Gender differences in the correlates of self-referent word use: authority, entitlement, and depressive symptoms

J Pers. 2010 Feb;78(1):313-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00617.x.


Past research shows that self-focused attention is robustly positively related to depression, and women are more likely than men to self-focus in response to depressed mood (e.g., R. Ingram, 1990; S. Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987). The goal of the current study was to further delineate gender differences in the correlates of self-focus as measured through the frequency of spontaneous use of self-referencing words. The frequency of such word use during a life history interview was correlated with self-reports, observations by clinically trained interviewers, and personality judgments by acquaintances. Results indicated that the relationship between self-reference and observations of depressive symptoms was stronger for women than men, and the relationship between self-reference and narcissistic authority and entitlement was stronger for men than for women. Acquaintance ratings supported these correlates. These findings illuminate the importance of using multiple measures and paying attention to gender differences in research on self-focus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narcissism
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vocabulary*