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The Self Notes

Psychology Notes > Social Psychology (2nd year) Notes

This is an extract of our The Self document, which we sell as part of our Social Psychology (2nd year) Notes collection written by the top tier of Durham University students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Social Psychology (2nd year) Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

The self
Self-construct = all of an individual's knowledge about his or her personal qualities
Sources of the self-construct
People construct the self-concept in a similar way to how they form impressions of others  by interpreting various types of cues
We piece together our self-concept over time due to many different cues
= we make inferences about our personal characs on the basis of our overt behaviours when internal cues are weak and ambiguous
 we learn about ourselves by observing our own behaviours
 Observe our own behaviours
 Intrinsic motivation = self-inference more likely when behaviour is freely chosen
Eg we recycle cans and so see ourselves as more environmentally aware
Valins, 1966: when Ps were made to believe their heartbeat had increased whilst viewing a photo of a person, they came to believe that person was more attractive
Lepper et al., 1973:
Providing external rewards often undermines intrinsic motivation
 Introduced children to a new activity (drawing)
 After drawing, some children received a previously promised 'good player' certificate, others unexpectedly received the same certificate, and others received nothing
 Intrinsic motivation was measured by amount of free time each children spent playing after this
 Those who had not been rewarded and those who received the unexpected reward retained their motivation  inferred that the game was fun and so played for pleasure
 Those who expected and received an award showed half the motivation  initially played for the reward rather than for the pleasure
 self-perception explains this drop in motivation
Campbell & Fairey, 1985:
Did well in a puzzle  see self as possessing relevant traits to puzzle solving  boosts performance of task

More accessible and important for knowing the self than knowing others
Anderson, 1984:
Observers heard Ps talk about their thoughts and feelings in different everyday situations
Others heard Ps describe only their behaviours in those situations
Observers who listened to thoughts formed more accurate impressions that matched the Ps' self-concepts
 thoughts and feelings play a bigger role than behaviours in our inferences about what we are like

Looking-glass self
Felson, 1989: Reactions serve as a 'mirror'
Miller, 1975:
Compared behaviours of 3 schoolchildren groups
Teachers told kids they were tidy, should be tidy, or told nothing
Tidiest children were those in the first group
 followed their labels and began to see themselves in this light

= the self-concept is shaped by comparisons between ourselves and others
People gain the most accurate info about themselves by seeking out similar others for comparison
We use others to evaluate our own traits, abilities, personal charac
Contrast effect = when we compare our own average skills to those who are extremely good or bad, we often see ourselves in the opposite way
 leads to inaccurate self-views
Comparison with similar others more accurate - ie not someone world class in a skill if you are mediocre:
Assimilation effect = when comparing our skills to an average player (moderately good or bad) our selfviews move slightly in that same direction  we judge our ability relative to the other player
Comparing to others = biased
Social comparisons help us to gain a sense of our uniqueness
McGuire & McGuire, 1981:
Children writing self-descriptions are likely to mention characs, eg being LH/having red hair that mark themselves are being unusual relative to others
Wheeler, 2002: Proxy Model: Expect to perform at level of an experienced other (proxy) on a new task if one's history of performance on some initial relevant task is similar to the proxy's history of performance -
so long as effort of proxy was maximal
Downward-comparison theory:

1. Threatened people are more likely to compare with those worse off than them

2. Exposure to a less fortunate person boosts subjective well-being
Wood et al., 1985: breast-cancer patients benefit from comparing to those worse off = coping strategy
Recent studies show being happy and having high self-esteem (not low) predicts downward comparison
BUT Collins, 2000 Self-improvement motive: people compare themselves to superior others to make views more positive and count themselves within the lucky group- 'they are one of the lucky ones'
Assimilation and contrast:
Assimilation = belief that one can obtain the same status as a target by closeness, by having similar attributes The self
Learning about the self and others
Self-knowledge is more detailed than knowledge about others  can observe more about themselves and have access to private thoughts
Differences in cues and knowledge:
We have a greater quantity and variety of cues about ourselves than we have about others
 We see ourselves (and close friend/family) in more situations, and so see ourselves as flexible, and others as more set in their ways
 We have access to our own true thoughts  thoughts and behaviours do not always align

Differences in attributions for self and others:
ACTOR-OBSERVER EFFECT: Jones & Nisbett, 1972
= we attribute our own behaviours to situational causes while seeing others' acts as due to their inner charac
Based on salience or accessibility?
 When looking at another person's behaviour, the action stands out
 For your own behaviour, the situation is salient
 different perspective taken
Malle, 1999:
This effect is much smaller than once assumed and only occurs in certain circumstances
Actor-observer effect emerges reliably for negative actions but may be the reverse of positive behaviours
Effect is more likely when a behaviours is seen as deviating from typical behaviour in that circumstance
More is not always better:
Knowing more about ourselves does not mean we have more insightful self-impressions
Wilson, Laser & Stone, 1982:
 Ps wrote a mood diary and stated what they thought were causes of their moods
 Diary keepers' reports were no different than blind guesses of people who did not know them

Multiple selves
Self-knowledge is organised about multiple roles, activities and relationships  we have different 'selves'
depending on time, company and context
Self-aspects = summaries of a person's beliefs about the self in specific domains, roles, or activities  ie we have many self-aspects
Distinct self-aspects in our mental rep of the self are the inner reflection of the fact that we actually do think, fell, and behave differently in different roles, activities, and relationships

We try to fit all of the different elements together to be coherent  construct overall impression of the self

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Social Psychology (2nd year) Notes.