Authenticity and inauthenticity in narrative identity

Joshua A. Wilt*, Sarah Thomas, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Self-reported authenticity is related to higher well-being, however, employing self-report questionnaires to measure authenticity may be limited in that they do not capture the lived experience of authenticity. We employ a narrative identity approach to the study of authenticity to potentially better capture some of the idiosyncratic richness and nuance of authentic experience. In Study 1, 87 undergraduates wrote descriptions of three separate memories: one in which they felt authentic, one in which they felt inauthentic, and a vivid, emotional memory. Thematic analysis identified five dimensions of authenticity (relational authenticity, resisting external pressures, expression of true self, contentment, owning one's actions) and 4 dimensions of inauthenticity (phoniness, suppression, self-denigration, and conformity). In study 2, 103 undergraduates provided written descriptions of authentic and inauthentic experiences. Scenes were coded for the dimensions of authenticity and inauthenticity listed above, and those categories were related to self-report scales assessing authenticity and related constructs (autonomy, honesty, Machiavellianism). Correlational and factor extension results suggested that narratives themes showed evidence of both convergent and discriminant validity. Implications for narrative and self-report approaches to authenticity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02178
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Authenticity
  • Autonomy
  • Honesty-humility
  • Inauthenticity
  • Machiavellianism
  • Narrative identity
  • Psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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