PSYC 100 Lecture Notes - Lecture 18: Social Comparison Theory, Terror Management Theory, Fundamental Attribution Error

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16 Aug 2016
U6 L18: Personality and Social Psychology: The Self
The Self
-Describe the self-concept and how schemata guide our interpretation of people’s behaviour, including our own
-Explain self-esteem and how people manage their self-esteem
-Describe the functional significance of self-esteem management strategies
-Social Psychology → scientific study of how individuals’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by the social
-self-concept → the sum total of beliefs that people have about themselves; comprised of many different components are self
-self-schemas → beliefs people hold about themselves that guide how they process self relevant information
-schematicity → the importance of particular self schemas to a person’s self concept
-if a self schema is central to a person’s self concept, it is referred to as schematic; when a self-schema is not very important to
a person, that person is said to be aschematic on that attribute
-Schematicity influences not only how we behave in a given situation, but also how we remember past events, as people tend
to reconstruct their memories for past events or behaviours in a schema-consistent manner
-how we view ourselves affects how we view others, as we tend to perceive and judge other people in terms of schema-
relevant dimensions (e.g. if you believe yourself to be honest and fair and these qualities are important to your self-concept,
you are likely to harshly evaluate a stranger whom you see hop on the bus without paying his fare)
-self-awareness → the ability to see yourself as a distinct entity, and it is important in developing a self-concept
-we know what we think and feel because we are the ones who possess these thoughts and feelings and can therefore best
understand our behaviour
-others believe that when we engage in introspection (looking inward to one’s own thoughts and feelings), they are not
accurate at explaining at why they do the things they do
-people demonstrate their lack of self-knowledge when they engage in affective forecasting (predicting how they would feel
about a future emotional event)
-when people respond to questions about their future feelings, they tend to believe that they would be much more devastated
and much more elated than they actually are at that future time
-people generally overestimate the strength and duration of their emotional reactions
-Self-perception theory → people learn about themselves by observing their own behaviour and making inferences regarding
their internal state from these actions, occurs when one’s internal state is weak or difficult to interpret
-looking-glass self → the notion that other people serve as mirrors in which we see ourselves, helps us shape our self-
-social comparison theory → people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others, in particular
they compare themselves to others who are similar in relevant ways
-self-concept is shaped by cultural factors: in individualistic cultures, people describe themselves in terms of their inner
psychological characteristics, such as their attitudes, personality traits and abilities; in collectivist cultures, people describe
themselves in terms of their relational roles and group memberships
-differences between individual and collective societies affect many experiences including the social comparison theory
-most people from individualistic cultures have an independent self-concept in which they view the self as distinct,
autonomous, self-contained, and endowed with unique dispositions
-most people from collectivist cultures possess an interdependent self-concept, they view the self as part of a larger social
network in which harmonious relationships with others are more important than self expression
-if you speak a language that is part of an individualistic/collective culture, you are likely to adopt some of the values relevant
to the culture when describing yourself
-personality and individual differences influence the extent to which someone’s actions are affected by a social situation; the
nature of the situation can obviously play a large role in determining its influence, and people are often completely unaware
of when they are being influenced by external forces
-Self-esteem → overall feelings of approval and acceptance of yourself; generally stable, but can feel positively about self-
schemas and negatively about others
-self-concept is a cognitive evaluation while self-esteem is emotional: self concept is how we think about ourselves, while
self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves
-self-esteem is generally viewed as a stable trait from childhood onward, life experiences such as successes and failures can
alter our state of mind, resulting in temporary or even permanent shifts in self-esteem
-sociometer theory → states that self-esteem evolved as a way to measure interpersonal relationships
-terror management theory→ states that all human behaviour is motivated by the fear of our own mortality
-self-discrepancy theory → our self-esteem and emotional states are determined by the match or mismatch between how we
see ourselves and how we want to see ourselves
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-our actual self refers to people’s beliefs regarding their actual attributes
-our ought self refers to people’s beliefs regarding what they and important others think they should or ought to be
-our ideal self refers to people’s belief regarding what they and important others would like them to be
-actual/ought discrepancy → an existence of negative outcomes occur due to stress between what the person is like and what
they feel they ought to be like, may feel like you are a bad person and subsequently develop feelings of agitation and anxiety
-actual/ideal discrepancy → absence of positive outcomes, due to stress between what the person is like and what they and
others would like them to bel, may experience feelings of dejection for not having lived up to the ideal and may lead to
Sociometer Theory
-people are inherently social animals and use self-esteem as a means to gauge the degree to which they are liked and accepted
or disliked and rejected by others
-self-esteem reflects how we think others view us
-low self-esteem may alert us to the fact that we need to change our behaviour to be accepted
-strong correlation between self-esteem and experiencing acceptance/rejection from others; self-esteem increases after praise
and decreases after social rejection
-Things that increase your self-esteem would also improve other’s opinions of you
-Public feedback affects a person’s level of self-esteem but private feedback does not
-evolutionary, in that others’ acceptance of and willingness to cooperate with us was essential to our survival in the ancestral
Terror Management Theory
-people are biologically programmed for self-preservation but at the same time are well aware of their mortality
-the inevitability of death is terrifying and people are motivated to pursue positive self-evaluations because higher self-esteem
provides a buffer against this potential fear and anxiety
-the more salient mortality is in their lives, the more they struggle to improve their self-esteem
-effects are noticeable in people with lower levels of self-esteem
-people who do not believe in an afterlife are more likely to increase their self-esteem when reminded about mortality than are
people who believe that life does not end at death
-buffers for self-esteem in the face of failure and feelings of inadequacy
-self-handicapping → engaging in behaviours designed to sabotage one’s own performance in order to provide a subsequent
excuse for failure; to avoid the conclusion that your failure was due to lack of ability, you can create a plausible external
-basking in reflected glory (BIRG) → people increase their self-esteem by associating with others who are successful; also cut
off reflected failure to protect self-esteem by psychologically distancing themselves from others who have failed
-downward social comparisons → defensive tendencies to compare ourselves with others who are worse off than we our; in
doing so, we can experience an increase in mood and a positive outlook for the future, we do not only make social
comparisons with others, but also temporal comparisons between our past and present selves because people tend to make
favourable comparisons by maintaining the belief that they have improved over time
Self-serving cognition
-general beliefs about self that serve to enhance self-esteem
-Better-than-average effect → Most people rate themselves on most dimensions as better than the average person
-Unrealistic optimism → Most people are unrealistically optimistic about their future outlook; we tend to create theories that
link their personal attributes to desirable outcomes
-self-serving attributions → self-enhancing belief is characterized by the tendency to take personal credit for successes and
provide external excuses for failure
Perceptions of Others
-Describe personal and situational attributions and the types of information used in making such judgements
-Describe the heuristics used in social cognition and the fallacies associated with them
-Describe factors in impression formation and the process by which we reach impressions
-Attributions → explanations for the causes of our own and others’ behaviour; can be divided into personal attributions
(internal) and situational attributions (external)
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