The Social Self
Nature of the Social Self
o The Principles of Psychology
o Coined the term the ―social me‖ to refer to the parts of self- knowledge that are derived
from social relationships.
o Our sense of who we are is forged in our interactions with others, shaping, in turn, how
we interact with others and how they see themselves.
Three primary components of the self:
o Individual self: beliefs about our unique personal traits, abilities, preferences, tastes,
talents, and so forth.
o Relational self: beliefs about our identities in specific relationships
o Collective self: beliefs about our identities as members of social groups to which we
The prominence of different self- beliefs varies according to a person’s culture of origin.
Origins of Self-Knowledge
Family and Other Socialization Agents
o Socialization agents teach children what they view as socially appropriate and valued
attitudes and behavior
They can shape our sense of self by encouraging certain behaviors and providing
opportunities for certain activities. They can also influence the traits, abilities,
and preferences that we come to associate with ourselves.
o Symbolic interactionist: notion that we come to know ourselves through imagining what
others think of us.
Charles H Cooley: coined the phrase ―looking-glass self‖—the idea that other
people’s reactions to us serve as a mirror of sorts, reflecting our image so that
we, too, can see it.
o Reflected self-appraisals: beliefs about what others think of our social selves.
o We internalize how we think others appraise us, no necessarily how others actually see
o Although other people influence our sense of self through reflected self-appraisals, their
impact may not be as simple and direct as the idea of the looking glass self originally
o Jennifer Pfeifer:
Looked at the neural systems that are engaged when people think about and
report on their self-views versus their reflected self- appraisals.
Reflected self-appraisal requires social perception and thus brain regions that
support perspective taking are also engaged. Subjected participant to fMRI while they reported their self-views and reflected
self-appraisals—suggested that self views are colored by reflected self-
Adolescents sense of self is especially likely to be based on their beliefs about
others views of them.
Situationism and the Social Self
o Our social self shifts dramatically from one situation to another
o The greatest determinant of the nature of contextual shifts in the sense of self is what is
relevant, or appropriate in the current situation.
o Markus and Wurf (1987)
Coined the term working self-concept: subset of self-knowledge that is brought
to mind in a particular context.
o William McGuire and Alice Padawer-Singer (1978)
Distinctiveness hypothesis: we highlight what makes us unique in a given
Sixth graders were asked to spend 7 minutes describing themselves.
They identified themselves according to how they differed from their classmates.
o The social self is defined by two truths: it is malleable, shifting from one context to
another, but at the same time a person’s social self has core components that persist
Culture and the Social Self
o Culture-based self-conceptions can influence numerous elements of the social self—
including specific construal processes and self-esteem
o Independent self-construal
The self is an autonomous entity that is distinct and separate from others
Imperative is to assert uniqueness and independence
o Interdependent self-construal
The self is fundamentally connected to other people
Imperative is for a person to find a place and fulfill appropriate roles within the
community and other collective
Gender and the Social Self
o Susan Cross and Laura Madson (1997)
o Women in the US tend to construe the self in more interdependent terms than men do.
o Men tend to prioritize difference and uniqueness—independent terms.
o Where differences come from
Parents raise boys and girls differently
o Social comparison theory: the hypothesis that people compare themselves to other people
in order to obtain an accurate assessment of their own opinions, abilities, and internal
o People need an objective standard they can use to evaluate themselves
o To get an accurate sense of how good you are at something, you must compare yourself
with people who have approximately your level of skill
o Our search for similar targets tends to be biased toward people who are slightly inferior
to or worse than ourselves. o Downward social comparisons: help us define ourselves rather favorable, giving a boost
to our self-esteem.
Breast cancer patients compare themselves with those who are worse off but
initiating contact with those who are better off.
o Upward social comparison: when we aspire to be substantially better at some skill or
when we wish to improve a component of our personality.
Narratives about the Social Self
o Social comparisons represent one example of construal as a source of self- knowledge
o Dan McAdams
Central argument is that we are continually telling a particular story about our
social self as we live our lives.
We tell self narratives to important people in our lives
Organization of Self-Knowledge
Our social selves depend on our ability to remember, to know who we are other
people are.—our social self is stored in memory
o Cognitive structures, derived from past experience, that represent a person’s
beliefs and feelings about the self in particular domains.
o The schemas we have about ourselves serve as more than simple storehouses of
self-knowledge—they also serve as an organizing function
o Hazel Markus (1977) hypothesized that if self-schemas exist, then a person who
has a self-schema in a particular domain should process information in that
domain more quickly- true
o Self-reference effect: the tendency for information that is related to the self to be
more thoroughly processed and integrated
o To the extent that you personalize how you perceive and understand events and
objects in the environment, you will be more likely to think about and remember
o Patricia Linville
Both the number of self-defining domains a person has as well as the
degree of overlap between different self-domains
o Self-complexity: the tendency to define the self in terms of multiple domains that
are relatively distinct from one another in content’
o A persons level of self-complexity can have important consequences, particularly
when people are confronted with negative events or difficulties in a given life
People with low self-esteem are less satisfied with life
Trait and State Self-Esteem
o Self-esteem: the positive or negative overall evaluation that each person has of
himself or herself. o Trait self-esteem: a persons enduring level of self-regard across time; fairly stable
o State self-esteem: the dynamic, changeable self-evaluations that are experienced
as momentary feelings about the self; not sable
Contingencies of Self-Worth
o 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 self-
Social Acceptance and Self-Esteem
o Several of the domains that define peoples self-worth are social in nature.
o Sociometer hypothesis: a hypothesis that maintains that self-esteem is an internal,