The Short Index of Self-Actual­ization Scale (SISA) measures beliefs, atti­tudes, and behaviors that are assumed to indicate a level of self-actualization. Self­ actualization is a dimension of personality derived from third-force, or humanistic, psychology. The best-known measure of self-actualization is the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) (Shostrom, 1974). Research on the POI has found negative correlations between it and various measures of religios­ity. Such data is taken as support for the conclusion that religious commitments in­terfere with self-actualization. Watson, Mor­ris, and Hood (1990) argued that not all as­pects of religiosity are inherently antiself. They observed that the negative correlation may be due to the antireligious nature of some of the items used to measure self-actu­alization. The authors postulate that there might be a form of self-actualizationconsis­ tent with the Christian faith not captured by more humanistic measures such as the POI. The authors say,

deeper conflicts may exist in understand­ing the word “self” in the first place. Within humanistic frameworks, the “self” tends to be an unqualified “good,” some­ thing to be accepted and nurtured toward its true realization, … [for believers the self is] ambivalently nuanced [How­ever] to view the “self” as ambivalently nuanced is not to see it as wholly negative.

… proreligious elements can also be isolated within the POI and appear consistent with healthy self-functioning” (Watson et al., 1991, pp 41–41).

The Short Index of Self-Actualization (SISA, Jones & Crandall, 1986) was a pre­ existing scale selected by the authors to de­ termine if a religiously sensitive measure of self-actualization could be derived from it. They intended to call the derived variable Religious Self-Actualization.


The SISA is actually a mea­ sure of self-actualization, not a measure of a religious variable. However, since self-actu­alization deals with self-functioning, it has high relevance to religious research. The SISA was developed by Jones and Crandall (1986) as an alternative to the longer POI (150 items). It consists of 15 items, 7 posi­tive and 8 negative, taken from the POI. Since the POI is a forced-choice inventory, the items selected for the SISA are the self­ actualizing “half” of POI items. The items chosen had the highest item-total correla­tions with the POI total score. On the SISA, respondents react to each statement by indi­cating their agreement or disagreement on a four point scale (see scale).

Watson et al. (1990) submitted 14 items of the SISA to a methodology designed to determine whether they were pro or anti reli­gious (omitted from their analysis was the SISA item, “I fear failure”.) Items that could not be clearly classified as pro or anti reli­gious were classified as neutral. Students in an introductory psychology class at a state university rated 7 positive and 7 negative items of the SISA on a 5-point scale ranging from “very consistent” to “very inconsis­tent” with personal religious beliefs. The students were “overwhelmingly” from Protestant backgrounds. The authors sought to identify items of the SISA that could be used to construct Religiously Pro, Neutral, and Anti “subscales.” Their intended goal was to reverse the normal scoring of reli­giously anti statements and then to join them with the religiously pro items so to produce a Religious Self-Actualization Scale. They discovered that none of the SISA items were perceived as antireligious; 2 were deter­ mined to be religiously neutral and 12 were rated as pro religious. Pro religious and Neu­tral Self-Actualization subscales were cre­ated from the original SISA items.

Practical Considerations:

This paper-and­ pencil measure has no special scoring and requires about l 0 minutes to complete.


There are no known published norms. The instrument was in­ tended to provide a short measure of self-ac­tualization that could be used in research.


No reliability data were re­ ported by Watson et al. (1990). Jones and Crandall (1986) reported an internal consis­tency coefficient alpha of .65 and a test­ retest reliability over a 12-day period of .69.


There are two aspects of validity relevant to the use of this instrument with religiously committed populations. The first has to do with the pro, anti, or neutral reli­gious bias of the individual items. The au­thors’ research concluded that the SISA was “overwhelmingly defined as ‘proreligious”‘ and that the SISA may be a valuable tool in assessing the self-functioning of religious respondents.

The Proreligious and Neutral subscales demonstrated concurrent and discriminant validity when correlated with related mea­ sures of self functioning and with Intrin­sic/Extrinsic religiosity. Both scales correlated significantly with self-esteem and self­ acceptance, but only the Proreligious sub­ scale correlated significantly with the In­trinsic scale.

Jones and Crandall (l 986) report a corre­lation of .69 with the full-scale POI and sig­nificant correlations with self-esteem (.41), a measure of rational behavior and beliefs (.44), and a measure of neuroticism (-.30). They also conducted a principle compo­nents analysis with varimax rotation of fac­ tors with eigenvalues greater than one. This resulted in five components, four of which were objectively interpretable (usinginde­ pendent judges): autonomy or self-direction, self-acceptance and self-esteem, acceptance of emotions and freedom of expression of emotions, and trust and responsibility in in­terpersonal relations. Crandall (1991) sum­marizes several studies using the SISA and concludes that the evidence for the validity of the SISA is “overwhelming.”

Short Index of Self Actualization

Please respond to each item below using the following rating scale:

  • I = agree
  • 2 = somewhat agree
  • 3 = somewhat disagree
  • 4 = disagree
  1. (P) I do not feel ashamed of any of my emotions.
  2. (P) I feel I must do what others expect me to do.
  3. (P) I believe that people are essentially good and can be trusted.
  4. (P) It is always necessary that others approve of what I do.
  5. (N) I feel free to be angry at those I love.
  6. (P) I don’t accept my own weaknesses.
  7. (P) I can like people without having to approve of them.
  8. (N) I avoid attempts to analyze and simplify complex domains.
  9. (P) It is better to be yourself than to be popular.
  10. (P) I have no mission in life to which I feel especially dedicated.
  11. (P) I can express my feelings even when they may result in undesirable consequences.
  12. (P) I do not feel responsible to help anybody.
  13. (P) I am loved because I can give love.
  14. (P) I am bothered by fears of being inadequate.
  15. I fear failure. (Original SISA item omitted from Watson et al., 1990) P= Proreligious items, N= Neutral items


Jones, A., & Crandall, R. (1986). Validation of a short index of self-actualization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 63-73. (The origi­nal SISA)

Watson, P. J., Morris, R. J. & Hood, R. W. (1990). lntrinsicness, self-actualization, and the ideological surround. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 18, 40-53. (Specifies the Proreligious and Neutral subscales of the SISA.)

Recent Research:

Research using the SISA is summarized in Crandall (l 991). While there is no research using the SISA as a mea­ sure of religious self-actualization, Watson, Morris, and Hood (1990) have reported nu­merous studies in which other psychological measures similar to the SISA are examined from a religious perspective. The interested reader can consult Watson et al. (l 990) to get additional references.

Crandall, R. (1991). Issues in self-actualization measurement. Journal of Social Behavior and Per­ sonality, 6(5), 339-344.


Shostrum, E. I. (1974). Manual for the personal orientation inventory. San Diego: Educational and Industrial Testing Service.