4 0?82 0?72 0?80
Perspective taking 7 0±4 0?74 0?74 0?77
Note: Total score on each measure is the sum of items.

Table 2 Partial correlations (controlling for age) among subscales of egocentrism,


self-consciousness and interpersonal reactivity scales
Egocentrism Self-consciousness Int. reactivity
Measured variables PF IA PrSC PuSC EC PT
Egocentrism
Personal Fable (PF) 0?83
Imaginary Audience (IA) 0?41* 0?75
(319)
Self-consciousness
Private Self-Consciousness (PrSC) 0?48* 0?43* 0?71
(308) (313)
Public Self-Consciousness (PuSC) 0?30* 0?50* 0?58* 0?83
(315) (320) (317)
Interpersonal reactivity
Empathic Concern (EC) 0?16* 0?16* 0?21* 0?17* 0?80
(306) (319) (301) (307)
Perspective Taking (PT) 0?18* 0?03 0?28* 0?12* 0?50* 0?77
(309) (322) (304) (311) (312)
Note: Coefficient alpha values (not controlled for age) are in bold type; sample sizes are in parenthesis under each
correlation coefficient.
*p50?05.

(adolescent/adult). Diagonal values (in bold type) are the full-sample coefficient alpha
values. Because these values represent relationships among items within a subscale they
should be larger than the correlation coefficients, which represent relationships between the
separate and theoretically distinct subscales. This condition holds for all six subscales.
According to hypothesis 1, personal fable should converge with private self-consciousness
and imaginary audience should converge with public self-consciousness. Table 2 results
indicate that the scales converge in the manner predicted. Personal fable shows a moderately
348 K. D. Frankenberger

strong and statistically significant correlation (pr=0?48; p50?05) with private self-
consciousness. A similarly strong and statistically significant relation is reported for the
imaginary audience and public self-consciousness variables (pr=0?50; p50?05). These
relations are further validated by the presence of correlation coefficients lower in value along
the opposite diagonal (i.e. 0?30 and 0?43) which indicate weaker relations among the less
theoretically similar subscales. However, only the difference between correlations for private
self-consciousness and personal fable (pr=0?48) and public self-consciousness and personal
fable (pr=0?30) is statistically significant by Fisher's r to z test (p50?50).
A further test of hypothesis 1 requires within scale convergence to exceed between scale
convergence among the egocentrism and self-consciousness subscales. The personal fable
subscale demonstrated a statistically significant and moderately strong relation with
imaginary audience (pr=0?41). Although this would indicate a moderate degree of validity,
the egocentrism scale's validity is somewhat weakened by higher values for the relations
between the egocentrism and self-consciousness subscales. Convergent validity for the self-
consciousness subscales, however, is quite good at pr=0?58, p50?05. The interpersonal
reactivity subscales, empathic concern and perspective taking, also show good within scale
convergence (pr=0?50, p50?05).
Support for hypothesis 2 is indicated to the extent that theoretically dissimilar scales
diverge from each other. In Table 2, weak relations among the interpersonal reactivity
subscales and the remaining four scales signify the discriminant validity of the scales and
support the prediction made by hypothesis 2. Between scale correlation coefficients are much
lower (ranging from pr=0?12 to pr=0?28) in most cases than among the theoretically related
constructs and all differences between correlation coefficients for theoretically opposed scales
are statistically significant (p50?01, Fisher's r to z). Discriminant validity, therefore, is good
across the six subscales.
A final test of convergence and discrimination was conducted by running a principal
components factor analysis on the subscales. Because the scales were expected to be
correlated, oblique rotation was used. The solution revealed a two-factor structure consistent
with the theoretical relations among the variables, with the egocentrism and self-
consciousness subscales loading together on factor one (eigenvalue=2?39, 40.0% variance

Table 3 Pattern matrix factor loadings for subscales of egocentrism, self-consciousness


and interpersonal reactivity
Factor Loadings
Subscales Factor 1 Factor 2
Egocentrism
Personal fable 0?80
Imaginary audience 0?75
Self-consciousness
Private self-consciousness 0?74
Public self-consciousness 0?72
Interpersonal reactivity
Empathic concern 0?90
Perspective taking 0?84
Note: Factor loadings less than or equal to |0?50| are not shown.
Egocentrism across adolescents and adults 349

explained), and the remaining interpersonal reactivity subscales loading together on factor
two (eigenvalue=1?53, 25?5% variance explained). The oblique solution primary pattern
matrix is given in Table 3. The correlation between factors was r=0?12.
Discussion and summary. Evidence of convergent and discriminant validity among
the scales is necessary before analytic comparisons can be made between adult and
adolescent groups. Except for the somewhat weak internal consistency of adolescent
egocentrism relative to self-consciousness and concern for others (interpersonal reactivity),
the six subscales were related in the ways suggested by hypotheses one and two. In addition,
the correlation coefficients between personal fable and private self-consciousness (pr=0?48),
and between the imaginary audience and public self-consciousness (pr=0?50) exceed those
reported by Enright et al. (1980) for the same subscales (pr=0?25, p50?001 and pr=0?27,
n.s. respectively). The scales were thus considered appropriate for use across age groups and
were next used for testing of hypotheses three and four.

Egocentrism across adolescents and adults


A separate multivariate analysis of variance was conducted for each of the three scales to test
for differences in age and sex among their subscales. Preliminary diagnostics indicated that
multivariate normality assumptions were met, but the homogeneity of variance assumption
was violated by the presence of outliers for egocentrism and interpersonal reactivity. Outliers
were removed from the analyses on these scales, bringing homogeneity of variance in line
with statistical assumptions. Means and standard deviations by age and sex are given in Table
4. Table 5 reports the results of the multivariate and univariate analyses of variance. As
shown in Table 5, there were no statistically significant age by sex interactions for any of the
three analyses. Statistically significant main effects emerged on age for all three scales:
egocentrism F(2, 287)=24?58, p50?001, self-consciousness, F(2, 286)=4.71, p50?01, and
interpersonal reactivity, F(2, 284)=16?19, p50?001. Main effects were also statistically
significant for sex: egocentrism, F(2, 287)=4.85, p50?01, self-consciousness, F(2, 286)
=6.01, p50?01, and interpersonal reactivity, F(2, 284)=26.14, p50?001. Sex, according to
hypothesis 3, was expected to produce higher values on personal fable and imaginary
audience among females. Table 4 means show that results are directionally consistent with

Table 4 Descriptive Statistics: mean scores and standard deviations by age and sex
Age Sex
Adolescent Adult Male Female
M S.D. n M S.D. n M S.D. n M S.D. n
Egocentrism
Personal fable 14?13 4?65 204 12?26 4?35 118 12?70 4?82 119 13?94 4?44 174
Imaginary audience 15?72 4?30 209 12?21 3?48 124 14?20 4?55 124 14?31 4?28 183
Self-consciousness
Private self-consciousness 14?39 4?37 207 14?40 4?18 118 13?53 4?31 122 15?02 4?23 173
Public self-consciousness 12?51 4?62 213 11?46 4?09 121 11?34 4?67 126 12?90 4?36 175
Interpersonal reactivity
Empathic concern 18?61 4?85 194 20?39 3?98 124 16?66 4?50 116 21?09 3?79 180
Perspective taking 14?59 4?77 196 17?98 4?12 124 14?36 5?00 118 17?12 4?42 180
Note: sample sizes vary due to omission of outliers and item non-response.
350 K. D. Frankenberger

Table 5 Multivariate and univariate analyses of variance by age and sex


Multivariate Univariate
F ratio tests df p5 Z2
Age (teen/adult) 24?58 2,287 0?001 0?15
Personal fable 19?71 1,288 0?001 0?06
Imaginary audience 46?60 0?001 0?14
Sex (male/female) 4?85 2,287 0?008 0?03
Personal fable 9?73 1,288 0?002 0?03
Imaginary audience 1?75 0?187 0?01
Age6sex 1?00 0?376 0?00
Age (teen/adult) 4?71 2,286 0?010 0?03
Private self-consciousness 0?06 1,287 0?804 0?00
Public self-consciousness 7?52 0?006 0?03
Sex (male/female) 6?01 2,286 0?003 0?04
Private self-consciousness 6?48 1,287 0?011 0?02
Public self-consciousness 11?17 0?001 0?04
Age6sex 1?08 2,286 0?342 0?01
Age (teen/adult) 16?19 2,284 0?001 0?10
Empathic concern 5?07 1,285 0.025 0.02
Perspective taking 32?44 0?001 0?10
Sex (male/female) 26?14 2,284 0?001 0?16
Empathic concern 52?44 1,285 0?001 0?16
Perspective taking 8?93 0?003 0?03
Age6sex 2?72 2,284 0?067 0?02

this hypothesis, although only the difference for personal fable, M=13?94 female, M=12?70
male, was statistically significant, F(1, 288)=9?73, p50?001. Statistically significant
differences were also present for the remaining four variables, with females scoring higher
for each test.
As predicted by hypothesis 4, personal fable and imaginary audience scores were
significantly higher among adolescents than adults, F(1, 288)=19?71, p50?001, and
F(1, 288)=46?60, p50?001, a result which is consistent with the theory outlined by Elkind
(1967). Adolescent means were M=14?13 for personal fable and M=15?72 for imaginary
audience, compared to adult means of M=12?26 for personal fable and M=12?21 for
imaginary audience. In addition, public self-consciousness, which was strongly related to
imaginary audience in the preceding analysis, showed a mean difference in the expected
direction, F(1, 287)=7?52, p50?01, with adults (M=11?46) scoring lower on this measure
than adolescents (M=12?51). There was no difference between age groups for private self-
consciousness. The two theoretically opposed constructs, empathic concern and perspective
taking, showed the expected differences. Adolescents scored lower on empathic concern
(M=18?61 adolscent, M=20?39 adult), F(1, 285)=5?07, p50?05 and perspective taking
(M=14?59 adolscent, M=17?98 adult), F(1, 285)=32?44, p50?001. The preceding results
suggest that egocentric tendencies decline with age, a finding that is consistent with prior
research using the same scales (e.g. Enright et al., 1979; 1980).
Egocentrism across adolescents and adults 351

To determine whether egocentrism extends into adulthood, additional comparisons were


made by splitting adults into groups ranging in age from 19±30 (younger), 31±59 (middle-
aged) and 60±89 (older). MANOVA results are reported in Table 6. Sheffe' post-hoc
comparisons were used to test for differences among the four (one adolescent and three
adult) subgroups, the expectation being that egocentrism and self-consciousness would
decline with age and interpersonal reactivity would increase with age. Contrasts employed a
reverse Helmert procedure wherein adolescents served as the first comparison group, and
subsequent tests were for the difference from the average of previous groups.
Multivariate tests indicated the presence of statistically significant differences on age for
egocentrism, F(6, 624)=11?73, p50?001, self-consciousness, F(6, 630)=2?96, p50?01, and
interpersonal reactivity, F(6, 608)=6?68, p50?001. Post-hoc comparisons on personal fable
showed declines in means between the middle aged, M=12?18, and older groups, M=10?92,
compared to the average of the younger groups preceding them, M=14?46, F(3, 313)=8?08,
p50?001, but no differences between the adolescent and young adult groups. The same
pattern emerged for imaginary audience means, with M=14?80 for the middle aged and
M=12?11 for the oldest subgroups, F(3, 313)=22?44, p50?001. Where no differences
emerged previously between adolescents and adults for private self-consciousness, the post-
hoc comparison revealed differences in means between adolescents (M=14?35) and young
adults (M=17?45), and between middle aged (M=13?74) and younger adults. The trend
suggests that private self-consciousness peaks in early adulthood and declines thereafter. The
difference between adolescents and adults that emerged previously for public self-
consciousness failed to show a statistically significant trend in the post-hoc comparison.
For empathic concern, post-hoc analysis revealed the expected increase in means between
the adolescent (M=18?61) and young adult (M=20?76) age group, F(3, 305)=4?54,
p50?001, but no differences thereafter. Means for perspective taking rise from the
adolescent group (M=14?65) through the young adult (M=18?23) and middle age groups
(M=18?26), F(3, 305)=13?58, p50?001.

Discussion and summary. There was partial support for the sex differences reported in
previous research, wherein females score higher than males on the measure of personal fable
but not imaginary audience. Age differences between adolescents and adults emerged in the
direction suggested by hypothesis 1, which predicted higher scores for adolescents on the
personal fable and imaginary audience subscales. Post-hoc comparisons support recent theory
on adolescent egocentrism by showing that egocentric tendencies extend into early adult-
hood and may not decline until the middle adult years.

Conclusion
The research reported in this paper makes three important contributions to the study of
adolescent egocentrism. First, it demonstrates that egocentrism scales, which were originally
formulated for use on adolescent populations, are also appropriate for use on adult
populations. Second, it replicates and extends earlier work on adolescence by demonstrating
that egocentric tendencies represented by the personal fable and imaginary audience are
stronger in adolescents than in older adults. Third, the research raises the possibility that
``adolescent'' egocentrism extends at least into early adulthood.
352

Table 6 Multivariate and univariate analyses of variance by age sub-groups


Adolescent Adult subgroups
Multivariate Fa Univariate F 14±18 19±30 31±59 60±89
df p5 Z2 (n=223) (n=21) (n=70) (n=37)
Egocentrism 11?73 6,624 0?001 0?10
Personal fable 3,313 0?001 0?07
8?08 14?22 14?70 12?18b 10?92b
Imaginary audience 0?001 0?18
22?44 15?66 14?80 11?60b 12?11b
Self-consciousness 2?96 6,630 0?007 0?03
Private self-consciousness 3,316 0?008 0?04
4?02 14?35 17?45b 13?74b 14?09
K. D. Frankenberger

Public self-consciousness 0?116 0?02


1?98 12?48 12?85 11?11 11?42
Interpersonal reactivity 6?68 6,608 0?001 0?06
Empathic concern 3,305 0?004 0?04
4?54 18?61 20?76b 20?67 20?03
Perspective taking 0?001 0?12
13?58 14?65 18?23b 18?26b 17?36
a
Based on Wilk's lambda.
b
Indicates a statistically significant differences between the current group and the average of the groups that precede it.
Egocentrism across adolescents and adults 353

Results lend support to Lapsley's (1993) proposal that the imaginary audience and
personal fable constructs ``are poorly located within the context of Piagetian egocentrisms
and are better conceived as aspects of adolescent ego development'' (p. 568); that is, the
imaginary audience and personal fable are probably more socially constructed than derived
from stages of cognitive development. According to this view, the imaginary audience allows
adolescents to maintain interpersonal relations and the personal fable allows them to
maintain feelings of self (Lapsley et al., 1989; Lapsley, 1993). The present study suggests that
these characteristics remain important to individuals as they pass from adolescence into
young adulthood.
The idea that egocentrism extends into adulthood is not new, nor is the concept that
egocentric tendencies are entwined with social interaction (Looft, 1972). At the time Looft's
essay was published, very little research had been conducted which examined egocentrism
over the life span or in the context of social interactions. That remains true today. Therefore,
important extensions of the current study include not only replication of the finding for early
adult egocentrism, but investigation of its social components. Also needed is conceptual
work aimed at deriving a more solid theory of egocentrism across the life span.
This study has provided a starting point for this line of research by suggesting that it is
appropriate to investigate egocentric tendencies across age; however, the current study is
limited by its cross-sectional design and non-causal nature. Additional research on
egocentrism is needed if firmer conclusions are to be derived. Such research should center on
replication of existing results and comparison of egocentrism with alternate egocentrism
scales. Egocentrism has eluded consistency in the literature, and is in need of better
construct development and measurement. Egocentrism research would also benefit from
longitudinal designs and causal modeling techniques such as confirmatory factor analysis.
Finally, both empirical and theoretical future work should incorporate constructs dealing
with social interaction, which, in addition to cognitive ability, appears to assist the individual
in the process of decentering his own thoughts from others'.

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