Chapter 6: Development of the Self and Social Cognition
Self: the combination of physical and psychological attributes that is unique to each
Looking-Glass self: a person’s understanding of self is a reflection of how other people
react to him.
Social cognition: thinking that people display about the thoughts, feelings, motives, and
behaviours of themselves and other people.
Development of the Self-Concept
Self-Concept: one’s perceptions of one’s unique combination of attributes.
The Emerging Self: Differentiation, Discrimination and Self-Recognition
Many developmentalists believe that infants are born without a sense of self.
Proprioceptive feedback: sensory information from the muscles, tendons, and joints that
helps one to locate the position of one’s body (or body parts) in space.
Personal agency: understanding that they are responsible for at least some of the events
that so fascinate them.
Infants start to recognize that they and their companions are separate beings with
different perspectives that can be shared.
Self-recognition: the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror or a photograph, coupled
with the conscious awareness that the mirror or photographic image is a representation of
Rouge test: test of self-recognition that involves marking a toddler’s face and observing
his or her reaction to the mark when he or she is places before a mirror.
Present self: early self-representation in which 2- and 3-year-olds recognize current
representations of self but are largely unaware that past self-representations or self-
relevant events have implications for the future.
Extended self: more mature self-representation, emerging between ages 3.5 and 5 years,
in which children are able to integrate past, present, and unknown future self-
representations into a notion of a self that endures over time.
Cognitive and Social Contributors to Self-Recognition
Although a certain level of cognitive development may be necessary for self-recognition,
social experiences are probably of equal importance.
The term looking-glass self may apply to chimpanzees as well as to humans: reflections
in a “social mirror” enable normal chimps to develop some self-awareness, where’s a
chimpanzee that is denied these experiences will fail to acquire a clear self-image.
One social experience that contributes to self-awareness in humans is a secure attachment
to a primary caregiver. Social and Emotional Consequences of Self-Recognition
2-year-old self-aware children readily partake in cooperative problem-solving activities
with social patterns, whereas even mature chimpanzees show little interest in cooperative
Emergence of Categorical Self
Categorical self: a person’s classification of the self along socially significant
dimensions such as age and sex.
Who Am I? Responses of Preschool Children
Developmentalists claim that the self-concepts of preschool children are concrete,
physicalistic, and nearly devoid of any psychological self-awareness.
According to Erikson, it is a healthy sign when preschool children largely define
themselves in terms of their activities and physical capabilities, because an activity-based
self-concept reflects the sense of initiative they will need in order to cope with the many
new lessons they must learn at school.
Evidence for an Early “Psychological” Self-Concept
Eder’s research implies that they have rudimentary psychological conceptions of self
long before they can express this knowledge in trait-like terminology.
Children’s Theory of Mind and Emergence of the Private Self
Public self: me, that others can see.
Private self: I, inner, reflective (thinking) character not directly available to others.
Theory of mind: an understanding that people have mental states, such as desires,
beliefs, and intentions, that are not always shared with or accessible to others, and that
often guide their behaviour.
Early Understandings of Mental States
The first step toward acquiring a theory of mind is the realization that oneself and other
humans are animate (rather than inanimate) objects whose behaviours reflect goals and
Joint attention: the act of attending to the same object at the same time as someone else;
a way in which infants share experiences and intentions with their caregivers.
Desire theorists: an early theory of mind in which a person’s actions are thought to be a
reflection of her desires rather than other mental states such as beliefs.
Belief-desire theory of mind: recognize that beliefs and desires are different mental
states and that either or both can influence one’s conduct.
Origins of a Belief-Desire Theory of Mind Children don’t appreciate that beliefs are merely interpretations of reality that may differ
from person to person and my be inaccurate.
False-belief task: method of assessing one’s understanding that people can hold
inaccurate beliefs that can influence their conduct, wrong as these beliefs may be.
Young children who have mastered false-belief tasks do tend to display more advanced
social skills and better social adjustment than age-mates who have not.
How Does a Theory of Mind Originate?
Human infants may be just as biologically prepared and as motivated to acquire
information about mental states as they are to share meaning through language.
Pretend-play and family discussions help theory of mind originate.
So the appearance of a belief-desire theory of mind by age 4 is not universal and is likely
to be delayed in cultures that lack the social supports for its emergence.
Conceptions of Self in Middle Childhood and Adolescence
Once children develop a theory of mind and clearly differentiate their public and private
selves, their self-descriptions very gradually evolve from listings of their physical,
behavioural, and other “external” attributes to sketches of their enduring inner qualities—
that is, their traits, values, beliefs and ideologies.
The Self in Adolescence
Inconsistencies in self-portrayals are fairly typical of adolescents who are becoming
much more aware that they may not be the same person in all situations—a fact that may
puzzle or even annoy them.
False-self behaviours: acting in ways that do not reflect one’s true self or the “true me.”
One’s self-concept becomes more psychological, more abstract, and more of a coherent,
integrated self-portrait from childhood throughout adolescence.
Self-Esteem: The Evaluative Component of Self
Self-esteem: one’s evaluation of one’s worth as a person based on an assessment of the
qualities that make up the self-concept.
Origins of Self-Esteem
By age 4 and 5, children have already established an early and meaningful sense of self-
esteem—one that is influenced by their attachment history and is a reasonably accurate
reflection of how teachers evaluate their competencies. Components of Self-Esteem in Childhood
Self-Perception Scale for Children on which they evaluate themselves in five domains:
scholastic competence, social acceptance, physical appearance, athletic competence, and
behavioral conduct. They also indicate their overall feelings of self-worth, or global self-
esteem. They make these assessments by indicating whether statements pertinent to each
competency domain (and global self-worth) are true or not true of themselves.
Both self-knowledge and self-esteem may depend to a large extent on the way others
perceive and react to our behaviour.
Older children’s feelings of self-esteem depend both on how they think others evaluate
them and on how they choose to evaluate themselves.
Self-Esteem in Adolescence
Relational self-worth: feelings of self-worth within a particular relationship context (for
example, with parents, with male classmates); m