Week 22: Social Psychology Part 1: The Self
• Refers to the sum total of beliefs that people have about themselves
• Comprised of many different components or “self-schemas” which are beliefs people hold about
themselves that guide how they process self-relevant information
• The importance of particular self-schemas to a person's self-concept.
• When a self-schema is central to a person’s self-concept, that person is said to be schematic with
respect to that attribute
• If a self-schema is not very important to a person, that person is said to be aschematic on that attribute
• This influences how we behave and also influences how we remember past events
• Also how we view ourselves affects how we view other
• The ability to see yourself as a distinct entity
• Important in developing self-concept
• Recognition of one’s reflection is a test of a person’s self awareness (recall theory of mind and the
• Predicting how one would feel about a future emotional event.
• People often demonstrate a lack of self-knowledge when they engage in affective forecasting (i.e.
• 3 Errors made in predicting future affect:
1. Focalism: failure to consider that other things going on in our lives impact our affect and can
2. Duration bias: when people overestimate the amount of time needed to recover from a negative
3. Predictive Error Impact Bias: people overestimate the effect a situation or decision will have on
• When internal cues are difficult to interpret, people sometimes determine their attitudes and feelings by
observing their own behaviour.
• The self is inherently a social construct
• We infer and imagine what other people think of us from their reactions, and integrate these
perceptions into our self-concept
Social Comparison Theory:
• People evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others (especially others
who are similar in relevant ways)
• Influenced by the type of culture we live in (individualist or collectivist)
Culture and Identity: • Individuals from individualistic cultures have an independent self-concept in which the view the self as
distinct, autonomous, self-contained and endowed with unique dispositions
• Individuals 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-
Sociometer Theory: States that self-esteem evolved as a way to measure interpersonal relationships (more
widely accepted theory)
• Research has demonstrated there is a strong correlation between self-esteem and experiencing
acceptance/rejection from others
• Things that increase your self-esteem would also improve other’s opinion of you
• Self-esteem increases after praise and decreases after social rejection
• Public feedback affects a person’s level of self-esteem but private feedback does not
• In evolutionary sense, other’s acceptance of and willingness to cooperate with us was essential to our
• Low self-esteem may alert us to the fact that we need to change our behaviour to be accepted
Terror management theory: States that all human behaviour is motivated by the fear of our own mortality.
• People are motivated to pursue positive self-evaluations because higher self-esteem provides a buffer
against this potential fear and anxiety
• People who do not believe in the afterlife are more likely to increase their self-esteem when reminded
• Self-handicapping is defined as engaging in behaviours designed to sabotage one’s own performance
in order to provide a subsequent excuse for failure
• Ex. If you know you’re going to lose the big game tomorrow, so you go to a party, get drunk and don’t
sleep so you can blame the hangover for your failure
• Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) occurs when people increase their self-esteem by associated with
others who are successful
• Ex. Wearing a sports jersey of a winning team
• Downward Social Comparisons are defensive tendencies to compare ourselves with others who are
worse off than we are
• This can also be done with comparing our present selves with our past selves
Self-Serving Cognitions: general beliefs about the self that serve to enhance self-esteem
• Better than average effect: most people rate themselves as better than the average person (a statistical
• Unrealistic optimism: most people are unrealistically optimistic about their future outlook
• Self-serving attributions: characterized by tendency to take personal credit for successes and provide
external excuses for failure (ex. Passing a test “because you’re smart” but failing a test “because the
teacher made it too difficult).
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.
• The actual self refers to people’s beliefs regarding their actual attributes • The ought self refers to people’s beliefs regarding what they and important others thing they should, or
ought to be
• The ideal self guide refers to people’s beliefs regarding what they and important others would like them
• When an actual/ought discrepancy occurs, there is said to be an existence of negative outcomes
• When an actual/ideal discrepancy exists, there is said to be an absence of positive outcomes
Personal or Situational:
• Attributes are explanations for the causes of our own and others’ behaviour
• 2 types: personal attributions (internal) and situation attributions (external)
Covariation Principle: For something to be the cause of someone’s behaviour, it must be present when the
behaviour occurs and absent when it does not (like contingency)
-3 kinds of covariation information helpful in making attributions:
1. Consistency: is the person’s behaviour consistent over time?
2. Consensus: How are other people reacting to the same stimulus?
3. Distinctiveness: Does this person react the same or differently to other stimuli?
-When consistency, consensus and distinctiveness are high, people make situational or external attributions
-When consistency is high but consensus and distinctiveness are low, people make personal or internal
Heuristics: information-processing rules of thumb-to make attribution decisions more quickly
• Ex.of heuristics: using rule of thumb, educated guesses, or common sense
• Can introduce bias into decision-making process and decrease accuracy
Fundamental Attribution Error: The tendency to overestimate the impact of personal factors and
underestimate the impact of situational factors when attributing the causes of another's behaviour.
• ex. Seeing a police yelling at kids and assuming this person is aggressive
• Or. seeing a nurse comforting the family of a sick patient and concluding that this person is very helpful
• Game show ex: participants were randomly assigned to be questioners or contestants in a quiz game.
The questioners wrote difficult questions that the contestants struggled to answer. The audience concluded the questioners had higher knowledge levels than the contestants (untrue) but they didn’t
account for the fact that the questioners had the answers beforehand
Knowledge across Situations: People usually judge the behaviour of those whom they know well to be more
flexible and more dependent on the situation than the behaviour of those they know less well.
Visual-Orientation Hypothesis: We attribute behaviour to personality differently for others than we do
ourselves because we see the environment only through our own eyes, but we focus on other people and
ignore the environment.
• ex. When participants watched themselves on videotape they were more likely to attribute their
behaviour to their own traits than to the situation
• when they watched another person’s actions on tape they were more likely to attribute that person’s
behaviour to the situation than to his/her disposition
• fundamental attribution error remains low in collectivist cultures
• fundamental attribution error becomes stronger in individualistic cultures as people get older
• this indicates that differences that are positively correlated with time spent in a specific environment
indicate that the environment is related to the difference
• this supports the notion that our attribution style is a learned way of categorizing and understanding the
• Person positivity bias: we tend to evaluate individuals more favourably than groups
• Trait negativity bias: according to trait negativity bias we tend to be more influenced by negative
information than positive information (because we tend to have positive expectations of others)
• Primacy effect: we are more influenced by information that is presented earlier (so first impressions
• Our first goal is to process information efficiently based on group membership
Progression of 7 possible stages of impression formation:
• Initial Categorization: automatic judgements based on physical characteristics and obvious social
• Personal Relevance: to determine if other individual is personally relevant, if not maintain initial