Toward a Social Psychology of Authenticity: Exploring Within-Person Variation in Autonomy, Congruence, and Genuineness Using Self-Determination Theory

William S. Ryan, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

Authenticity entails autonomy, congruence, and genuineness. In this article, we use a self-determination theory framework to discuss a critical aspect of social environments that facilitates these aspects of authenticity, namely the experience of autonomy support. Although authenticity is often studied as a trait or individual difference, we review research demonstrating that authenticity varies within individuals and predicts variations in well-being. Next, we show that perceiving autonomy support within a relational context is associated with people feeling more authentic and more like their ideal selves and displaying constellations of Big 5 personality traits indicative of greater wellness in that context. To explore another important part of authenticity, being genuine in interactions with others, we review evidence linking autonomy support to situational variation in identity disclosure among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. This research suggests that perceiving autonomy support within a context or relationship helps lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals be more open about their sexual orientation and identity, which in turn affords greater opportunities for the satisfaction of not only autonomy, but competence and relatedness needs as well, facilitating well-being. We conclude by highlighting future directions in the study of authenticity’s dynamic nature, and the importance of the situation in its expression and its relation to well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-112
Number of pages14
JournalReview of General Psychology
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • authenticity
  • autonomy
  • LGB
  • self-determination theory
  • well-being

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