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Intro Soc - Ch.5.pdf

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Psychology 2720A/B
Patrick Brown

Printable View of: Chapter 5 Print Save to File File: Overview Overview Chapter 5 discusses research and theory on individual differences (the person who is in the situation being studied by social psychologists), especially identity, gender, and dispositions (or personality traits). The goal of the chapter is to identify some of the personal characteristics that have been studied most often by social psychologists to understand social behaviour. Many measures of individual differences have been developed and validated over the last 20 or 30 years, so social psychologists today can find measures to assess a wide variety of dispositions. This availability of diverse measures has resulted in more and more social psychologists using personality or identity measures in their studies even if their primary interest is not individual differences. Thus, personality psychology has become increasingly integrated into experimental social psychology. The close relationship between social and personality psychology is illustrated by the premier journal in social psychology, which is the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In addition to having personality in its title, one of the three subsections of this journal is titled Personality Processes and Individual Differences (the other two subsections are Attitudes and Social Cognition and Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes). The increasing integration of social and personality psychology is highly desirable because it adds a new perspective on social behaviour. File: Self-Concept and Identity Self-Concept and Identity The first section of the chapter addresses the self peoples conceptions of who they are and how they differ from others. Not surprisingly, peoples conceptions of themselves are extremely important determinants of their emotions and actions. The textbook distinguishes between several terms in the domain of the self. The self-concept refers to all information about the self in memory, which is extensive. Identity refers to the specific characteristics that people think define them, so it is more limited than the self-concept. Self-esteem refers to peoples judgments of their own worthiness whether they are generally good or deficient individuals. Each of these concepts is important and is discussed in the textbook. As we just mentioned, the self-concept contains all information about the self in memory. The quantity of information about the self is very substantial, because most of our memories about the past and most of our expectations for the future involve the self. One issue that the textbook does not address is how this information about the self is organized. What structures are used to impose order and to make information about the self easily retrievable? Hazel Markus (1977) suggested that people possess self-schemas in certain domains, which organize existing information and influence the processing of new information. A self-schema is a set of beliefs and expectations about ones behaviour in a certain domain. We possess self-schemas about ourselves in some domains but not in others. If an individual possesses a self-schema in a particular domain, he or she is labelled schematic for that domain, which means that he or she has strong beliefs and expectations about the self in that domain. People who do not have strong beliefs or expectations about the self in a certain domain are labelled aschematic. Markus (1977) determined whether people were schematic or aschematic in a particular domain by asking them to rate themselves on the domain and to rate the importance of this domain to them: people who rate themselves as extreme on a dimension and state that the dimension is very important to them are schematic for that domain; people who are not extreme or who do not consider the dimension to be important are aschematic. Lets consider an example to illustrate the implications of self-schemas. We will use the domain ofextraversion. Do you consider yourself to be very extraverted, very introverted, or somewhere in between? Also, how important is this domain to your self-description that is, how important is extraversion or introversion to how you see yourself? If you consider yourself to be very extraverted or very introverted and you consider this part of your self-concept to be important, then you are schematic for this domain. If, on the other hand, you consider yourself to be low or moderate on extraversion/introversion or if this dimension is not very central to how you view yourself, then you are aschematic for this dimension. What are the consequences of being schematic versus aschematic for a particular domain? One straightforward effect is that people who are schematic for a dimension possess a lot of information about themselves in that domain and are confident about their self-view. For instance, someone who is schematic for extraversion can quickly generate many examples of his or her own extraverted behaviour and is skeptical of arguments that he or she might be shy. A second consequence of a self-schema is that it influences perceptions of other people. For example, someone who is schematic for extraversion will notice the degree of extraversion in other people and will categorize others on the basis of their extraversion. In this regard, the self-schema functions like a chronically accessible concept in perceiving others. Recall from Chapter 3 on Social Cognition that chronic accessibility refers to whether a concept is easily activated in general (across time and situations). Because self-schemas are chronically accessible, they affect not only self-perception but also how other people are perceived. Returning now to material in the textbook, the section Is It Me or We? discusses the importance of social groups in personal identity. Individuals group memberships often constitute central elements in how they see themselves. For example, someone might define herself as a Canadian, as a student at Western, as a Psychology Major, and so on. Each of these group memberships provides information that distinguishes her from most other individuals. The textbook points out that these social aspects of identity are even more central for
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