The Self

The Social Self
• I. What is the self-concept?
James, Cooley, Mead
• II. Social Context
Immediate Context
Socio-cultural Context (broader context)
Sensitivity to Context (Self-monitoring)
• III. Self-enhancement Mechanisms
Theories of the Self
• William James (1890): A person has "as many social selves as
there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of
him in their minds."
• Charles Cooley (1902): Views of self reflect the standpoints of
significant others in our lives ("looking glass self")
• George Herbert Mead (1934): We imagine the perspectives of
others and incorporate these into our self views -- and that this
occurs continuously as we interact with others on an ongoing,
moment to moment basis.
Twenty Statements Test
• Self-schema (Markus): A set of wellelaborated knowledge about the self
that guides the processing of selfrelevant information and is based on
past social experiences
• Schema in domain of independence
– Schematic: Very self-descriptive and
important/central to your view of self
– Aschematic: Not highly descriptive and not
highly important
• --Schematics faster than aschematics
to endorse as self-descriptive words in
schematic domain (e.g., independence)
• --Schematics resist evidence
contradicting their view of themselves
in the schematic domain.
Spontaneous self-concept
• Spontaneous self-concept (McGuire):
Specific aspects of self that are
triggered by the features of the current
situation. (Ex: Saying “I’m a brunette”
in a room where everyone else is
Self-awareness Theory
• Self-awareness theory (Duval &
Wicklund): The theory that self-focused
attention leads people to notice selfdiscrepancies, thereby motivating
either an escape from self-awareness
or a change in behavior.
Self-awareness Theory
• Trick-or-treat study
– IV: Mirror present or not
– DV: How much candy taken by trick or
– Results:
Self-awareness theory
• Self-focus is associated with:
• --a drop in self-esteem (probably
because comparing self with a social
• --behaving in line with socially
desirable standards
The self is social
• The way we develop our selfconceptions depends in part on our
interactions with others.
• The immediate situational context
(which often includes other people) can
affect how we see ourselves at any
given point in time.
Broad Social Context:
Culture and the Self
• “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
• The nail that stands out gets pounded
Culture and the Self
• Markus & Kitayama
• Independent self-view: Define self in terms
of own thoughts, feelings, and actions;
emphasize uniqueness from others.
(individualistic Western)
• Interdependent self-view: Define self in terms
of one’s relationships to others; emphasize
connectedness to others (collectivistic Asian
and Third World cultures).
Role of Personality
What is the self?
• The self-concept is complex and
• Universe of self-conceptions: All of the ways
in which you might see yourself (actual self,
hoped for self, ideal self, etc.)
• Working self-concept: Includes core selfconceptions along with less central selfconceptions that may vary depending on the
situational context.
• Self-esteem: Global positive or
negative feelings about the self.
• Attributions about exam grades when
succeed or fail:
Degree to which score reflects:
Your ability
Situation (test was too hard)
Mechanisms of self-enhancement
• Downward social comparisons: Comparing
ourselves to people who are worse off than
we are on a particular trait or ability.
• Why?
• What did Shelley Taylor find in her research
w/breast cancer patients?
Self-evaluation Maintenance
Theory (SEM)
• Cannot always use downward comparison
• SEM: Sometimes one’s view of self is
threatened by another person’s behavior,
and the degree of threat depends on the
closeness of the relationship to the other
person and relevance of the behavior.
• Abraham Tesser’s research: What
happens when we compare ourselves with
someone close to us? [Video clip]
• Basking in reflected glory: Increasing
self-esteem by associating with others
who are successful (BIRGing)
• Cialdini et al. (1976)
• Monday morning after football games, college
students (from Arizona State, Louisiana State, Notre
Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, etc.) more likely to wear
school sweatshirts when team won on the previous
Sat. & larger the victory, the more shirts worn.
• IV: General knowledge test. ½ success, ½ failure
• DV: Describe outcome of recent football game.
• Results:
• Berglas & Jones (1978)
• Cover: “Drugs and intellectual performance”
• Independent variable: Solvable or unsolvable
• Dependent variable: Choice of Drug
Drug A: Helps intellectual performance
Drug B: Inhibits intellectual performance
• Unsolvable problem:
• Solvable problem:
• Self-handicapping: When a person
protects his/her self-image by setting
up a situation that makes it difficult to
succeed, but creates a handy excuse
for failure.
Defensive pessimism
• Defensive pessimism (Norem &
Cantor): A strategy in which a person
expects the worst, and works harder
because of this expectation.
• What did they find?
Explanations for self-serving
• 1. Self-presentation--want to make a
good impression on others
• 2. Motivation--we are motivated to
protect and enhance our self-esteem.