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Chapter 17

Chapter 17 What You KNow About You - Textbook Notes

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Richard B Day

Psych 2B03 2012 Part VI: What Personality Does: Learning, Thinking, Feeling and Knowing Chapter 17: What You Know About You: The Self  William James noted that “the self” can have two different meanings o I – mysterious entity that does the observing and describing  Eg/ When you try to describe how you feel deep down inside about knowing you are friendly  The littler person in the head (homunculus) or the soul, which experiences your life and makes decisions  The self that is doing the looking (Hilgard) o Me – a sort of object, which can be observed and described  Eg/ When you describe yourself as “friendly”  Collection of statements you can make about yourself  The self that is being looked at (Hilgard) The Self Across Cultures  Individualistic cultures – assume that the self has an independent and separate existence  Collectivists cultures – view the self as embedded in a larger social context of obligations and relationships  Two ways this theme has played out in modern research 1. Approach rooted in anthropological analysis – suspects that the self is a western cultural artifact that has no meaning in other cultures 2. Addresses the way the self and its implications differ across cultural contexts Is the Self a Cultural Artifact?  Holistic outlook leads Indians to think of themselves in a fundamentally different way than members of Western culture do (Richard Shweder and Lyle Bourne; anthropologists studying Hindu culture)  Experiment – asked Indians and Americans to describe people they knew o 50% of terms Americans used to describe American Indian acquaintances were personality traits – Indians She is friendly She brings cake to my family on festival days only used 20% of these terms He is cheap He has trouble giving things to his family o Conclusion – Americans and Hindu Indians think He is kind Whoever becomes his friend he remembers forever and will always help him out of his troubles of people in different ways and assumed this included how they think about themselves  May have to revise or discard many ideas of personality, as they may not be generalizable  First need to consider a few things o John Sabini pointed out that the idea of traits is not foreign to Indians (20% of terms used); not clear that colorful phrases are different from American descriptions – just longer and more vivid way of describing similar points o Difference between 50% and 20% of trait terms deserves attention – Easter cultures useless trait terms than Western cultures; members of different cultures vary in their ways of describing people Individualist and Collectivist Selves  Research assumes that the Western self is a relatively separate entity, while the Eastern self is more integrated into the social and cultural context  Self-Regard o Individualists need for positive self-regard may be less felt acutely by a member of a collectivist culture  Eg/ Japanese – do not have the pervasive need to think well of themselves; they tie individual well-being to that of a larger group o Japanese and American students respond differently to success, failure and negative self-relevant information  Canadian students who heard they failed a test of creativity quickly search for ways to think well of themselves in other contexts – Japanese students showed no signs of this response  Canadians who failed an experimental task persisted less on a second task and denigrated its importance – Japanese students worked harder and viewed the task as something important to strive to do better  Japanese students learned the Confucian view that failure always opens an opportunity for learning Consistency  Self-Determination  The individualist view of the self assumes that the cause of behaviour lies within the person – an individual is expected to behave consistently from one situation to the next o American Culture – behavioural consistency is associated with mental health 1 Psych 2B03 2012  Collectivist view is that behavior is a function of the particular immediate situation – less pressure to behave consistently and less conflicted about inconsistent behaviour o Korean Culture – behavioural consistency is not associated with mental health o Behaviour and experience is less consistent from one situation to the next (as compared to individualist cultures) o Koreans describe selves as less consistent than Americans do o Different Korean observers Koreans tend to agree less in descriptions than American observers  Consistency can be conceptualized and analyzed in two ways 1. Absolute Consistency – focuses on the degree to which an individual varies his behaviour or experience from one situation to the next o Japanese have more inconsistent emotional experience than Americans; emotions change more from situation to situation o Eg/ A brave person will be more nervous in a burning house than a normal classroom 2. Relative Consistency – the degree to which an individual maintains his differences from other people across situations o Japanese and American cultures have equally consistent emotional experience in a relative sense o Eg/ A brave person will be the most confident person in a burning house  While members of a collectivist culture may be more inconsistent in an absolute sense than members of individualistic cultures, individual differences and associated personality traits appear to be equally important in both contexts The Contents of the Self  William James – believed that the “me” includes everything we hold dear (not just personality traits, but also body, home, possessions, family)  Central aspect of self is our psychological self – our abilities, personalities o The need to maintain self image may influence behaviour and organizes your vast array of memories about yourself, and impressions an judgments of other people  Self-Knowledge can be divided into two parts 1. Declarative Knowledge – consists of facts and impressions that we consciously know and can describe; we can “declare” it o Eg/ Someone who knows she is friendly can say so – friendliness is part of declarative knowledge 2. Procedural Knowledge – knowledge expressed through actions rather than words o Eg/ A shy person might habitually avoid other people and social interaction whenever possible – habit may be so ingrained that he does not consciously realize how characteristic this behaviour is; shy person might be aware of tendencies at a deeper unconscious level o Includes patterns of social skills, styles of relating to others that comprise the relational self and the unconscious self-knowledge that resides in the implicit self The Declarative Self  Declarative Self – comprises of all conscious knowledge or opinions about own personality traits; two sorts of opinions o Self-Esteem – overall opinion about whether you are good or bad, worthy or unworthy, or somewhere in between o Opinion containing everything you know (or think you know) about your traits and abilities Self-Esteem  California Legislature (1987) set up a task to enhance self esteem of residence  Research suggests that low self esteem is correlated with outcomes such as dissatisfaction with life, hopelessness, depression, loneliness and delinquency  Lower self esteem rates  higher suicide rates; ironic because people with low self esteem have a greater fear of death  Low self esteem could be a danger signal (natural selection) – self esteem suffers when people lose respect or liking for you and may warn of rejection; could have been fatal in the past  Repeating self-affirmation statements (such as “I am lovable, I am powerful” etc) can be positive and negative o If one does not believe statement, then repeating it could make them feel worse because that trait that they do not believe they have is more prominent in their mind o Inflated self esteem; people who self-enhance run into relationship problems, mental health and adjustment problems  Narcissists – have high esteem that is brittle because it is unrealistic; unstable  Promoting psychological health requires more than trying to make people “feel better about themselves” – accomplishments must increase self-esteem legitimately – most important aspect is whether your opinion of yourself is accurate 2 Psych 2B03 2012 The Self-Schema  Self-Schema – cognitive structure that includes all of ones ideas about the self, organized into a coherent system o Declarative self resides in the self-schema  Schematic for a trait – to have self-schemas pertaining to trait  Can be identified using S data, B data or both  Exp/ Questionnaires; rate yourself for personality traits (S Data)  Exp/ Read trait words (eg/ friendly, responsible) and click “me” or “not me” – those who are schematic for a trait respond to the word faster (B Data)  This research has two implications 1. Methodological implication – phenomena studied by cognitively orientated personality psychologists and by trait psychologists may not be as different as presumed o Being assessed as schematic for a trait and attaining a high score or that trait on the CPI – seem to have the same implication for response time and indications of cognitive processing  may amount to the same thing 2. Ones self view (schema or trait) may have important consequences for how one processes information o Expertise about oneself can help in remembering information about oneself and process this information quickly, but may also keep them from seeing beyond boundaries of own self-image  Self-schema embodies knowledge based on past experiences (not particular) – it is unknown whether your self-view would change if events were erased from memory (i.e. if events where you were “kind” were erased; would you still think of yourself as kind?) o Addressed by two case studies 1. College student sustained a head injury, causing loss of memory of the last year – yet she was able to describe her own personality perfectly, including changed that had occurred in the past year 2. 28 year old man suffered from a heart attack that cut off oxygen to the brain, lost almost all memory of specific events in his life – he still had general knowledge of himself that agrees with the impressions of others who knew him well  Impressions of what one is like does not depend on memory for specific events; these two based of self-knowledge may exist independently in separate sectors of the brain Self-Reference and Memory  Implication for memory also indicate the deep roots of the self  Moving information into long-term memory (LTM) or permanent memory storages o Rehearsal – repetition of something in your mind is sufficient  old theory, not quite correct o Elaboration – repetition and thinking about something  more likely to transfer information to LTM  Self-Reference Effect – enhancement of LTM that comes from thinking of how information related to self o Good way to remember something is to think about how it pertains to self, because the mental structure of self- knowledge (self-schema) is rich, well developed and often used o Information tied to the schema in memory remains accessible for a long time o Particular area of the frontal cortex may be specialized to process this kind of information o Explains why most personally meaningful memories stick with you the longest o May work differently in different cultures  Chinese culture
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