Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 
Visit old site
Home Print this page Email this page Small font size Default font size Increase font size
Users Online: 238

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 9  |  Page : 440-444

Comparison of feelings of inferiority among university students with autotelic, average, and nonautotelic personalities

Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Health Science and Social Welfare, Kibi International University, Takahashi, Okayama, Japan

Date of Web Publication24-Sep-2014

Correspondence Address:
Kazuki Hirao
8 Iga-machi, Takahashi, Okayama 716-8508
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1947-2714.141627

Rights and Permissions

Background: Autotelic personality (AP) is known to have a positive effect on the quality of life. We hypothesized that inferiority feelings may be less pronounced in individuals with AP than in those with an average (AV) or a nonautotelic personality (NAP). Aims: This study aimed to compare inferiority feelings among three personality groups: An AP group, an AV group, and an NAP group. Materials and Methods: This study was a cross-sectional survey among 148 undergraduate students aged 18-24 undertaken in Okayama, Japan. Participants completed the Flow Experience Checklist and Inferiority Feelings Scale. Results: With the number of flow activities, participants were classified into three groups: 3+ for AP (n = 28, 18.9%), 1-2 for AV (n = 72, 48.6%), and 0 for NAP (n = 48, 32.4%). One-way analysis of variance showed significant differences among the three groups with respect to the Inferiority Feelings Scale. Multiple comparison analysis using Tukey's test showed that inferiority feelings in AP were significantly less pronounced than in the NAP group. Conclusion: The results of this study indicated that AP was lesser than NAP in association with pronounced inferiority feelings.

Keywords: Autotelic personality, Flow experience, Inferiority feelings, Mental health, Negative emotion

How to cite this article:
Hirao K. Comparison of feelings of inferiority among university students with autotelic, average, and nonautotelic personalities. North Am J Med Sci 2014;6:440-4

How to cite this URL:
Hirao K. Comparison of feelings of inferiority among university students with autotelic, average, and nonautotelic personalities. North Am J Med Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2022 Nov 27];6:440-4. Available from: https://www.najms.org/text.asp?2014/6/9/440/141627

  Introduction Top

Inferiority feelings are experienced by everyone and are important to enhance the growth of individuals. [1] However, inferiority feelings can limit daily life activities and are not necessarily good. [1] One study showed that inferiority feelings are significantly associated with hostility, depression, and insomnia and are predictive of suicidal ideation. [2] Previous studies have observed that inferiority feelings not only are risk factors for depression [3] but also are significantly correlated with frustration in adolescents. [4] In addition, it was shown that inferiority feelings increased pain experience; inferiority complexes were the predictors for sleep disorders in survivors of war in northern Kosovo. [5] Striving to avoid inferiority feelings was a significant predictor of psychopathology. [6] The findings from these studies have shown that inferiority feelings deeply involve life, death, and the quality of life. Therefore, it is important to reduce inferiority feelings in everyday life. Moane reported the importance of transforming negative self-image and inferiority feelings associated with oppression and thus, building psychological strength. [7] The "strength" is a term frequently used in the area of positive psychology.
"Flow" is the central concept of positive psychology. Flow experience is a condition "in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to be matter at the time, and the experience is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it". [8] Our previous studies have demonstrated that flow experience is associated with the health-related quality of life, sense of coherence, reducing subjective stress, ambiguity tolerance, shyness, self-disgust, and guilt. [9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14] Another study has suggested that flow experience is associated with well-being. [15],[16],[17],[18] In addition, the autotelic personality (AP) is defined as an individual who spends more time in the flow state. [19]

Research shows that individuals with AP exhibit a better time management compared with those with non-AP (NAP). [20] AP is shown to be associated with a better concentration and enjoyment, and a higher activity level and satisfaction compared with NAP. [16],[17] However, the influence of AP on inferiority feelings remains unclear. To the best of our knowledge, no report describing the relationship has been published. This study, therefore, compared inferiority feelings in the different three personality groups: AP, average (AV), and NAP.

  Materials and Methods Top

Study design

This study was a cross-sectional survey. We compared the inferiority feelings between the AP, AV, and NAP groups.


One hundred and forty-eight undergraduate students aged 18-24 from Kibi International University completed the Flow Experience Checklist [20] and Inferiority Feeling Scale. [21] The study was conducted in compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki. All participants were assured of anonymity and provided with their written informed consent. This study was approved by the institutional review board of Kibi International University, Okayama, Japan.

Flow experience checklist

This checklist was used for extraction of AP. Participants were assessed ten items in the checklist to evaluate the elements of flow experience for each of the five activities. In addition, a group of variables was used for flow conditions, including the six items (two for "challenge to goals" and four for "confidence in skills") related to the "balance between challenges and skills", and the four items for measuring "positive emotions and total involvement". Participants were required to evaluate the experiences on a seven-point scale (1 = very strongly disagree to 7 = very strongly agree). The reliability and validity of the Checklist have previously been established. [20]

Inferiority feeling scale

This scale was a questionnaire of 50 items measuring inferiority feelings on a five-point scale. This scale comprised eight factors: Weakness in associating with the opposite sex, poor grades in school, low levels of home satisfaction, poor ability to make friends, poor performance in sports, "bad" personality, lack of social skills, and poor bodily attractiveness.

On this scale, higher score indicated stronger inferiority feeling. The reliability and validity of the scale have previously been established. [21]


Information sheets explaining the study and questionnaires were distributed to participants. The authors explained the questionnaire in detail to the participants, and the questionnaires were completed during the class periods.

Statistical analyses

Descriptive statistics were calculated for each variable. The χ2 test, and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed for the three groups using the dependent variables of age, sex (a dummy variable; female = 0; male = 1), score on the Inferiority Feeling Scale, and score of each subscale. Tukey's test was used for multiple comparisons. Correlation analysis was used to assess the strength and direction of the relationships between variables. We employed Pearson's partial correlation adjusted for the effects of age and sex. All tests were two-tailed; a P value of 0.05 was considered for statistical significance. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software for Windows (v. 19; IBM) was employed for all analyses.

  Results Top

Extraction of autotelic personality

Extraction of AP was based on the previously reported methods by Ishimura and Kodama. [20] We extracted the number of flow experiences in each activity and determined these on the basis of the Flow Experience checklist: Criteria challenge to goals (mean = 8.25, SD = 3.67) and confidence in skills (mean = 18.74, SD = 4.73).

Based on the items' mean values, the participants were classified into a flow group with a high level of challenge and a high level of skills, extracted from the number of activities involving flow experiences. Using the mean values with a margin of ±1 SD (mean = 1.37, SD = 1.29) of the number of flow activities, three groups were classified according to AP characteristics. Participants were classified into these groups by the number of flow activities: 3+ for AP (n = 28, 18.9%), 1-2 for AV (n = 72, 48.6%), and 0 for NAP (n = 48, 32.4%).

The most important activities of daily living

The most important activities of daily living included sport (18.9%), art and music (4.7%), social activities (20.9%), intellectual activities (14.2%), relaxation and entertainment (37.2%), and other activities (4.1%).

Comparative analyses of the three groups

Demographic characteristics

Mean age of participants was 20.05 ± 1.24 years (male = 88 and female = 60). The demographic characteristics of participants are shown in [Table 1]. The results of χ2 test and one-way ANOVA did not show significant difference among the three groups with respect to gender (χ2 = 2.26, P = 0.32) or age (F (2,145) = 0.11, P = 0.89).
Table 1: Comparison of the three groups: Demographic characteristics

Click here to view

Inferiority feelings scale scores

A comparison of the Inferiority Feelings Scale scores of participants was shown in [Table 2]. One-way ANOVA showed significant differences among the three groups with respect to bad personality (F (2,145) = 3.53, P = 0.032), poor skills at making friends (F (2,145) = 5.46, P = 0.005), lack of social skills (F (2,145) = 4.77, P = 0.010), poor bodily attractiveness (F (2,145) = 3.27, P = 0.041), and total average score (F (2,145) = 4.65, P = 0.011).
Table 2: Comparison of the three groups: Inferiority feeling scale score

Click here to view

Multiple comparison analysis by Tukey's test showed that bad personality in the AP group was significantly lower than that in the NAP group (2.59 ± 1.20 vs. 3.18 ± 0.75, P = 0.038). Poor skills at making friends in the AP group was significantly lower than that in the NAP group (1.99 ± 1.19 vs. 2.81 ± 1.08, P = 0.008), but it was significantly lower in the AV group than that in the NAP group (2.27 ± 1.13 vs. 2.81 ± 1.08, P = 0.031). Lack of social skills in the AP group was significantly lower than that in the NAP group (2.48 ± 1.42 vs. 3.28 ± 1.00, P = 0.014), but it was significantly lower in the AV group than that in the NAP group (2.75 ± 1.20 vs. 3.28 ± 1.00, P = 0.048). Poor bodily attractiveness in the AP group was significantly lower than that in the NAP group (2.44 ± 1.21 vs. 3.01 ± 0.82, P = 0.047). Total average score was significantly lower in the AP group than that in the NAP group (2.41 ± 0.91 vs. 2.92 ± 0.62, P = 0.014).

Correlations between flow experience and inferiority feelings

Correlations between flow experience and inferiority feelings are shown in [Table 3]. A significant negative correlation was observed between the number of flow experiences and total inferiority score (r = −0.23; P = 0.005). A significant negative correlation was observed between the total flow score and total inferiority score (r = −0.182; P = 0.028).
Table 3: Correlations between fl ow experience and inferiority feelings

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Our results show that inferiority feelings in the AP group were significantly lower than that in the NAP group among undergraduate students. Furthermore, there was a significant negative correlation of the total inferiority score with both the number of flow experiences and total flow score. These results suggest that inferiority feelings in those likely to experience the flow were lower than in those less likely to do so.

It is a well-known fact that the brain has selective resources with limited capacity. For situations in which flow is concentrated, [19] APs may find it difficult to experience inferiority feelings. According to the study by Ishimura and Kodama, [20] AP has a clear future time prospect and has the ability to systematically manage time. APs were presumed to be low in inferiority feelings because they can control their own goals. In addition, according to the study by Gilbert et al., [6] striving to avoid inferiority may be an important element to depressive vulnerability, and a combination of striving and feeling inferior seems particularly to be linked to depression. In contrast, flow is an intrinsically rewarding experience of the activity; in such cases, often the end goal is just an excuse for the process. [19] Therefore, flow may also have a positive impact on depression and inferiority feelings. Moreover, a previous study by Raúl [22] reported that inferiority feelings induced a low level of serotonin, while AP potentially induced a high level of serotonin.

In the subscale of inferiority feelings, including bad personality, poor skills at making friends, lack of leadership, and poor bodily attractiveness, APs presented lower scores than NAPs did. These data support the previous findings reported by Ishimura and Kodama. [20] Flow activities may help individuals with affirmation of their positive selves not their negative self-images. [20] According to the study by Asakawa, [15] autotelic Japanese college students paid more attention to or spent more psychic energy in activities compared to those non-autotelic Japanese college students, even though their activities were not generally considered as important and worthy of attention. This suggested that AP was such a characteristic in a person that even their surrounding friends could acknowledge their prowess. Thus, the AP interpersonal relationship is good and above all, considered to be positive. The most important activities of daily living include relaxation and entertainment (37.2%), social activities (20.9%), and sport (18.9%). One study showed somewhat different numbers for preferred activities of daily living: Sport (54%), relaxation and entertainment (24%), and social activities (2%) among university students. [13] The participants in our present study tended to prefer the activities from static to dynamic (physical).

An interesting question is whether the features of flow for example, AP, can be learned. Flow occurs when a balance is achieved between strong abilities and a significant challenge. Therefore, flow (also in AP) can be learned if the skill or difficulty of a task is adjusted. Because our study did not prove that the relationship between AP and inferiority feelings is causal, it is unclear if acquisition of the features of flow (or AP) may decrease inferiority feelings.

Some limitations exist in the present study. This study is a cross-sectional survey that limits attributions about the direction of causality between variables. Therefore, a longitudinal study should be performed in the future. Because we focused on college students only, generalizing the results to other adolescent or young adult populations, or to patient populations may not be warranted, thus, a wider range of subjects should be investigated in future study.

  Conclusion Top

The results from our present study involving undergraduate students indicated that AP was associated with less pronounced inferiority feelings compared with NAP.

  Acknowledgments Top

The author would like to thank all the subjects who participated in this study.

  References Top

1.Adler A. The science of living. 1 st ed. New York: Greenberg; 1929.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Lung FW, Lee MB. The five-item Brief-Symptom Rating Scale as a suicide ideation screening instrument for psychiatric inpatients and community residents. BMC Psychiatry 2008;8:53.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Hein S, Bonsignore M, Barkow K, Jessen F, Ptok U, Heun R. Lifetime depressive and somatic symptoms as preclinical markers of late-onset depression. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2003;253:16-21.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Rajeshwari NK. Relationship between inferiority complex and frustration in adolescents. JHSS 2012;2:1-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Wang SJ, Rushiti F, Sejdiu X, Pacolli S, Gashi B, Salihu F, et al. Survivors of war in northern Kosovo (III): The role of anger and hatred in pain and PTSD and their interactive effects on career outcome, quality of sleep and suicide ideation. Confl Health 2012;6:4.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Gilbert P, Broomhead C, Irons C, McEwan K, Bellew R, Mills A, et al. Development of a striving to avoid inferiority scale. Br J Soc Psychol 2007;46:633-48.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Moane G. Bridging the personal and the political: Practices for a liberation psychology. Am J Community Psychol 2003;31:91-101.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Csikszentmihalyi M. Flow: Happiness revisited. In: Csikszentmihalyi M, editor. The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row; 1990. p. 1-22.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Hirao K, Kobayashi R. Health-related quality of life and sense of coherence among the unemployed with autotelic, average, and non-autotelic personalities: A cross-sectional survey in Hiroshima, Japan. PLoS One 2013;8:e73915.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Hirao K, Kobayashi R. The relationship between self-disgust, guilt, and flow experience among Japanese undergraduates. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat 2013;9:985-8.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Hirao K, Kobayashi R, Okishima K, Tomokuni Y. Flow experience and health-related quality of life in community dwelling elderly Japanese. Nurs Health Sci 2012;14:52-7.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Hirao K, Kobayashi R, Yabuwaki K. Association of cognitive judgment and shyness with frequency and quality of flow experience. Psychol Res Behav Manag 2012;5:159-62.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Hirao K, Kobayashi R, Okishima K, Tomokuni Y. Influence of flow experience during daily life on health-related quality of life and salivary amylase activity in Japanese college students. Jpn J Occup Med Traumatol 2011;59:13-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Hirao K, Kobayashi R, Okishima K, Tomokuni Y, Yabuwaki K. Influence of different intensities of brief flow experiences on subjective and objective stress. Med Biol 2011;155:713-20.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Asakawa K. Flow experience, culture, and well-being: How do autotelic Japanese college students feel, behave, and think in their daily lives? J Happiness Stud 2010;11:205-23.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Peterson C, Park N, Seligman ME. Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. J Happiness Stud 2005;6:25-41.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Asakawa K. Flow experience and autotelic personality in Japanese college students: How do they experience challenges in daily life? J Happiness Stud 2004;5:123-54.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Bryce J, Haworth J. Wellbeing and flow in sample of male and female office workers. Leisure Stud 2002;21:3-4, 249-63.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Nakamura J, Csikszentmihalyi M. The Concept of Flow. In: Snyder CR, Lopez SJ, editors. Handbook of Positive Psychology, 1 st ed. New York: Oxford University Press; 2005. p. 89-105.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Ishimura I, Kodama M. Flow experiences in everyday activities of Japanese college students: Autotelic people and time management. Jpn Psychol Res 2009;51:47-54.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Kosaka Y. Developmental changes in inferiority feelings in adolescents and young adults: Important areas of the self. Jpn J Educ Psychol 2008;56:218-29.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Raúl LP. Guilt and shame: An axiomatic analysis. Theor Decis 2010;69:569-86.  Back to cited text no. 22


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Collectivistic ambivalence: A potential source of social anxiety for individuals with higher inferiority feelings
Ramazan Akdogan, Elif Çimsir
International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 2022; 89: 195
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Religion and the Mediating Role of Alexithymia in the Mental Distress of Healthcare Workers During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic in a Psychiatric Hospital in China
Fushuai Zhao, Hsuan Lung, Po-Fei Chen, Mei-Chung Chang, For-Wey Lung
Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2022; 13
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Yetiskinlerde Motivasyon Düzenleme ve Akis Yasantisi Arasindaki Iliskide Ototelik Kisiligin Araci Rolü
Pamukkale University Journal of Education. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 The roles of latent perfectionism classes in academicians’ tendencies toward workaholism, useless superiority effort and narcissism
Elif Çimsir,Gamze Ülker Tümlü
The Journal of General Psychology. 2021; : 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 A longitudinal study of inferiority impacting on aggression among college students: The mediation role of cognitive reappraisal and expression suppression
Jing Chen,Chunyang Zhang,Yi Wang,Wei Xu
Personality and Individual Differences. 2020; 157: 109839
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 The roles of dispositional rumination, inferiority feelings and gender in interpersonal rumination experiences of college students
Elif Cimsir
The Journal of General Psychology. 2019; : 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 An evolutionary model to conceptualise masculinity and compassion in male teenagers: A unifying framework
James N. Kirby,Peter G. Kirby
Clinical Psychologist. 2017; 21(2): 74
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Materials and Me...
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded642    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 7    

Recommend this journal