Gollwitzer, P. M., Marquardt, M. K., Scherer, M., & Fujita, K. (2013). Identity-goal threats: Engaging in distinct compensatory efforts. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 555-562.
We hypothesized that threatening self-aspects that pertain to an identity specified in a binding identity goal leads to distinct compensation (i.e., self-symbolizing), whereas threatening self-aspects not specified in a binding identity goal leads to general selfworth restoration. To test this hypothesis, participants with either weak or strong commitments to becoming lawyers were subjected to either a related or unrelated self-threat, and then given the opportunity to restore both the lawyer identity and general self-worth. Only participants strongly committed to become lawyers responded to a related self-threat by distinct compensation rather than general self-worth restoration. Apparently, strong commitments to an identity goal isolate this particular part of the self from the overall self.