Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Russell E. Gruber


Previous research showed that the more one feels similar to a specific other, the less aggressive and the more empathic one behaves toward the other. Some people might have a self-concept that makes them prone to feel similar to others in general. Those people, despite being aware of the differences between them and others, may feel that their differences do not make them inherently or essentially different from others -they may feel their core-self is similar to others despite outer differences, while some may not feel as much so. This tendency was conceptualized as a trait related to one's self-concept and named "Core-Self Differentiation" (CSD) in this study. A scale to capture the extent of CSD was also developed for the study: CSD-Scale. If degree of core-self differentiation really makes one feel more or less similar to others, it could be expected to affect empathy and aggression. Participants completed questionnaires measuring CSD, empathy, aggression, and self-esteem. CSD was found to be negatively correlated with empathy and positively correlated with verbal aggression as expected: The more participants differentiated themselves from others, the less empathic and the more verbally aggressive they were. Pattern of differences between the ethnicities, found by t-tests, also supported this. Those with higher CSD scores (more differentiation) had higher scores on aggression and lower scores on empathy. However, CSD did not correlate with total aggression scores and individual subscales of empathy. Self-esteem positively correlated with CSD, and negatively correlated with empathy. This finding joins the studies that remind us of the unclear role of self-esteem. Despite the low correlations and methodological imperfections, this study indicates that the conceptualization of "Core-Self Differentiation" along with the scale that was developed to capture it (i.e. CSD-S) can be useful. More research on the concept and the scale was suggested.