PSY210 Ch.11 Self & Social Understanding 12/14/2012 8:47:00 AM
1. Emergence of self and development of self-concept
2. Self esteem
3. Identity construction
4. Thinking of others
5. Thinking of relations between people
Social cognition: towards metacognitive understanding
Becomes better organized
More complex causes of behaviour are understood over time
1. Emergence of self and development of self-concept
William James: the complementary I-self and me-self
The I-self (me = knower/actors) active observations lend
knowledge and control over ones:
The me-self (sense of self as = object of knowledge + evaluation)
o Material, psychological and social characteristics
Beginning of the I-self
o Newborns = stronger rooting reflex to physical stimulation
from others (than self-stimulation – hand on cheek)
o Intermodal perception – baby differentiates themselves from
objects/people in their surroundings by e.g. hearing
o Realization that their own actions cause objects/people to
react in predictable ways.
Linked to secure attachment parenting style
o Contrast between self and other objects/people = realization
of difference between self and social world. Beginnings of the me-self
o Awareness of self’s physical features (me vs. someone else
when facing themselves in the mirror – Ex. Red dye on nose)
o Self-recognition (Age 2)
o Fostered with sensitive care-giving
Self-awareness + early emotional and social development:
Self-awareness = self-consciousness, perspective, empathy, peer
imitation, sense of ownership (MINE!), cooperation, games
The categorical self = classifying others on the basis of
age/gender/physical characteristics/goodness or badness
Remembered self = autobiographical memory, life-story narrative =
coherence of self
Story telling from parentchild = view of self, cultural values
The inner self: Young children’s Theory of Mind
A coherent understanding of their own and others mental lives
Inner self awareness of private thoughts and imaginings of self and
others. = this understanding explains behaviour of others
Desire theory of mind: Young infants think that people always act
in ways consistent with their desires and do not understand that
less obvious, more interpretive mental states such as beliefs, also
o Perception + emotion + desire
“you want to see how he cried”
Due to more language being used at age 3.
o Desires = Actions
Belief-desire theory of mind: a more sophisticated view in which
both beliefs + desires determine actions (Age 4+)
o Beliefs + Desires = Actions
o Understanding of the relationship between inner states
Efforts to alter others beliefs’ increases = children
realize the power of belief to influence action False-beliefs (ones that do not represent reality
accurately) can guide peoples behaviour. (Ex. Band-
aide box + puppet task)
Mastery of false belief = a change in representation =
the ability to view beliefs as interpretations, not just
reflections of reality.
Second-order beliefs: Awareness that people form
beliefs about other peoples beliefs
Helps children to understand others’ perspectives,
and how they arrived at their own beliefs.
Consequences of belief-desire reasoning:
o Understanding others beliefs and desires = more sociable
o More advanced social skills = better results of child on false-
o Advances in make-believe play
o More accurate eye witness memories after age 6, due to fale-
belief task recognition that ones beliefs can affect another.
o Advances in persuasion – changing the belief of others
Factors contributing to infants Theory of Mind:
(reflection on thoughts, false-belief),
o cognitive abilities
(inhibit inappropriate responses, think flexibly, and
o Maternal “mind-mindedness”
(secure attachment, “do you remember/want/like/…” =
by mother to child = better results on theory of mind
tasks like false-belief tasks)
o make-believe play,
(to know belief influences behaviour even in abstract
contexts, better able to reason about a fictional
situation = more likely to pass false-belief tasks)
o social experiences (infants with siblings = more aware of false-belief,
mental-state talk, interaction with older more mature
Children with autism = deficient theory of mind, difficulty with
false-beliefs, difficulty in attributing mental states to
others/themselves (believe, think, know, feel, pretend).
Self-concept: the set of attributes, abilities, attitudes and values
that an individual believes defines who he/she is.
= concrete self-concepts. Based mainly on observable
characteristics (name, physical appearance,
possessions, everyday behaviours).
o Mid childhood
= shift from typical behaviours/internal states
general dispositions. Competencies instead of specific
behaviours. Mention of both positive and negative
traits. Social comparisons (judging their appearance,
abilities and behaviour in relation to peers).
o Early adolescence
= separate traits are unified into abstract descriptors
like “intelligent”, Contradictory generalizations of self
(due to social pressures to display different selves in
o Late adolescence
= Traits are combined + organized now too. Reasons
based on different relationships with others are given
for earlier seemingly contradictory generalizations.
Social virtues are emphasized = preoccupation to be
viewed positively by others. Personal and moral values
= key themes in older adolescents
Cognitive, social and cultural influences on self-concept:
o Cog = structuring of the self gets better with age and cog
abilities. Formal operational adolescences = complex, well-
organized, internally consistent self-concept o Social = Changing content = due to feedback from others.
The self as a generalized other, a blend of what we imagine
important people in our lives think of us. Perspective-taking
skills. Ideal vs. real self.
o Cultural = resources of self-definition expand with age and
being exposed to the community around them. Collective vs.
2. Self-esteem: Evaluating self-concept
Self-esteem: another component of self-concept, based on the
judgments we make about our own worth and the feelings
associated with those judgments.
o Important part of emotional and self-development.
Structure of self-esteem:
o Self-evaluations of general self-esteem: academic
competence, social competence, physical/athletic
competence, and physical appearance.
Changes in self-esteem = social comparisons
Influences of self-esteem: affects relationships, valuing various
activities + success at them.
o Culture: Asian cultures, girls + sense of self-worth, African-
o Parenting: warm, positive, not overly controlling styles of
parenting good for self-esteem. Such a thing as too much
self-esteem boosted by parents? = lower achievement levels,
Bidirectional relationship: self-esteem & achievement
Attributions: our common everyday explanations for causes of
o Causes: External/environmental or internal/psychological
o Ability vs. Effort
o Achievement motivation: the tendency to persist at
challenging tasks = explains why some less intelligent
students do better. Emergence: Age 3, infants make attributions about their
successes/failures which affect their expectancies of success, which
influence their willingness to try hard in the future.
o Preschoolers = “learning optimists” see their ability as high,
task difficulty as low, = positive expectancies of success.
o Non-persisters – associate failure with punishment, their self-
worth is based on the judgment of others not inner standards.
Mastery orientated vs. Learned helplessness
o With age = improved reasoning, ability to distinguish ability,
effort and external factors to explain their performance.
o High in achievement motivation = mastery-orientated
Success = ability, improvement = hard work.
Incremental view of ability it can be altered through
So they attribute failures to factors that can be
Focus on learning goals: increasing their ability
through effort and seeking info on how to do so.
o Low in achievement motivation = learned helplessness
Failures are attributed to ability (instead of successes).
When they succeed, they think its due to external
events like luck.
Entity view of ability it cannot be changed , even
with hard work.
Failure to connect effort with success = lack of effective
learning strategies, reduced persistence, and a sense of
loss of control sustain one another in a vicious cycle.
Focus on performance goals: obtaining positive
and avoiding negati