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Self-report is sensitive to response bias. Different components of self-concept can be reliably assessed using functional neuroimaging

Self concept

There is a great and longstanding interest in self-concept development in adolescence. However, it has been difficult to measure this construct, because self-concept is not observable in behavior and self-report is sensitive to response bias.

It is well known that self-concept changes dramatically during adolescence. For example, adolescents develop both more complex views of themselves as well as a heightened sensitivity to the opinions of others. These self-concept changes pose vulnerabilities as well as opportunities for adolescents. Recently, with the use of brain imaging techniques it was discovered that self-related thoughts can be robustly assessed using neural responses to self-related cues. In this project, we aim to investigate how adolescents’ self-concept development is associated with changes in functional brain development.

In the Self concept project, we measure functional brain development longitudinally in a group of 160 adolescents across the age range 11-21 years by using a cohort-sequential longitudinal design. In total, 3 waves of data collection have been completed between 2016 and 2019 and are currently analyzed. This study uses several novel paradigms and an integrative multi-method (i.e., experimental designs, self-report, biological markers and brain imaging) approach.

How adolescents view and evaluate themselves may play a role in various important life outcomes, such as the ability to choose a major in higher education that fits your identity. A subpart of this project examined a specific group of adolescents who experience difficulties with finding a suitable major and take a gap-year with Foundation Gap-Year in the Netherlands (www.breekjaar.nl). During this year, they focus on personal development and start working on improving their self-esteem and decision-making skills. We followed them for 18 months between 2017 and 2019 (4 time points, two MRI) and examined changes in their self-concept and underlying neural mechanisms. We then tested whether they were able to make better suited academic decisions after their gap-year.

This project is supported by VICI grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO), awarded to Eveline Crone.

This study is preregistered on the OSF: Self-concept.