Running from the shadow: Psychological distancing from others to deny characteristics people fear in themselves

Jeff Schimel, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Heather O'Mahen, Jamie Arndt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations


Four experiments tested the hypothesis that people distance themselves from others who display characteristics they fear in themselves. In Study 1, participants were given false feedback that they were high or low in repressed anger and were given information about a person who became angry and responded in a violent or nonviolent manner. High anger feedback participants distanced themselves only from the violent person. In Study 2, high anger feedback led to distancing from a violent other but not a dishonest other, whereas dishonesty feedback led to distancing from a dishonest other but not a violent other. The results of Studies 3 and 4 replicated and extended the distancing effect with an anger induction: Participants who were insulted distanced themselves from an angry/violent person, and verbalizing their emotions about being insulted eliminated this effect. Implications for understanding defenses against undesirable self-attributions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-462
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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