Compassionate and Self-Image Goals Scale


Self-image goals. When people have self-image goals, they want to construct, maintain, and defend desired public and private images of the self to obtain social goods from others (e.g., liking, admiration, friendship) and meet their needs for belonging and acceptance (Leary, 2007) . People want to see themselves as having desirable qualities (Bradley, 1978; Steele, 1988, p. 262; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Tesser, 1988). In social contexts, they also want others to recognize and acknowledge those qualities (Schlenker, 2003). How people view themselves and how others view them are inextricably linked (Cooley, 1956; Hardin & Higgins, 1996; Leary & Downs, 1995; Shrauger & Schoeneman, 1979; Tetlock & Manstead, 1985). Self-image goals involve strategic self-presentation and impression management, not with the intent to deceive others, but rather with the intent to convey an accurate, but idealized or glorified, conception of the self that the actor genuinely believes to be true (Baumeister, 1982; Greenwald & Breckler, 1985; Leary, 1995; Schlenker, 1980).

People who are chronically high in self-image goals have distinct personality characteristics, views of the self, relationship beliefs and styles, and emotional states that distinguish them from people who are chronically low in self-image goals (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). People with self-image goals tend to view their social interactions as zero-sum in nature, with gains for one person coming at the expense of another, and hold individualistic beliefs about caregiving. They are high in public self-consciousness (Fenigstein, 1987; Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975) , psychological entitlement (W. K. Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, 2004), social anxiety, and attachment insecurity and lack compassion for themselves.

Compassionate goals. People sometimes feel compassion and want to be supportive (Batson, 1998; Bell & Richard, 2000; Brown & Brown, 2006; Kernis, Brown, & Brody, in press). Of course, people sometimes behave supportively for selfish or self-image reasons (Collins & Feeney, 2000; Feeney & Collins, 2003; Helgeson, 1994; Ryan & Connell, 1989). At times, however, people want to be supportive because they care about others' well-being (Brown & Brown, 2006) , have a prosocial personality (Penner, Dovidio, Piliavin, & Schroeder, 2005; Penner, Fritzsche, Craiger, & Freifeld, 1995) , have a communal relationship with the other (Mills & Clark, 1994) , or because the needs of others are salient (Batson, 1998; Collins & Feeney, 2000; Feeney & Collins, 2003; Rogers, 1971). Crocker & Canevello (2008) refer to goals to be supportive or contribute to others' well-being as compassionate goals. Compassionate goals focus on supporting others, not to obtain something for the self, but because one cares about the well-being of others. When people have compassionate goals they want to be a constructive force in their interactions with others and avoid harming others; they consider others' needs, and the impact of their behavior on others (Crocker & Canevello, 2008).

People who are chronically high in compassionate goals have personality characteristics, views of the self, relationship beliefs and styles, relationship experiences, and emotional states that distinguish them from people who are low in compassionate goals (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). People with compassionate goals report higher spiritual transcendence, feeling that all life is interconnected and sensing shared responsibility of one creature to another; they feel a personal responsibility to other people that extends across generations and within a community. They view their relationships with others as non-zero-sum, assuming that success for one person does not detract from others. They are less entitled, higher in private-self consciousness and self-compassion. Their goals induce calm, positive, other-directed emotions such as love, connection, and empathy. They are less likely to have avoidant attachment styles, and they score higher on the Big 5 personality factors of agreeableness and extraversion.

Compassionate and self-image goals are defined not by content, but by process; specifically, the intentions one has toward others while pursuing important goals. For example, we found that when we asked 199 freshmen about their most important academic goals, nearly every one of them mentioned a GPA they would like to achieve in their first semester. However, these students differed in how much they endorsed compassionate and self-image goals for academics. Compassionate and self-image goals are not opposite ends of a single continuum; in our research the goals are either uncorrelated or positively correlated. Furthermore, although people have chronic levels of these goals over time, the goals fluctuate from week to week, day to day, and even in response to experimental manipulations.

Compassionate and self-image goals can be measured in a variety of domains. Our research has focused on two specific areas: relationships and academics.



Convergent and discriminant validity:

Because compassionate goals and self-image goals are correlated, we entered the goals simultaneously in regression analyses to assess the unique effect of each goal on each dependent variable while controlling for the other goal. All regression analyses also controlled for social desirability and gender, because social desirability correlated negatively with self-image goals and positively with compassionate goals, and females differed on compassionate goals, but not self-image goals, whereas males did not differ in either goal.

There is strong evidence for convergent and divergent validity of the goals with the beliefs, self-relevant variables, relationship style variables, and Big 5 personality factors. Crocker and Canevello (2008) found that controlling for self-image goals, compassionate goals were associated with higher spiritual transcendence (both universality and connection), lower zero-sum beliefs, higher self-compassion (especially mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity), high private self-consciousness, low avoidant attachment style, low psychological entitlement, and high agreeableness and extraversion. Self-image goals, controlling for compassionate goals, are uniquely associated with higher zero-sum beliefs, lower self-compassion (significant for all subscales except common humanity), higher public self-consciousness and social anxiety, increased attachment insecurity (both anxiety and avoidance), and greater psychological entitlement.

Strong evidence for validity of the scale:

In a 10-weekly survey study of college freshmen, average compassionate goals predicted increased social support and trust, closeness, and feeling clear and connected over the semester; self-image goals attenuated these effects. Average self-image goals predicted conflict, loneliness, and feeling afraid and confused; compassionate goals attenuated these effects. Changes in weekly goals predicted changes in goal-related affect, closeness, loneliness, conflict, and beliefs about mutual and individualistic caring.

In a 21 daily reports study of roommate pairs, actors' average compassionate and self-image goals interacted to predict changes over 3 weeks in partners' reports of social support received from and given to actors; support partners gave to actors, in turn, predicted changes in actors' perceived available support, indicating that people with compassionate goals create a supportive environment for themselves and others, but only if they do not have self-image goals.


Scoring Instructions


COMPASSIONATE GOALS : items 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12

SELF-IMAGE GOALS : items 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 13

SCORING : Take the mean of items in each subscale.


COMPASSIONATE GOALS : items 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13

SELF-IMAGE GOALS : items 3, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16

SCORING : Take the mean of items in each subscale.



The scale and its coding instructions are here to download in PDF and Word formats:

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Compassionate and Self-Image Goals Scale - Adobe PDF
Compassioante and Self-Image Goals Scale - Microsoft Word


Information on the Chinese Version of the Goals Scale

Please contact Zhang Lin with any questions regarding the Chinese version of the Goals Scale


Download the Chinese Version of the Goals Scale

Chinese Version of the Goals Scale - Adobe PDF

Chinese Version of the Goals Scale - Microsoft Word



Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2008). Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: The role of compassionate and self-image goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 555-575.