A long tradition of psychological research has explored the distinction between characteristics
that are part of the self and those that lie outside of it. Recently, a surge
of research has begun examining a further distinction. Even among characteristics
that are internal to the self, people pick out a subset as belonging to the true self. These
factors are judged as making people who they really are, deep down. In this paper, we
introduce the concept of the true self and identify features that distinguish people’s
understanding of the true self from their understanding of the self more generally. In
particular, we consider recent findings that the true self is perceived as positive and
moral, and that this tendency is actor-observer invariant and cross-culturally stable.
We then explore possible explanations for these findings and discuss their implications
for a variety of issues in psychology.