Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Self

Social knowledge and social behavior begin with the self-concept, the totality of an individual's through about the self. As such early social scientists as George Herbert mead and Harry Stack Sullivan pointed out. We learn about ourselves from the reflected appraisals of others. We also about ourselves through the outcomes of action we take.

Self-schemes are cognitive generalization about the self that influence the way we organize and remember events and experiences. The self-concept consists of multiple schema's. We may usefully think of the self as consisting on multiple identities arranged in a hierarchy of importance. The self-concept also includes ideas about what we would like to be or think it possible to become. Certain of a person's characteristics are likely to affect the definition of self. Both gender identity and racial identity are important aspects of the self.

Self-perception theory says that we become aware of ourselves by watching what we do much as outside observers form judgments of us on the basis of what they see. Certain conditions can create a state of objective self-awareness; at such times we focus attention on some aspect of the self. The particular aspect of self that is salient depends in part on the accessibility of that aspect, which can be affected by priming. People who are high in self-consciousness are more likely to engage in this process that people who are low in self-consciousness.

Because the concept of self is an active one, it is important to consider the processes involved. Self-esteem refers to the evaluation of oneself, an assessment of how good or bad one is. Negative emotions are generally aroused when there is a discrepancy between the perceived self and some standard of comparison (an ideal self, an ought self, or a possible self).

To evaluate their abilities, people often engage in social comparison, looking to other people as a way of gauging their own performance. People also make causal attributions to explain their outcomes. Frequently such attributions are self-serving, designed to permit us to take credit for positive outcomes and to avoid blame for negative ones. Attributions are important because they can affect subsequent choices and actions.

The attempt to control the images of the self that are presented to others is called impression management. Such self-presentation can serve many goals and people can user a variety of strategies in pursuing them. People who anticipate failure, for instance, may resort to self-handicapping strategies. Although all people who score high in self-monitoring are more attuned to this process than people who score low in it.

Deaux, Kay. 1984. Social Psychology. Cole Publishing Company

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