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Chapter 2

PSYC 333 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: False Dilemma, Learned Helplessness, Shy People

Course Code
PSYC 333
Jennifer Bartz

of 8
PSYC333 Chapter 2 Notes
Social psychology and the self - keeps inventing approaches to study the self; this chapter will offer a loose survey of social
psych’s contribution to the study of the self
There really is no coherent psychology of self; loose diversity probably why the study of self is so frequently reinvented, and
also increases room for subjective bias as to what to include per researcher
Self-schema structure, self-presentatoin 10 years ago; nowadays it’s self-deception and self-regulation
Self - difficult to define; self-concept (cognitive structure) vs physical self (the body)
Full understanding of nature of self must include:
1) Body
2) Includes social identity (interpersonal roles and traits, potentiality, values & priorities Baumeister 1986)
3) Self is the active agent involved in decision making
The multiplicity of such aspects can lead to self as being interpreted as multiple selves, but it is important to realize they
all refer to a single self; unity & continuity (despite possible change)are thus essential to the definition of self
Markus & Nurius 1986 - one person can conceptualize him or herself in may possible future roles and
circumstances; and that people are guided and influenced by such conceptions
Ogilvie 1987 - undesired self” forms a powerful source of motivation for people to avoid turning themselves into;
happiness in life may depend more on avoiding the undesired self than achieving the ideal self; distance between
real vs undesired self had stronger correlation with life satisfaction
Higgins 1987 - people have various self-guides” - ideal and ought self conceptions according to their own or others’
expectations. Emotions arise from comparing one’s actual self to such guides -
e.g. ought-self discrepancy = unpleasant, high-arousal: guilt, anxiety, anger
e.g. ideal-self discrepancy = unpleasant, low-arousal: sadness, depression, disappointment
Wicklund & Gollwitzer 1982 - self-completion - notion that people are motivated to reach their ideals is a common
proposition; social psychologists Wicklund and Gollwitzer contributed the most extensive empirical work.
Incomplete - i.e. subjects made to believe they are not reaching their ideals will engage in symbolic activities that
will support their claim to the desired identity in an attempt to complete themselves; e.g. aspiring guitarist has a
discouraging experience; he is more likely than others to say he would want to be a guitar teacher
Functions of Selfhood:
Useful to keep in mind the functions the self serves
1) Self is an interpersonal tool; prerequisite for human social life; sustaining a relationship requires understanding of
stable identities for the people involved; people shape themselves to maintain relationships; strongly concerned with
how they are perceived in order to successfully maintain the relationship
2) Serves to make choices - well-defined self helps to make decisions in an organized, consistent way; self as a
collection of values, preferences and priorities
3) Self-regulation - effort required in maintaining body & functions, interpersonal relationships, etc; information relevant
to these tasks must follow a consistent pattern such that one may use this information as a reference point for how they
should act in novel situations to maintain attractive in their relationships
Self is a vitally important entity for storing and organizing of information; the cognitive structure of self-knowledge itself is
enough to create a separate field of study;
Self-reference effect (Rogers et al 1977, Markus 1977) - role of self in information processing is well-documented;
information relevant to self will be processed more thoroughly and better remembered than otherwise similar information
Rogers et al 1977 - subjects asked to make one of several judgments about a stimulus word; if asked to judge whether
the word described them, they remembered it better;
Culture, History, and the Self:
Self will have a different nature as a function of the social context in which it evolves (culture & society);
How culture shapes self is beginning to be understood:
Triandis 1989 - developed several key concepts
Distinguished between public (how one is perceived by other people; reputation, impressions), private (how one
understands oneself; introspection, private decision making, self-esteem, self-perception), collective (one’s
memberships in social groups; ethnic identity and family ties) aspects of self
Cultures vary in the emphasis they place on public, private, collective aspects of self -
Collectivist - cultures emphasize group conformity, the public and collective self at the expense of private
Tight” societies emphasize collective self, strong demands people conform to in-group norms, e.g. Japan
individualist cultures emphasize diversity and self-expression, the private self
Complex cultures spawn people that belong to many different groups but less loyal to any single group, so
the all-relevant public self is more important than collective, and there is still room to work on private selves;
BUT complex cultures foster identity problems and confusion
Katakis 1976 - 1984 - complex cultures fostering identity problems & confusion - children growing up in
fishing villages said they would be fishermen, where children in large cities responded “I will find myself”
Triandis 1989 - US vs Japan - illustration of focus on collective culture vs private culture -
cultures; public self in both; Japan emphasizes collective whereas US values private more; e.g.
daughter dating a man of a different race, privately not allow, but outwardly support? 50% American
subjects believed that was the worst response; 44% Japanese subjects said it was the best response
Markus and Kitayama 1991 - Eastern interdependence vs. Western independence
Social psychology dominated by Western view of self; researchers must understand the impact of self is different
in cultures for whom the self is interpersonal
History - Self over time - increasing importance/complexity/expectations of self throughout the ages
1) Identity part of self increasingly elaborate over past centuries
2) Self is more frequently a source of problem/conflict/uncertainty (e.g. identity crisis)
Why? - Modern selves have more choice and thus more instability and change e.g. nowadays, social class can be
chosen based on one’s choices; in ancient times, one’s worth was a direct consequence of one’s social class and
thus was a fixed quantity
Expansion of the conception of an inner self - important change in selfhood conception. Shakespeare’s time
marked the beginning of the consideration of an inner self divergent from surface/overt behavior
Modern self conceptions are based on the dichotomy of having an inner and outer self, but is ultimately a
metaphor constructed and shaped by our culture.
Author believes the most important problem of meaning in modern life is the difficulty in determining firm,
consistent values for which to justify one’s actions, prompting society to experiment with a slew of new values (e.g.
work ethic, family, motherhood) and the individual self’s entitlements - it is considered a right and duty to
understand oneself, thus reducing importance in their obligations toward others.
People rely increasingly on the self to give meaning and value to life, and thus its importance has been and is still
steadily increasing.
Conceptions of Self:
Self-concept - total organized body of information one has about him or herself made up of many individual self-schemas
Social psychologists no longer describe self as a single, articulated self-concept, nowadays, they view it as a loose
network of self-schemas
Not 100% organized, can hold inconsistencies that only cause problems once discoverd
Phenomenal self/spontaneous self-concept, working self-concept - the small part of self-concept present in awareness
at any one time
Why? to prevent inconsistencies in self from being discovered; parts of self may be internally consistent without being
consistent with each other and may never need to be compared and thus can coexist without a problem
Self-concept not predetermined, not a ‘true inner self,’ as traits are only crude generalizations
Only viable approach to a consistent inner self is growth of patterns of thought, feeling and action independent of
external pressure
Self-appraisals - other people’s reflected appraisals highly affect our self-concept
Symbolic interactionists - you are whatever other people tell you you are; one of the most influential theories in social
BUT really, people’s self-conceptions agree only very slightly with how others perceive them, instead
Peoples’ self appraisals are strongly correlated with their own perceptions of how others appraised them; problem is
inconsistency between feedback from others and what those others actually believe
A’s self-concept may not agree with B’s assessment of her, but is similar with what A perceives B to think of her
i.e. information is heavily filtered and biased by individual before they can incorporate it into their self-concept
Accuracy of Self-Knowledge:
People believe they have accurate self-knowledge due to mistaken beliefs:
Privileged access - notion that people can know things about their inner states that others can only gain indirect
knowledge about;
Memory - they think know their memory the best
BUT people process information in a biased manner and unconsciously distort self information to reflect their
Self-deception -
Nibett: People are conscious of feelings, but cannot understand how they arose and thus make up reasons; i.e.
genuine introspection is not useful
e.g. preference among nylon stockings showed strong serial position effect, but people’s explanations did not
mention serial position
Different views: people don’t make up reasons on purpose; introspection is only deceptively useful due to peoples’
unawareness of their lack of self-knowledge
Introspection may even be harmful
e.g. in dating couples that did not analyze their relationship, initial relationship satisfaction correlated strongly to
whether they were still together at the follow up study. In dating couples that analyzed their relationship, there was
no correlation!
introspection focused attention on accessible, but not necessarily relevant aspects that then assume
disproportionate weight; threw people off track
Greenwald: Self distorts and reinterprets events in biased light in order to be consistent with favourable self beliefs =>
Junk mail mechanism for self-deception - resolves fallacy of how the same person must knowingly deceive and
unwittingly be duped; you can’t prevent knowing you received an unpleasant self-knowledge, but you can turn
attention away to minimize mental exertion
Subjects spent less time reading and recalled less of unfavorable feedback than positive feedback; people
tune out and forget unfavourable appraisals from others
Positive illusions: how people self-deceive; majority of normal people exhibit all three, lack of them is correlated with
1) Overestimate good qualities
2) Overestimate how much control they have
3) More optimistic than warranted
Dangers of overconfidence - high-self esteem correlated with people more likely to ride motorcycle with no helmet,
more prone to overcommit themselves
Refinement to the theory: People can turn their illusions on and off as needed; high esteem beneficial in a
performance, lower esteem beneficial to make a safe decision
People know lots of self information, but it is distorted
Identity Crisis:
Identity crisis - difficulties of defining the self, gives insight into how self-knowledge is structured and its practical limitations
Marcia’s classifications
ID achieved - experienced ID crisis, has formed a committed ID - mature
Moratorium - experienced ID crisis, but not yet formed a commID - ID crisis stil in progress - unstable emotions
Foreclosed ID - formed a committed ID without having had an ID crisis - individual has simply accepted a
predetermined ID - rigid, shallow
ID diffusion - neither - confused, unhappy, perpetually immature don’t know don’t care attitude
Types of ID crisis
1) ID deficit - linked to male adolescence and midlife transition; not enough self to decide important things; exciting and
full of rollercoaster emotions; resolve by expanding self concept to encompass new values and commitments
2) ID conflict - when multiple selves conflict; results in confusion, passivity, guilt, can happen anytime, either gender;
resolve by sacrificing conflicting part of self, i.e. self contraction