The imaginary audience and the personal fable : test of an alternative theoretical perspective
Vartanian, Lesa Rae
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The purpose of this study was to test an alternative theoretical framework for understanding the imaginary audience (IA) and personal fable (PF) constructs. The key assumptions of the traditional cognitive or "adolescent egocentrism" framework have not been upheld, and the traditional approach lacks explanatory power for inconsistent findings in the literature (e.g, gender differences, age differences). A social-cognitive model of the constructs has been suggested, but never tested. It was hypothesized that level of social perspectivetaking (SPT) development would predict both IA and PF sensitivity. Ninety-six adolescents from three grade levels completed the Adolescent Egocentrism Scale (measuring IA and PF) and Selman's Interpersonal Understanding Interview (to assess level of SPT). Results from multiple regression analyses indicate that level of SPT development interacts with grade to elevate personal fable sensitivity. Level of social-cognitive development may be necessary but not sufficient for producing increased feelings of personal uniqueness and isolation (PF) among young adolescents. Theoretical implications and future directions for research are discussed.