PSY 220 CH.3
The Methods Social Self
• Reality is subjective, a product of our construals and interpretations of the social world.
• Our self is in part a product of our construals, yet the self is fundamentally social in
Nature of the Social Self
• Study of self usually begins with William James. He coined the term ‘social me’to refer
to the parts of self-knowledge that are derived from social relationships.
• Aperson can be different depending on the context and who they are around.
• 3 primary components of the self: individual self, relational self, and collective self.
• Individual self: Beliefs about our unique personal traits, abilities, preferences, tastes,
talents and so forth.
• Relational self: Beliefs about our identities in specific relationships. (E.g. doting
husband, black sheep, etc.)
• Collective self: Beliefs about our identities as members of social groups to which we
belong. (E.g. Irish-Canadian, Libertarian, etc.)
• Relational and collective selves include beliefs about the roles, duties, and obligation
each of us assume in specific relationships and groups.
Origins of Self-Knowledge
Family and Other Socialization Agents
• Family and teachers in kids’lives teach them what is appropriate behaviour and attitudes.
Done directly through telling them ‘share, take turns, etc.’as well as indirectly through
• Socializing agents can shape who we become.
• Symbolic interactionist is the notion that we come to know ourselves through imagining
how others think of us.
• Reflected self-appraisals: Beliefs about what others think of our social selves.
• The reactions of others dictate partially what we do, which can also come to define us.
• Our reflected self-appraisals often do not correlate with how others actually see us.
• Self-views often affect reflected self-appraisals rather than the other way around.
• Lieberman looked at which areas of the brain are active during which reflections.
Prefrontal cortex was active during self-referential cognition, and during reflected self-
appraisal areas like the temporal-parietal junction were also active.
• Also found that adolescents relied more on reflected self-appraisal than adults.
• Siblings fight, but have evolved so that they occupy different niches within the family so
that they can hopefully remain peaceful with each other.
• Oldest siblings are often larger and more powerful, often acting as surrogate parents.
• Younger siblings can no longer fill the role of the ‘established’child, so they tend to find
ways to challenge the family status quo.
Situationism and the Social Self • Our social self shifts dramatically from one situation to another.
Aspects of the Self That are Relevant in the Social Context
• Greatest determinant is what is relevant or appropriate in a given situation.
• Working self-concept: Subset of self-knowledge that is brought to mind in a particular
Aspects of the Self That are Distinctive in the Social Context
• William McGuire andAlice Padawer-Singer looked at how 6 graders at different schools
rated themselves. Children identified themselves as how they differed from their
classmates (older, from another nationality, etc.)
• In the West, being distinct is central to our identities.
Both Malleable and Stable?
• Most of us know that we act different depending on context, but maintain that there is a
part of us that is always the same.
• Although the content of the working self-concept varies across situations, core
components of self-knowledge are likely to be on top of our minds whenever we think
• Aperson’s knowledge remains stable over time providing us with a sense of continuity.
• Shifts between contexts become fairly predictable. So the malleability of the individual
self is stable.
• In terms of the self-concept, it is malleable, shifting from one context to the next, but at
the same time a person’s self has core components that persist across contexts.
Culture and the Social Self
• As evident in theAmerican Declaration of Independence and theAnalects of the Chinese,
we can notice differences about the different cultures.America expresses freedom and
self-expression, in China they focus on the group.
• Cultures that promote an independent self-construal have the self being an autonomous
entity that is distinct and separate from others. Focus is on internal causes for behaviour.
These forces lead to a conception of the self in terms of traits that are stable across time
and social context.
• Cultures that foster interdependent self-construals, the self is fundamentally connected to
other people. The forces lead to a self-conception in which the self is embedded within
social relationships, roles, and duties.
• When asked to judge the self, the area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is
• Suggested that for people with interdependent self-construals, the same region of the
brain represents the self and mother; they are merged within the brain. For those with
independent self-construals, the self and the mother are quite distinct, all the way down to
which neurons are activated in each person’s brain.
Gender and the Social Self
• Found evidence indicating that women tend to construe the self as more interdependent
than men do. The men tend to prioritize uniqueness and difference. (US and Japan) • Media likely has an effect on guiding self-construal.As does the way their parents raised
a daughter compared to a son. Friendships made at early ages can also affect self-
• Evolution also likely to have affected the gender differences.
• Social comparison theory: The hypothesis that people compare themselves to other
people in order to obtain an accurate assessment of their own opinion, abilities, and
internal states. Put forth by Leon Festinger.
• Comparing yourself with people of high caliber or complete novices is not helpful.
People are drawn to make comparisons to people that are mostly similar to themselves.
But at the same time we like to feel good about ourselves, so we sometimes search for
people of less ability than ourselves.
• Engaging in downward social comparisons make us feel better about ourselves, but it
doesn’t give us incentive to improve. When we aspire to become better, we are more
likely to make upward social comparisons.
• Choosing a comparison target can be difficult, so we often use someone close to us. It can
become a routine to compare ourselves to our close friends if we are always using them
as a comparison.
Narratives about the Social Self
• Social comparisons represent one example of construal as a source of self-knowledge.
Another is telling our narrative (life story) to important people in our lives.
• Self-narratives often involve strong imagery and powerful scenes.
• Again, differences in culture. Canadians when asked to tell a story were more likely to
tell it from first person, people ofAsian descent were more likely to describe it as if
watching it in 3 person.
Organization of Self-Knowledge
• Oliver Sacks worked with the patient William Thompson who suffered from Korsakoff’s
syndrome (comes about from alcohol abuse, destroys memory structures in the brain).
Thompson has a couple seconds of short-term memory. He was led to create different
personas for the people he met. His own social self also shifts rapidly.
• Our social selves depend on our ability to remember who we and other people are.
• Self-schema: Cognitive structures derived from past experiences, that represent a
person’s beliefs and feelings about the self in particular domains.
• Schemas we have for ourselves serve as a simple storehouse for self-knowledge.
• Hazel Markus hypothesized that is self-schemas exist; information pertaining to them
will be processed faster. Study involving independent or dependent (schematic) and
partly independent/dependent (aschematic). Schematic participants judged traits that fit
their schema much faster than aschematic participants.
• Self-reference effect: The tendency for information that is related to the self to be more
thoroughly processed and integrated with existing self-knowledge, thereby making it
• Information that is integrated into pre-existing knowledge structures is more readily
recalled. Self-Complexity Theory
• Self-complexity: the tendency to define the self in terms of multiple domains that are
relatively distinct from one another in content.
• People who are high in self-complexity tend to define themselves in terms of multiple
domains that tend not to overlap.
• If you are low in self-complexity, a blow to that area can affect your self-esteem more so
than if a person is high in self-complexity.
• Initiative put into place in 1987 to help elevate self-esteem in order to cure some of
Trait and State Self-Esteem
• Self-esteem: The positive or negative overall evaluation that each person has of himself
• Usually measured through self evaluation.
• Trait self-esteem is a person’s enduring level of self-regard across time; fairly stable.
• State self-esteem refers to the dynamic, changeable self-evaluations that are experienced
as momentary feelings about the self.
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
• Domains that are most important vary with the individual, culture, and subcultures.
• The extent that people can create their environment that allows them to excel in domains
related to their specific contingencies of self-worth, they will enjoy elevated self-esteem
and its potential benefits.
• It is important for people to base their self-worth on many domains.
• Though it is costly to pursue self-esteem in any domain.
SocialAcceptance and Self-Esteem
• Sociometer hypothesis: A hypothesis that maintains that self-esteem is