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Links:   •  Self Test
              •  Print Friendly Version
               •  Self Concept
                •  Self Esteem
                 •  Perceived Self Control
                  •  Self-serving Bias
                   •  Self-presentation
                    •  Social Psychology Index

Ψ  The Self
in a Social World

Spotlights & Illusions

     Ψ  What is the spotlight effect?

     Answer:  The tendency to believe that other people are paying closer attention to one's appearance & behavior than they really are. A result of our self-focused perspective, we tend to overestimate our conspicuousness. There is an “imaginary audience”, especially for adolescents. As we mature realism prevails to some degree. The spotlight effect is an illusion. An illusion is an erroneous perception of reality.

     Ψ  What is the illusion of transparency?

     Answer:  The illusion of transparency is a tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others.

  -----  Other examples of the interplay between our sense of self & our social worlds -----

        •  Social surroundings affect our self-awareness.
         •  Self-interest colors our social judgment.
          •  Self-concern motivates our social behavior.
           •  Social relationships help define our self.

Self Concept - Who am I

     Ψ  The ideas & beliefs about yourself become a generalized “Self Schema”.

     Ψ  A Schema is a template of what we are like & is a model for how we understand the social world around us. A schema becomes a pattern imposed on complex experiences to simplify, organize or guide our response.

     Ψ  Schemas

        •  aid recall.
         •  direct behavior.
          •  aid automatic inference.
           •  speed up processing.
            •  aid information processing.

     Ψ  Information relevant to ourselves is processed more quickly & we remember it better than other information.

     Ψ  Possible selves have been defined as personalized representations of one’s self in future states. Possible selves are conceptualized as psychological resources that are instrumental in motivating & defending the self over the lifespan.

     Ψ  Determinates of the Social Self

        •  the roles we play
         •  the social identities we form
          •  social comparison
           •  our successes & failures
            •  how others judge us
             •  the surrounding culture
               •  Individualistic societies tend to produce highly independent personalities.
               •  Collective societies tend to produce highly interdependent personalities.

Ψ  Self Knowledge

     Ψ  People often err when predicting the own behavior.

     Ψ The planning fallacy (a.k.a. impact bias or durability bias) is an intuitively obvious & scientifically well-measured tendency of people to assume projects will take less time (duration) than they do & that the outcome will be better (more intense) than is justified by past data or experience. For instance, newlyweds almost universally expect their marriages to last a lifetime, when in fact less than half of marriages actually do. The planning fallacy has been studied by cognitive psychologists who have found evidence for, & strongly suspect that the fallacy is universal across the human species.

     Ψ  Research on affective forecasting, shows that people regularly overestimate the emotional intensity of events. Particularly for negative events, people fail to consider how coping resources will ameliorate negative affect, a phenomenon termed immune neglect.

     Ψ  Dual Attitudes: Our automatic (implicit) attitudes regarding something or someone may differ dramatically from our consciously controlled (explicit) attitudes. The findings of modern social psychologists seem to support this conclusion. This means that we may not know how we really feel about something or someone, i.e. Self- reports are often untrustworthy. Errors in self understanding limit the use use of subjective personal reports (e.g. personality inventories).

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

Self Esteem

     Ψ  "Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment - happiness - are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing."
What Self-Esteem Is and Is Not. Retrieved 3 august 2010 from

     •  Low self esteem: problems in life include making less money, drug abuse, & depression.
     •  High self esteem (sometimes refered to as fragile high self esteem): problems in life include a susceptibility to narcissism (self love), arrogance, & excessive risk taking.
     •  Secure high self esteem: is rooted more in feeling good about oneself than in acquiring the trappings of success.

Perceived Self Control

     Ψ  Self control is the ability to control one's emotions, behaviour & desires in order to efficiently manage one's future (a.k.a. self-regulation). Exerting self-control through the executive functions in decision making (effortful self control) is thought to deplete a resource in the ego. Many things affect one's ability to exert self-control, but self-control particularly requires sufficient glucose levels in the brain. Exerting self-control depletes glucose. Research has found that reduced glucose, & poor glucose tolerance (reduced ability to transport glucose to the brain) are tied to lower performance in tests of self-control, particularly in difficult new situations.

Ψ  Self Efficacy

    Ψ  Self-efficacy (Albert Bandura - Social Cognitive Theory) Your self-efficacy is how competent you feel to do something; your self-esteem is your sense of self worth, e.g. a skilled thief might feel high self-efficacy & low self-esteem.

Ψ  Locus of Control

    Ψ  A locus of control orientation is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (external control orientation)." (Zimbardo, 1985, p. 275)

    Ψ  In general, it seems to be psychologically healthy to perceive that one has control over those things which one is capable of influencing.

    Ψ  In simple terms, a more internal locus of control is generally seen as desirable.  Having an Internal locus of control can also be referred to as "self-agency", "personal control", "self-determination", etc.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

    Ψ  Research on locus of control has found the following trends:

        •  Males tend to be more internal than females.
        •  As people get older they tend to become more internal.
        •  People higher up in organizational structures tend to be more internal.

        Mamlin, N., Harris, K. R., Case, L. P. (2001). A Methodological Analysis of Research on Locus of Control
        and Learning Disabilities: Rethinking a Common Assumption. Journal of Special Education, Winter.

•  Link to Locus of Control - test  star

Ψ  Learned Helplessness

    Ψ  External locus of control is related to Seligman's studies of Learned Helplessness (1970s) which found that animals & people will learn to simply give up trying when they experience loss of control over what happens to them. Thus, developing learned helplessness, when in a chronically deprived situation, is an adaptive response. However, if circumstances change for the better, learned helplessness (external locus of control) is maladaptive because the person doesn't know how to act when free.

Ψ  The Costs of Excess Choice.

    Ψ  Studies confirm that systems of governing and/or managing people that promote personal control will promote health & happiness. (Deci & Ryan,1987)

    Ψ  To many choices can lead to paralysis, a "Tyranny of Freedom".

    Ψ  It has been found that people express greater satisfaction with irrevocable choices than with reversible choices. Freedom to change your mind is not always a plus.

Self-serving Bias

    Ψ  Self-Serving Bias: The tendency to perceive oneself favorably.

    Ψ  Self-Serving Bias: our tendency to take credit for success (self-enhancing bias) & deny any responsibility for failure (self-protective bias).

    Ψ  Self-Serving Attributions: are explanations for one's own successes that credit internal, dispositional factors and explanations for one's failures that blame external, situational factors.

    Ψ  Most people rate themselves as better than average on subjective, desirable traits & abilites.

    Ψ  Unrealistic optimism is a form of defensive attribution in which people think that positive events are more likely to happen to them than to their peers, and that negative events are less likely to happen to them than to their peers.

    Ψ  Defensive pessimism is a motivated cognitive strategy that helps people manage their anxiety and pursue their goals. Individuals who use defensive pessimism set low expectations, and play through extensive mental simulations of possible negative outcomes as they prepare for goal-relevant situations. Yes they simulate a dash of realism.

     Ψ  False Consensus Effect: The tendency to overestimate the commonality of one's opinions & one's undesirable or unsuccessful behaviors.

     Ψ  False Uniqueness Effect: The tendency to underestimate the commonality of one's abilities & one's desirable or successful behaviors.

    Ψ  Self-serving bias ( the norm ) helps to protect our ego. It also enables us to confirm that we are meeting our goals. It's adaptive!

    Ψ  When self-serving bias diminishes responsibility for one’s self & places responsibility for failure externally, it's maladaptive!

    Ψ  We tend to be less self-serving if other needs interrupt, for example if we are subject to public scrutiny.

    Ψ  Group-serving bias is identical to self-serving bias except that it takes place between groups rather than individuals, under which group members make dispositional attributions for their group's successes and situational attributions for group failures, and vice versa for outsider groups.


    Ψ  Self-handicapping: projecting one's self-image with behaviors that create a handy excuse for later failure. It is an action or choice which prevents a person from being responsible for failure. Self-handicapping behavior allows individuals to externalize failures but internalize success; accepting credit for achievements, but allowing excuses for failings. Self-handicapping can be seen as a method of preserving self-esteem but it can also be used for self-enhancement. People may self-handicap to manage the impressions of others, or of themselves.

    Ψ  Self-presentation: refers to our wanting to present a favorable image both to an external audience (others) & to an internal audience (ourselves).

    Ψ  Impression Management is a goal-directed conscious or unconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event; they do so by regulating & controlling information in social interaction). It is usually used synonymously with self-presentation, in which a person tries to influence the perception of their image. The notion of impression management also refers to practices in professional communication & public relations, where the term is used to describe the process of formation of a company's or organization's public image.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates