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PSYC 215 Lecture Notes - Ego Depletion, Normative Social Influence, Symbolic Interactionism

Course Code
PSYC 215
John Lydon

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Chapter Three
The Social Self
Nature of the Social Self
individual self – beliefs about our unique personal traits, abilities, preferences, tastes,
talents, and so forth
relational self – beliefs about our identities in specific relationships
collective self – beliefs about our identities as members of social groups to which we belong
Origins of Self-Knowledge
Socrates – urged fellow Athenians to examine the self to find its essential and distinctive
Buddhist thought – counsels people to transcend the material graspings of the self and its
desires, illusions and frustrations
there are numerous social origins of self-knowledge as well as to construal processes from
which self-knowledge may be derived, nurtured, and maintained
Family and Other Socialization Agents
parents and other socialization agents teach children what they view as socially appropriate
and valued attitudes and behaviors; direct and indirect (modeling appropriate behaviors)
symbolic interactionist – we come to know ourselves through imagining what others think
of us
reflected self-appraisals – beliefs about what others think of our social selves
C.H. Cooley, 1902
“looking-glass self” - other people's reactions to us serve as a mirror of sorts, reflecting
our image so that we, too, can see it
Situationism and the Social Self
our social self shifts dramatically from one situation to another
consistent with the notion of situationism and is supported by abundant empirical
Aspects of the Self that are Relevant in the Social Context
one of the greatest determinants of the nature of contextual shifts in the sense of self is
determining what is relevant, or appropriate, in the current situation
Brown, 1998
in situations where people experience a failure of some kind, negative beliefs and
feelings about the self come to the foreground
working self-concept – subset of self-knowledge that is brought to mind in a particular
usually the subset that is more relevant/appropriate in the current situation
Aspects of the Self that are Distinctive in the Social Context
in the West what's most central to your identity is what makes you distinct
Both Malleable and Stable
most of us can easily distinguish among our individual, relational and collective self beliefs
and would readily agree that our sense of self shifts depending on the context

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ways to reconcile dueling notions of malleability and stability in the self:
although the concept of the working self varies across situations, core components of
self-knowledge are likely to be on the top of the mind whenever a person thinks about
the self
a persons's overall pool of self knowledge remains relatively stable over time, providing
a sense of self-continuity, even as different pieces of knowledge come to the fore in
different contexts
although a person's sense of self may shift depending on the context, it's likely these
shifts form a predictable, stable pattern
Culture and the Social Self
independent self-construal – cultures that promote the self as an autonomous entity that is
distinct and separate from others
imperative is to assert uniqueness and independence
focus on internal causes of behavior
conception of self in terms of traits that are stable across time and social context
interdependent self-construal – cultures in which the self is fundamentally connected to
other people
imperative is for a person to find a place and fulfill appropriate roles within the
community and other collectives
focus on influence of social context and the situation on current behavior
conception of self which is embedded within social relationships
Gender and the Social Self
when women describe themselves, they are more likely than men to refer to social
characteristics and relationships
in United States and Japan
women tend to construe the self in more interdependent terms than men
tend to be more empathetic and better judges of other people's personalities and
tend to be more aware of situational cues
men tend to prioritize uniqueness and difference
tend to be more attuned to their own internal responses, such as increased heart rate
gender differences in representation of the social self come from:
many agents of socialization guide women and men into differing self-construals
media portrays men and women differently (men in positions of power and agency)
girls groups are usually directed towards more interpersonal games, whereas boys
groups are usually geared towards competition, hierarchy, and distinctions among
one another
human evolutionary history
men were equipped physically and psychologically for hunting and aggressive
women were equipped physically and psychologically for nurturing young
independent self-construal fits the roles largerly fulfilled by males in our
evolutionary history
interdependent self-construal is better tailored to the caregiving demands that fell
disproportionately to females
cultures have very different ways of dealing with gender; the past several generations

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have witnessed enormous changes in gender roles
these sorts of sex differences are not inevitable
there are sharp limits to any evolutionary account of the role of gender in the
nature of the self-concept
Social Comparison
L. Festinger, 1954
social comparison theory – the hypothesis that people compare themselves to other
people in order to obtain an accurate assessment of their own opinions, abilities, and
internal states
to get an accurate sense of how good you are at something, you must compare yourself
with people who have approximately your level of skill
numerous experiments have demonstrated that people are particularly drawn to comparisons
with others roughly similar to themselves
we like to feel good about ourselves, so our search for similar targets of comparison tend to
be biased toward people who are slightly inferior to or worse off then ourselves
these downward social comparisons help us define ourselves rather favorably, giving a
boost to our self-esteem
ex. cancer patients are told to compare themselves to people who are worse off,
while simultaneously initiating contact with those who seem better off
upward social comparison
we are particularly inclined to engage in this type of comparison when we aspire to
be substantially better at some skill or when we wish to improve some component of
our personality
different ability domains and different motives call for different comparison targets
people lessen this burden by relying on routinely used standards
when people routinely compare themselves to another person, comparisons with this person
become an automatic process
when people evaluate themselves, routinely used comparison targets automatically spring to
Narratives about the Social Self
we are continually telling a particular story about our social self as we live our lives
ex. where you grew up
ex. a generous mentor
plot twists and turns
ex. your parents divorce
dramatic themes
ex. the quest for justice
vivid images and scenes
ex. when your boyfriend/girlfriend dumped you for your best friend
cross-cultural research finds that self-narratives vary across societies in intriguing ways
D. Cohen & A. Gunz, 2002
asked Canadian and Asian students to tell stories about ten different situations
Canadian students were far more likely than Asian students to reproduce the
scene from their original perspectives “from the inside-out”
themselves at the center, looking out into the world
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