-Our self-esteem is often based on comparisons we make between ourselves and others.
Nature of the Social Self
-William James (1890):The Principles of Psychology introduces self related concepts and distinctions.
-Act different with different people
-3 primary components of the self: the individual self, the relational self and the collective self.
-Individual Self: Beliefs about our unique personal traits, abilities and preferences, tastes, talents, and
-Relational Self: Beliefs about our identities in specific relationships (ex doting husband)
-Collective Self: Beliefs about our identities as members of social groups to which we belong (ex Irish-
Canadian, gay urban male etc.)
-Americans defined themselves in terms of personal attributes whereas Japanese were 3 times more
likely to identify themselves in terms of relationship/group (relational/collective terms).
Origins of Self-Knowledge
-Your sense of self comes from numerous social origins of self knowledge as well as from construal
Family and Other Socialization Agents
-Parents instructions and expectations can shape the self.
-Symbolic Interactionist notion: we come to know ourselves through imagining what others think of us.
-Looking Glass Self: Other people's reactions to us serve as a mirror of sorts, reflecting our image so that
we can see it.
-Self knowledge derived from reflected self-appraisal: Beliefs about what others think of our social
-We internalize how we think others appraise us, not necessarily how they actually see us.
-Our self appraisals often don't correlate well with appraisals from others.
-Self-views often affect reflected self-appraisals rather than the other way around.
-Pfeifer: Self-views are colored by reflected self-appraisals.
-Adolescents but not adults relied on reflected appraisals when reporting their self views, suggesting
that the adolescent's sense of self is especially likely to be based on their beliefs about others views of
Situationism and the Social Self
-Our social self shifts dramatically from one situation to the other.
Aspects of the Self that are Relevant in the Social Context
-What is relevant or important in a current situation determines the nature of the contextual shifts in
the sense of self.
-Markus and Wurf coined the term Working Self Concept: Subset of self-knowledge that is brought to
mind in a particular context.
Aspects of the Self that are Distinctive in the Social Context
-We highlight what makes us unique in a given social situation.
Both Malleable and Stable?
-There are certain components of self knowledge at the top regardless of the social situation.
-Shifts in a person's sense of self shift in a predictable and stable pattern.
Culture and the Social Self
-In Western societies people are concerned about their individuality and self-expression (Independent
Self Construal). In Asian (and Mediterranean, African, and South American) cultures, people are
concerned about relationships and groups (Interdependent Self Construal). Gender and the Social Self
-Women tend to define the self in more interdependent terms than men.
-Women more empathetic and better judges of other people's personalities.
-Where does this come from? The media, the way parents praise children, children's play groups and
how they represent gender-segregated groups that reinforce the differences in self-construal.
-May have resulted from evolution: men as aggressive hunters (independent), women as nurturers
-Social Comparison Theory: The hypothesis that people compare themselves to other people in order to
obtain an accurate assessment of their own opinions, abilities and internal states (Leon Festinger). Notes
that it is not effective to compare yourself to professionals or novices, although because we like to feel
good about ourselves we tend to compare ourselves to those inferior to us (downward social
-Breast cancer patients: compare to those who are worst off but initiate contact with those who are
-Upward comparisons when we aspire to be substantially better at some skill.
-People use routine standards to determine who to compare themselves to.
Narratives about the Social Self
-We are continually telling a story about our social self as we live our lives.
-More vivid and engaging self narratives enable people to feel happy and fulfilled as they age.
-Westerners tend to remember experiences from the inside out (1st person) whereas Easterners tend to
recall the stories from a 3rd person perspective.
Organization of Self Knowledge
-Our social selves depend on our ability to remember.
-Self-Schema: Cognitive structures, derived from past experience, that represent a person's beliefs and
feelings about the self in particular domains.
-Our social knowledge (our attitudes, stereotypes and expectations) organize how we construe our
-Our schemas help us organize and sort through our information.
-People are particularly attuned to information that maps onto a self-schema
-Schematics make more confident predictions about future independent or dependent related
-Self-schemas influence our interpretation of incoming information.
-Self-Reference Effect: The tendency for information that is related to the self to be more thoroughly
processed and integrates with existing self-knowledge, thereby making it more memorable.
-Information that you can personalize is easier to remember.
-Self-Complexity: The tendency to define the self in terms of multiple domains that are relatively
distinct from one another in content. How complex a person's self-knowledge is as measured by the
number of, and degree of overlap between different self-schemas.
-People low in self-complexity tend to be more affected by results affecting their schema (for example
doing poorly on a test).
-Elevating self esteem would help to cure society's ills.
-Self-Esteem: The positive or negative overall evaluation that each person has of himself or herself.
-Usually measured with self-reports
-Trait Self-Esteem: A person's enduring level of self-regard across time. Is fairly stable. -State Self-Esteem: Dynamic, changeable self-evaluations that are experienced as momentary feelings
about the self.
-Your mood shifts your self-esteem.
-During puberty male's self-esteem tends to rise while female's falls.
Contingencies of Self-Worth
-Contingencies of Self-Worth: An account of self-esteem that maintains that self-esteem is contingent
on successes and failures in domains on which a person has based his or her self-worth.
-Cost of making self-esteem your primary goal: lowered feelings of autonomy, less receptiveness to
feedback, threatened relationships, and heightened anxiety and stress. To reduce these losses it is
suggested to replace self-esteem goals with alternative goals including other people.
Social Acceptance and Self-Esteem
-Self-esteem is nothing but a readout of our likely standing with others.
-Sociometer Hypothesis: A hypothesis that maintains that self-esteem is and internal, subjective index
or marker of the extent to which a person is included or looked on favourably by others. Self-esteem is
-We thrive when we are in healthy social relationships.
-Elevated self esteem indicates that we are thriving in our relationships. Thus low self-esteem provides
useful information about when we need to attend to our social relations.
Culture and Self-Esteem
-Independent cultures foster higher levels of self-esteem than interdependent cultures.
-Why? Perhaps because people from Western cultures create social situations that enhance self-esteem.
-Japanese are more encouraged to engage in "assisted" self criticism than Americans. Americans are
more praised for their achievements.
-If Canadians are told they succeeded at a task they