Friday, July 14, 2017

Ch. 3 The Self

I. Nature of the Self
The Self is a symbol-using social being who can reflect (self-awareness) on his or her own behavior.

A. Evolutionary View of the Self
Self-awareness and symbol usage (and thus the self) may have evolved in our ancestors as a means to better deal with an increasingly complex social environment. For instance, self-awareness not only provided our ancestors with knowledge about their own behavior, but they could also use this inner experience to anticipate how rivals might behave in the future - perhaps in war or in social bargaining - thus giving them an advantage. Similarly, the development of language not only allowed our ancestors to better coordinate group activities, but they could also use this symbolic communication to discuss things not physically present, such as a herd of antelope or a band of hostile warriors. According to this evolutionary view, these two defining features of the self became the means by which our ancestors developed an adaptive advantage in their environment, thus increasing their chances of surviving and reproducing.

In contemplating the adaptive advantage of self-hood in our evolutionary history, numerous social scientists have asserted that these advantages were accompanied by the ability of our ancestors to now ponder their existence, morality and their own self-worth.

B. Brain Regions Associated With Self-Awareness And Self Regulation
The primary neural source for self-awareness is the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex.

C. Contemporary Self Theories Based On Insights Of George Herbert Mead & William James
In both James's and Mead's theories, the self is described as having two separate aspects, the self as the "I" and the "me").
-The "I" is subjective self or the self as active perceiver and initiator of action.
-The "me" is the objective self or the self as seen from the imagined perspective of others.

(Remember, in this context a subject is an observer and on object is a thing observed.)

Later chapters look at contemporary self theories where essentially the "I" is the self's executive function: it makes decisions, initiates behavior, and exerts control over the self and the environment. The "me" is discussed using the term "self-concept" which is the sum total of a person's thoughts and feelings that defines the self as an object.

II. The Self As Both Target Of Attention And Active Agent
A. Self-Awareness Is A Temporary Psychological State
Self-Awareness is a psychological state in which you take yourself as an object of attention. To have a self-concept you must be able to engage in self-awareness.

Studies on infants and toddlers suggest that we are not born with self-awareness but rather, we develop it around 18 months old.

B. Two types of self-awareness have been identified
1. Private self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of hidden, private self-aspects. Feeling sad or content, seeing your face in a mirror, or feeling the hunger pangs in your stomach will likely cause you to become privately self-aware.

Intensification of affect - any positive or negative feelings experienced when privately self-aware will be exaggerated.
Clarification of knowledge - private events become clearer and more distinct, thus increasing your ability to accurately report them.
Greater adherence to personal standards of behavior - when privately self-aware you are more likely to act in line with your personal beliefs than to conform to social pressures.

2. Public self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of public self-aspects (emerges when people are aware of how they appear to others). Being watched by others (ex. about to give a presentation), or having your picture taken.

Evaluation apprehension - These are the butterflies in your stomach before making an important presentation. This is likely because you have learned through experience that public scrutiny often results in either positive or negative outcomes.
Temporary loss of self-esteem - due to realizing that there is a discrepancy between your ideal and actual public self. This explains why you feel bad after a failed presentation or date request.
Greater adherence to social standards of behavior - a heightened degree of conformity.

C. Self-Consciousness Is A Personality Trait
Some people spend more time self-reflecting than others. The habitual tendency to engage in self-awareness is known as the personality trait of self-consciousness.

As there are two types of self-awareness, there are also two types of self-consciousness referred to as private self-consciousness and public self-consciousness. The Self-Consciousness Scale developed 1975 by Fenigstein, Scheier and Buss is a method to measure these two traits.

D. Two Types Of Self-Consciousness Have Been Identified

1. Private Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of the private aspects of the self.

-The effects are essentially the same as of private self-awareness (see above).
-The self-concepts of those high n private self-consciousness are generally more accurate reflections of their actual behavior than those low in private self-awareness.
-Habitual attention to private self-aspects can contribute to depression and neuroticism.

2. Public Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of publicly displayed self-aspects.

-The effects are similar to those of public self-awareness (see above).
High public self-conscious individuals are more concerned about their appearance and are more likely to judge others on their looks.

3. Interaction Between Private and Public Self-Consciousness
-People high on private self-consciousness and low on public self-consciousness are the ones most likely to act according to their true attitudes.
-On the other hand, people high on public self-consciousness, regardless of their level of private self-consciousness, are much less likely to publicly act according to their true attitudes. Therefore, even people high on private self-consciousness that have an accurate understanding of their own attitudes, being simultaneously high in public self-consciousness can lead to behavior that runs counter to those attitudes.

E. Self-Regulation Is The Self's Most Important Function
Self-Regulation is the ways in which people control and direct their own actions. In particular, self-regulation consists of deliberate efforts by the self to alter its own states and responses, including behavior, thoughts, impulses or appetites, emotions, and task performance. The concept of self-regulation is close to the colloquial terms self-control and self-discipline, and many social psychologists use the terms interchangeably.(1) 

One of the important functions of self-regulation is that it provides us with the capacity to forgo the immediate gratification of small rewards to later attain larger rewards.

Control Theory of Self Regulation
In Charles Carver and Michael Scheier’s (1981, 1998) control theory of self-regulation, they contend that self-awareness allows us to assess how we are doing in meeting our goals and ideals. The core idea in control theory is a cognitive feedback loop, summarized by the acronym TOTE, which stands for the steps taken in self-regulation: Test-Operate-Test-Exit.

In self-regulation, engaging in self-awareness allows us to compare how we are doing against some standard. This is the first test phase. When privately self-aware we compare ourselves against a private standard (for example, our own values), but when publicly self-aware we compare ourselves against a public standard (for example, our beliefs about what other people value). In the test phase, if we discover that we are falling short of the standard (for example, not studying enough), then we operate to change ourselves (we study harder). Soon, we again self-reflect—the second test phase—to see whether we are closer to reaching our standard. This test and operate cycle repeats itself until there is no difference between our behavior and the standard. When we meet the standard, the control process ends, we feel happy, and we exit the feedback loop. If repeated attempts to move closer to the standard fail, we feel bad and eventually exit the loop (Silvia & Duval, 2001a).

Self-Discrepancies are discrepancies between our self-concept and how we would ideally like to be (ideal self) or believe others think we should be (ought self).

1. Ideal Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and ideal self (for example, "I wish I was more physically attractive") are thought to produce dejection-related emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, and depression.

2. Ought Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and our ought self (for example "I should be helping out more financially") we are vulnerable to agitation-related emotions such as anxiety, and guilt (Higgins et al., 1986)

In most instances, negative emotions hinder the type of self-regulation necessary for achieving longer-term goals (Tice et al., 2001). When people become upset, they tend to give in to their immediate impulses to make themselves feel better. For example, if you are trying to stop smoking, you are likely to grab for a cigarette after having an argument with someone. This “weakness” on your part amounts to giving short-term emotion regulation priority over your longer-term self-regulatory goal of being smoke-free.

Although a high capacity for self-regulation appears to improve your chances for success in life, it should be noted that self-regulating on one task makes it harder to immediately self-regulate on unrelated tasks (Baumeister et al., 1998). In other words, studies have found that exerting self-control in one area causes a subsequent decline in self-control performance in other tasks (see ego depletion). But some researches question this "strength model" of self-regulation believing that the decline in performance these studies find may not be due to an actual decrease in people's ability to self-regulate but instead is caused by a decrease i people's motivation to exert self-control. In other words, after exerting self-control in one activity people may not be less able to exercise self-control in a subsequent task, but are less willing to exercise this control.

III. The Self As A Knowledge Structure
How is the self organized in memory?

A schema is a cognitive structure that represents knowledge about some stimulus, which is built up from experience and which selectively guides the process of new information. A schema directs our attention to relevant information, giving us a framework for assessing it.

Some psychologist use the term self-schema as equivalent to self-concept, while other employ a more restrictive definition. The more restrictive definition is used here and it refers to a cognitive structure that represents how you think about yourself in a particular domain and how you organize your experiences in that domain. Just as self-concept has been previously described as a theory that you have about yourself, self-schemas can be thought of as the hypotheses of this self-theory.

Gender Identity And Gender Schemas Are Important Aspects Of Self-Concept
Gender identity is the identification of onself as a male or female and the internalization of this fact into one's self-concept.

Gender Schema
When children develop gender identity they strive to act in ways consistent with this identity. According to Sandra Bem, if a culture emphasises distictions between women and men, then children growing up in that culture learn to process information about theselves, other people, and even things and events according to their perceived gender associations. In other words, the develop a gender schema. Children's self-concepts become linked to their gender schema, they learn to evaluate their adequacy as a person in terms of how well their own personal attributes match the standard of the gender schema.

(1)Encyclopedia of Social Psychology: Self-Regulation - link 1, link 2

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