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Adolescence. 2000 Winter;35(140):639-61.

Revisiting the imaginary audience and personal fable constructs of adolescent egocentrism: a conceptual review.

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Department of Psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne 46805, USA.


Adolescents are thought to believe that others are always watching and evaluating them, and that they are special and unique, labeled the imaginary audience and the personal fable, respectively. These two constructs have been fixtures in textbooks on adolescent development, and have been offered as explanations for self-consciousness and risk-taking. However, their characterization of adolescent social cognition as biased has not been supported empirically, the measures used to assess them lack construct validity, and alternative explanations for both ideation patterns have not been explored. Despite these issues, the imaginary audience and personal fable constructs continue to be considered prototypical representations of social cognitive processes during adolescence. This paper (1) reviews theoretical models of the imaginary audience and the personal fable, and the empirical data pertaining to each model, (2) highlights problems surrounding the two most commonly used measures, and (3) outlines directions for future research, so that a better understanding of the imaginary audience and personal fable, and their roles in adolescent development, may be achieved.

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