• The capacity for self-reflection is necessary for people to feel as if they understand their own motives and emotions and the causes of their behavior.
  • The self is heavily influenced by social factors.
  • The way we manage ourselves is influenced by the people around us.

The Self Concept

  • “Cocktail Party Effect” - the tendency of people to pick a personally relevant stimulus out of a complex environment. It [also] shows that the self is an important object of our own attention.
  • Self-concept - the sum total of an individual's beliefs about his or her own personal attributes.
  • Self-schemas - beliefs people hold about themselves that guide the processing of self relevant information.
  • Beginnings of the Self -Concept:

о Today, many researcher believe that self-recognition among great apes and human infants is the first clear expression of the concept “me”.

о The ability to see yourself as a distinct entity is a necessary first step in the evolution о The second step involves social factors

  • The term looking-glass self suggests that other people serve as a mirror in which we can see ourselves.

о Among human beings, our self-concepts match our perceptions of what others think of us.

о But where do peoples self-concepts come from? > five sources:

  • 1) Introspection
  • 2) Perceptions of our own behavior
  • 3) The influences of other people
  • 4) Autobiographical memories
  • 5) The cultures in which we live
  • Introspection

о Self-knowledge is is derived from introspection, a looking inward at one's own thoughts and feelings.

о Introspection sometimes diminishes the accuracy of self-reports.

о Affective forecasting - the process of predicting how one would feel in response to future emotional events.

о People overestimate the strength and duration of their emotional reactions - durability bias

о Two possible reasons for durability bias in affective forecasting:

  • 1) When it comes to negative life events, people do not fully appreciate the extent to which our psychological coping mechanisms help us to cushion the blow.
  • 2) When we introspect about the emotional impact on us of a future event, we become so focused on that single event that we neglect to take into account the effects of other life experiences.

Perceptions of Our Own Behavior:

о Self-perception theory - the theory that when internal cues are difficult to interpret, people gain self-insight by observing their own behavior.

о People learn about themselves through self-perception only when the situation alone seems insufficient to have caused the behavior.

о Self-Perceptions of Emotion:

  • Facial feedback hypothesis - the hypothesis that changes in facial expression can lead to corresponding changes in emotion.
  • Facial feedback can evoke and magnify certain emotional states.
  • But the face is not necessary to the experience of emotion.
  • Suggestion that facial expressions affect emotion through a process of self­perception.
  • But others maintain that facial movements spark emotion by producing physiological changes in the brain.
  • It is unclear if the emotion occurs via self-perception or because facial expressions trigger physiological changes that affect the emotional response.

о Self-Perceptions of Motivation:

  • Reward for an enjoyable activity can undermine interest in the activity
  • Intrinsic motivation originates in factors within a person ( e.g. the challenge, sheer enjoyment ).
  • Extrinsic motivation originates in factors outside the person ( e.g. people do it for money, grades ).
  • Overjustification effect - the tendency for intrinsic motivation to diminish for activities that have become associated with reward or other extrinsic factors.
  • When people start getting “paid” for a task they already enjoy, they sometimes lose interest in it.
  • But if reward is seen as a “bonus” for superior performance, then it can enhance intrinsic motivation by providing positive feedback.

Influences of Other People:

о Social Comparison Theory:

  • “Change someone's social surroundings, and you can change the person's spontaneous self-description.”
  • Social comparison theory - the theory that people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others.
  • 1) When do we turn to others for comparative information?
  • In states of uncertainty, when more objective means of self-evaluation are not available. But recent studies suggest that people may judge themselves in relation to others even when more objective standards are available.
  • 2) With whom do we choose to compare with ourselves?
  • With people who are similar to us in relevant ways - an automatic choice, without being necessarily aware of it.

о Two-Factor Theory of Emotion:

  • People seek social comparison information to evaluate their abilities and opinions.
  • Two-factor theory of emotion - the theory that the experience of emotion is based on two factors: (1) physiological arousal and (2) a cognitive interpretation of that arousal.
  • When people are unclear about their own emotional states, they sometimes interpret how they feel by watching others in the same situation.
  • Autobiographical Memories:

о Memories shape the self-concept and the self-concept shapes our memories as well. о When people recall life experiences, they typically report more events from the recent past than from the distant past, though some types of memories are generally more vivid, and lasting ( flashbulb memories ) than others.

о Autobiographical memories are shaped by self serving motives, as people overemphasize their own roles in past events.

  • Cultural Perspectives:

о Self-concept is also influenced by cultural factors.

о Two orientations:

  • Individualism values the virtues of independence, autonomy, and self-reliance.
  • Collectivism values the virtues of interdependence, cooperation, and social harmony. о Both orientations are so deeply ingrained in a culture that they mold our very self­conceptions and identities. And they can influence the way we perceive, evaluate, and present ourselves in relation to others.

о Figure 3.3 / page 68 о It appears, that each of us have both personal and collective of the self to draw on - and that the part that comes to mind depends on the situation we are in.


  • Self-esteem - an affective component of the self, consisting of a person's positive and negative self-evaluations.
  • Self-esteem is a trait that is stable from childhood through old age
  • The Need for Self-Esteem:

о Our sense of self-esteem serves as a “sociometer,” a rough indicator of how we're doing in the eyes of others.

о People have a need for high self-esteem and want to see themselves in a positive light.

о People with low self-esteem often find themselves in a vicious circle of self­defeating behavior.

  • Influences of Gender, Race, and Culture:
  • Self-Discrepancy Theory:

о Self-esteem defined by match or mismatch of how we see and want to see ourselves. о Higgins: Self-esteem depends on a number of factors.

  • 1) The amount of discrepancy.
  • 2) The importance of the discrepancy to the self.
  • 3) The extent to which we focus on our self-discrepancies.
  • The Self-Awareness “Trap”:

о Self-Focusing Situations:

  • Self-awareness theory - the theory that self-focused attention leads people to notice self-discrepancies, thereby motivating either an escape from self­awareness or a change in behavior.
  • Figure 
  • Successful reduction of self-discrepancy seems unlikely, individuals will escape from self-awareness.

о Self-Focusing Persons:

  • Private self-consciousness - a personality characteristic of individuals who are introspective, often attending to their own inner states.
  • Public self-consciousness - a personality characteristic of individuals who focus on themselves as social objects, as seen by others.

Limits of Self-Regulation:

о Self-control can temporarily depleted by usage.

о Wegener: “Every conscious effort at maintaining control is met by a concern to failing to do so.”

о Wegener: “Any attempt at mental control contains the seeds of its own undoing.”

Mechanisms of Self-Enhancement:

о Implicit-egotism - a nonconscious form of self-enhancement.

  • g. Forming positive associations to the sight and sound of our own name and thus are drawn to other people, places ... ( Michelle lives in Michigan).

о We unconsciously seek out reflections of the self in our surroundings.

о Self-Serving Cognitions:

  • People tend to take credit for success and to distance from failure.

о Self-Handicapping:

  • People can shield themselves from what could be the most shattering implication of failure - a lack of ability.
  • Procrastination - a purposive delay in starting or completing a task that is due at a particular time. It helps to provide an excuse for possible failure.
  • Self-handicapping - behaviors designed to sabotage one's performance in order to provide a subsequent excuse for failure.
  • Another tactic : “Sandbagging” - to play down our own ability, lower expectations, and predict for all to hear that we WILL fail.
  • Sabotaging ourselves objectively increases the risk of failure.

о Basking in the Glory of Others:

  • Bask in reflected glory (BIRG) - increasing self-esteem by associating with others who are successful.
  • It seems that the tendency to bask in reflected glory is matched by an equally powerful tendency to CORF - “cut off reflected failure.”

о Downward Social Comparisons:

  • Downward social comparisons - defensive tendencies to compare ourselves with others who are worse off than we are.
  • When others surpass us in ways that are important to us, we become jealous and distance ourselves from them.
  • When surpassed in ways that are not self-relevant, we feel pride and seek closeness.

о Are Positive Illusions Adaptive?


  • Self-presentation - strategies people use to shape what others think of them.
  • Spotlight effect - tendency to believe that the social spotlight shines more brightly on them than it really does.
  • The Two Faces of Self-Presentation:

о 1) Strategic self-presentation - consists of our efforts to shape other's impressions in specific ways in order to gain influence, power, sympathy, or approval.

  • Two strategic, very common self-presentation goals:
  • 1) Ingratiation - a term used to describe acts that are motivated by the desire to “get along” with others.
  • 2) Self-promotion - term used to describe acts that are motivated by a desire to “get ahead” and gain respect for one's competence.

о 2) Self-verification - the desire to have other perceive us as we truly perceive ourselves.

  • It appears that the desire for self-verification is powerful - and can even, at times, overwhelm the need for self-enhancement.
  • Individual Differences in Self-Monitoring:

о Self-Monitoring - the tendency to change behavior in response to the self-presentation concerns of the situation.

о Self-Monitoring Scale

о “ High self-monitors modify their behavior, as appropriate, from one situation to the next.”

о “ Low self-monitors express themselves in a more consistent manner, exhibiting at all times what they see as their true self”