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Chapter 3 - The Social Self.doc
Chapter 3 - The Social Self.doc

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

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 characteristics • 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 SocializationAgents • 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 evidence 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 context ◦ 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 • 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 emotions ▪ 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: ◦ socialization ▪ 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 encounters ▪ 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 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 mind Narratives about the Social Self • we are continually telling a particular story about our social self as we live our lives ◦ setting ▪ ex. where you grew up ◦ characters ▪ 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 andAsian students to tell stories about ten different situations • Canadian students were far more likely thanAsian students to reproduce the scene from their original perspectives “from the inside-out” ◦ themselves at the center, looking out into the world • Asians were more likely than Canadian students to reproduce the story from a third-person perspective “from the outside-in” ◦ starting from the social world and looking back at themselves as the object of attention Organization of Self-Knowledge • Sacks, 1985 ◦ worked with a patient, William Thompson ▪ suffered from Korsakoff's syndrome (destroys memory structures in the brain) ▪ unable to remember things for more than a second or two • in each new situation, he would create false identities for the people he encountered • his own social self shifts in accordance with the new situations he creates ◦ our social selves depend on our ability to remember, to know who we and other people are ▪ the knowledge that makes up our social self is stored in memory following some kind of organizational scheme or structure Self-Schemas • self-schemas – cognitive structures derived from past experience, that represent a person's beliefs and feelings about the self in particular domains ◦ these beliefs and feelings are based on our experiences in situations where conscientiousness was relevant, experiences that are stored in memory as part of our conscientiousness self-schema • self-reference effect – the tendency for information that is related to the self to be more thoroughly processed and integrated with existing self-knowledge, thereby making it more memorable Self-Complexity Theory • self-complexity theory – the tendency to define the self in terms of multiple domains that are relatively distinct from one another in content Self-Esteem • people with low self esteem are ◦ less satisfied with life ◦ more hopeless ◦ more depressed ◦ less able to cope with life's challenges ◦ more prone to anti-social behavior and delinquency Trait and State Self-Esteem • self-esteem – the positive or negative overall evaluation that each person has of him/herself ◦ trait self-esteem – a person's enduring level of self-regard across time ▪ fairly stable ◦ state self-esteem – the dynamic, changeable self-evaluations that are experienced as momentary feelings about the self • although one part of your self-esteem is stable, another part shifts in response to your current situation and broader life-context Contingencies and Self-Worth • Crocker & Wolfe, 2001 ◦ contingencies of self-worth – an account of self-esteem that maintains that self-esteem is contingent on successes and failures in domains on which a person has based his/her self-worth ▪ several domains of self-worth important for self-esteem: • family support • school competence • competition • virtue • social approval • physical appearance • “God's Love” (religious identity) ▪ our self-esteem is heavily based on contingencies of self-worth ◦ several lessons on self-worth ▪ the extent that people can create environments that allow them to excel in domains related to their specific contingencies of self-worth, they will enjoy elevated self- esteem and its potential benefits ▪ it is important for people to base their sense of self-worth on performance in many domains • reminiscent of the self-complexity theory ◦ suggests coping with failure may be easier to those who define themselves in terms of multiple, non-overlapping domains ▪ it is costly to pursue self-esteem in any domain • the costs of making self-esteem your primary goal include: ◦ lowered feelings of autonomy ◦ less receptiveness to feedback that could be useful for learning and improvement ◦ threatened relationships ◦ heightened anxiety and stress • one way to avoid these costs is to replace self-esteem goals with alternative goals that include others or that involve contributing to something tht is larger than the self Social Acceptance and Self-Esteem • sociometer hypothesis – self-esteem is an internal, subjective index or marker of the extent to which a person is included or looked on favorably by others • the most social of animals, we thrive when we are in healthy relationships, and we therefore need a way to quickly asses how we are doing socially • our momentary feelings of self-esteem strongly depend on the extent to which others approve of us and include us Culture and Self-Esteem • E. Asian languages have no word that captures the idea of feeling good about oneself ◦ Japanese word for self-esteem comes from English ▪ Westerners invented the term self-esteem ▪ during the Enlightenment period, Western Europe began to prioritize freedom, individuality, and rights ▪ “transcendentalists” (Thoreau, Emerson, Fuller) • emphasized the dignity and power of the individual • Asians have other ways of feeling good about themselves than Westerners ◦ ex. motivated towards self-improvement and commitment to collective goals ◦ as they become more attuned to Western values, their self-esteem rises • reason for the differences: ◦ Western cultures create social interactions that enhance self-esteem ◦ Asian social interactions are less conducive of high self-esteem • important conseq
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