Chapter 14: Approaches to the Self
March 13, 2012
Descriptive Component of the Self: Self-Concept
- The Self-concept is the basis for self-understanding and it forms the answer
to the question “Who am I?”
Development of Self-Concept
- Infancy: the infant realizes that they are distinct from the rest of the world
o Makes distinction between its own body and everything else.
(Discovers what is me and what is not me)
o Self-recognition with mirrors occurs on average at 18 months.
o Pretending behaviour (pretending to feed a doll food) requires that
the child distinguish “this is what I pretend to be doing” from “this is
what I am actually doing”.
o Children do not begin using personal pronouns (I, me, mine) until
they gain self-recognition abilities.
- Ages 2-3: child begins to associate the aspects of sex and age with
o Can also expand their self-concept to include reference to a family. (Im
- Ages 3-12: self-concept is based mainly on developing talents and skills.
o i.e. recite the alphabet, tie their own shoes, read, walk to school by
themselves, tell time, write cursive etc.
- Ages 5 or 6 onward: compare their skills and abilities with others
o Find out if they are better or worse then other children.
o Social Comparison: is the evaluation of oneself or one’s performance
in terms of a comparison with a reference group.
o Learn that they can lie and keep secrets. Based on the realization that
there is a hidden side to self such as private thoughts, feelings, and
desires, called Private Self-Concept.
o Big step in developing self-concept is whether to tell others about
these aspects about themselves.
- Adolescence: involves perspective taking and objective self-awareness.
o Adolescents describe themselves in terms of their personality
characteristics and their beliefs, qualities that produce a picture of the
self that is unique.
o Perspective Taking: the ability to take perspectives of others, or to
see oneself as others do, to step outside of oneself and imagine how one appears to other people. Explains why teenagers go through a
period of extreme self-consciousness at this time, focusing most of
their attention on how they appear to others.
o Objective Self-Awareness: seeing yourself as an object of other’s
- Chronic Objective Self-Awareness: is created from shyness and social
- Social Anxiety Disorder
o Significant fear in 1 (or more) social/performance situations
The fear is of social humiliation/embarrassment
o Exposure to this situation leads to high anxiety
o Person views fear as excessive/unreasonable
o The anxiety/distress causes impairment in one (or more) areas of life
o Can be treated with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which involves:
Challenging thought distortions
Gradual exposure to fearful situations.
Self-Schemata: Possible Selves, Ought Selves, and Undesired Selves
- Self-Schema: refers to the specific knowledge structure, or cognitive
representation, of the self-concept.
o Self-Schemata are the networks of associated building blocks of self-
They are built on past experiences and guide the processing
information about the self, particularly in social interaction.
- Possible Selves: describes the many ideas people have about who they
might become, who they hope to become, or who they fear they will become.
o Are some of the building blocks of the general self-concept.
o They are like bridges between our present and our future.
- Ideal Self: what persons themselves want to be.
- Ought Self: a person’s understanding of what others want them to be.
o Influenced by their responsibilities and commitments to others.
- The ideal self and ought self are referred to as Self-Guides: standards that
one uses to organize information and motivate appropriate behaviour.
Evaluative Component of the Self: Self-Esteem
- Self-Esteem is a general evaluation of self-concept along good-bad or like-
o The sum of your positive and negative reactions to all the aspects of
o Self-Esteem varies temporarily but mainly consists of an average. o Scale for measuring self-esteem includes three aspects: performance
self-esteem, appearance self-esteem, and social self-esteem.
o Self-Esteem varies by area of life or aspect of self. Usually there levels
of self-esteem are correlated. (People who have a high self-esteem in
one area of their life tend to have a high self-esteem in other areas)
Development of Self-Esteem
o Childhood: identify expectations for behaviour and live up to them.
I.e. When children master toilet training they feel a sense of
pride and boost of self-esteem.
o Later Childhood: children begin to engage in social comparison.
I.e. am I doing better then others?
o Later in Life: develop a set of internal standards, part of what they
hold to be important to their self-concept.
Reactions to Criticism and Failure Feedback
o Following Failure
Low Self-Esteem persons are more likely to perform poorly
and to give up earlier on subsequent tasks.