CHAPTER FIVE – Self and Identity
Self-concept: the set of ideas and inferences that you hold about yourself, including
your traits, social roles, schema, and relationships.
How does Self-Concept Develop?
Chimpanzees and Self-Recognition
1. First 1 or 2 days, chimps act as if reflection in mirror is another chimp. They show
other-directed social responses, like they would when meeting a strange chimp in
2. After that, the chimps began to react with self-directed responses. After 10 days,
they become bored with the reflection and adapted to it being there.
3. Paint is placed on the chimp while they are unconscious, to test to see if the
chimp really realises that the chimp in the mirror is them.
4. Chimps spent 25% more time touching themselves, poking at the paint.
a. Chimps that had not had the chance to adapt to the mirror did not pay
attention to the painted areas. This indicates that self-recognition must
have been learned at some point.
Only the great apes like chimps and orangutans can recognize themselves in the mirror.
It has been demonstrated in elephants, dolphins, whales, and magpies.
Chimps that were taken from their mothers soon after birth and raised in isolation are
unable to recognize themselves in the mirror and never become adapted to the
reflection. When the chimps were introduced to social situations, they began to show
some self-recognition. This indicates that social experience is important is self-
Children and Self-Recognition
Birth to about one year: children are developing a sense of physical awareness. They
are trying to figure out what is part of them and what is part of the physical environment.
A baby‟s self is pretty much physical.
Once babies figure out that they are a separate physical being, they can then
figure out more about themselves.
At about 18 months of age, babies begin to recognise themselves in the mirror.
9-12 months: only 25% could self-recognise
21-25 months: 75% could self-recognise Age 2 or 3: children can recognise themselves in the mirror/pictures and begin to use
language like, „I‟ or „me‟
This is also the age that self-esteem begins to emerge
Ages 3 – 4: Children‟s self-concepts reflect developing skills and abilities in addition to
physical attributes, preferences, and possessions.
Developing Self in School
Between ages 5 and 12, children are developing their own abilities and becoming aware
of the abilities of other children. Comparing with peers becomes very important between
the ages of 5 – 6. This is how children gain a sense of their own talents.
At ages 3 – 4, children recognize personality characteristics and can use them to
describe other children. It isn‟t until ages 5 – 6 that the children can describe others
using personality attributes and social comparison information.
Not until ages 9 or 10 do children understand what is a trait and recognize traits as
Also between ages 5 and 12, children start to develop a private sense of self as they
recognize that that there are parts of themselves that others cannot see.
Adolescence and the Looking Glass Self
Adolescents (especially between the ages of 15 – 16) are very sensitive to how they are
perceived and judged by others = extreme self-consciousness.
Objective self-awareness: adolescents experience this as they begin to see themselves
as the objects of others‟ attention. Through reflected appraisals (opinions of significant
others that are used as a mirror to evaluated ourselves), they internalize others‟
evaluations of them. = looking glass self: seeing ourselves as others see us
Identity: socially defined. Includes definitions and standards that are imposed on a
person, including interpersonal aspects, potentialities, and values.
Teenagers aren‟t actually having identity crises (when a socially ascribed identity does
not match our unique self-concept), like many people believe they are.
This only really occurs with teens who are openly questioning the beliefs, values
etc. set out by their parents. They have to choose whether they embrace these or
form their own identity that is more true to themselves. Adult Selves
Adults have a good sense of who they are (self-concept) and how they feel about
themselves (self-esteem). They also choose who they want to be or what aspects they
present to other people (social identity). – For the most part.
Stereotype threat: a person experiences distress when faced with a stereotype that
threatens their self-esteem or social identity. This apprehension then causes the
person‟s performance to suffer, which ends up confirming the stereotype that threatens
Do not need to believe the stereotype – or ascribed social identity – to feel upset
Impact of Culture on Self-Concepts
Attributive self-description category: referring to own psychological attributes or trait
Social self-descriptions: refers to social roles, institutional memberships, socially defined
Physical Self-descriptions: refers to physical qualities
In a study, more American students fell into the attributive-description category while
Japanese students were more likely to use the social self-descriptions and physical self-
Individualism and Collectivism
Individualism: focuses on the uniqueness of the individual and distinguishes the person
as separate from the group. People develop their own selves including attitudes and
values as distinct from the groups‟. Individualistic cultures place greater emphasis on
bravery, creativity, and self-reliance.
Individualistic culture: cultures that emphasise individualism
Collectivism: places emphasis on the views, needs, goals of the group rather than the
individual. People emphasize being part of a social group and sharing beliefs and
customs. In the extreme, one‟s beliefs, goals, attitudes, and values reflect those of the
group. Collectivistic cultures value obligation, duty, security, tradition, dependence,
harmony obedience to authority, equilibrium, and proper action.
Collectivistic culture: cultures that emphasise collectivism
o About 80% of the world lives in collectivistic cultures: Africa, Asia, South
America Cultures may have developed to be more collectivistic or more individualistic due to:
Cultural complexity: when cultures become more complex, there are many
conflicting views and opinions. Individuals are forced to choose how to act. Also
increases when the range of possible jobs increase, forcing people to specialize.
The change from rural to urban is another form.
Mobility (social and geographic): geographical separation may force them to
make individual choices, fostering individualism in the culture
Affluence: Individuals are less dependent on a group for survival and are free to
cultivate own interests.
Independent and Interdependent Selves
Independent self: exists apart from other people and is autonomous and self-contained.
Individuals are encouraged to embark on a process of self-actualization and self-
discovery to develop their potential. People are their truest selves when alone.
Encouraged by individualistic cultures
Interdependent self: includes others. People cannot be understood when separated
from their social group; they are not truly themselves without others.
Encouraged by collectivistic cultures
Independent self is more likely to be found in cultures like those in
America/Canada/western Europe. Interdependent self is more likely to be found in
cultures like those in Asia/Africa/Latin America/southern Europe.
Can‟t make assumptions that all countries in those areas are like that. There may
be specific pockets of cultures within those countries that contrast.
Possible selves: images of what we hope, fear, or expect we will become. Can act as
motivation, help choose aspirations, provide continuity in self-concepts over time.
Hoped-for selves: might include the successful self, the creative self, the rich self, the
Feared selves: might include alone self, depressed self, the incompetent self.
Then and Now: the Self Ancient Greece: “Know thyself.” Most likely meant that someone should be aware of
their talents and how they could contribute to society with those talents.
11 to 15 centuries: Identity came from a person‟s duty or place in society, depending
on their social rank, family ties, occupation. In the 12 century, the idea of individual
salvation came around and people began to realise that they had to act in a certain way,
individually, to be accepted into heaven.
16 to 18 centuries: people were fascinated with idea of inner and outer life.
Puritanism in the 16 and 17 centuries also increases self-consciousness and self-
awareness as people worried about their afterlife. The self was considered impossible
or difficult to know.