Self & Identity Essay

Self & Identity – This was more of a summary Introduction Throughout your life you meet people and often need to introduce yourself. The way in which you identify or introduce yourself depends on the situation or context you are in. Maybe you will describe yourself as the daughter of.. ,, or a pupil of…, of maybe an employee of… You might even describe yourself in terms of a group, or skill, or race. The list of descriptors is almost endless. At the same time this description may be an indication of what you aspire to be, or despise about you, similar to an ideal self.

Often an ideal self can motivate you and impact on your behaviour. Self and identity Baumeister cites that a full understanding of the self encompasses several things. First, it includes the body. Second, it includes the social identity. Third, self is the active agent involved in making decisions. (Baumeister, R. F. 1995). Your identity can range from a personal to a group identity. Your personal identity deals with yourself as an individual. While your group identity sees how you fit into a social group. This group can be a race group, religious group, educational group etc (Baron, R.

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A. , Byrne, D. & Branscombe 2006). The first level of self to emerge is subjective self-awareness, which allows the organism to differentiate itself from its physical surroundings. So even an animal can tell the difference between its own body and its owner’s body. Human beings (and primates) also develop objective self awareness; the ability to be the object of its own attention and recognise the self. Only human beings develop symbolic self-awareness – the ability to form an abstract representation of self through language.

Self-awareness makes humans aware of the inevitability of death and creates existential terror. Terror management theory suggests that we attempt to assure ourselves that we have value in our society and the resulting self-esteem acts as a buffer against the anxiety of our demise; those with higher self-esteem show less anxiety when mortality is made salient. Functions: There are a number of functions of the self. These include: a) Interpersonal tool. In order to interact with others we shape ourselves so as to attract and maintain relationships we want. ) To make choices. Our ideal-self assists us in making choices as it assist us in meeting the ideal self. c) Self-regulation. In order to function on the interpersonal and choice level of your identity you need to manage yourself. These functions of the self are what motivate us to act. And it is this action that leads to our behaviour. Culture, History, and the Self Your identity is “very much a product to culture and society. The self will therefore have a different nature as a function of the social context in which it evolves” (Baumeister, R. F. 995). Western cultures emphasise an independent self-concept whereas collectivistic cultures emphasise an interdependent self-concept. Someone from a collectivistic culture living in a western country tends to emphasise their individual self-concept when in a westernised environment and emphasises their collectivistic self-concept when around others from their culture. In terms of cultural aspects of the self certain concepts become evident and can be summarised in the table below Individualistic Collectivistic Dependence Independence Interdependence

Tight Support diversity and self expression Support conformity Private and individual aspect of self Public and collective aspects of self Complex Belong to many groups Belong to a smaller number of groups Elaborate-self: changing jobs and areas. Leads to identity crisis Less complex-self: holding the same job and live in the same area Meaning in life Uncertain, changing, lack of firm moral unchanging values. More certain, less changing, firm moral unchanging values. Conceptions of Self Our belief as to who we are or what we are is based on our own best knowledge and ability. This is referred to as self-knowledge.

The various particulars and beliefs are formed by self-schemas, with the total of all self-schemas forming our self-concept (Baumeister, R. F. 1995). In your self-concept you can have different knowledge about yourself depending upon the context or situation you are in. You can even hold contradictory beliefs about yourself. You may or may not even be aware of these contradictory beliefs. “Because people have so much information about themselves, it is impossible to think about it all at once. Only a small part of the entire self-concept can be present in our awareness at any one time” (Baumeister, R.

F. 1995). In order to reduce cognitive dissonance, where there may be conflict between the different self-beliefs, the concept of the phenomenal self, spontaneous self or working concept of self, function to only bring a small part of the self-concept to mind. An understanding or belief as to who you are can arise not only from yourself but how others treat you. However, if others appraisal does not match your own self-appraisal we tend to filter or bias this information to suit our own understanding to maintain consistency with our own belief. Accuracy of Self-knowledge

Even though we think we are best equipped to know ourselves, often we may know more about ourselves than others, but whether we are more accurate about ourselves is not necessarily true. Because of our desire to protect our self-concept we may believe what we want to belief, and therefore distort information. Also our ability to be objective cannot be attained, as it is too subjective in nature. This action of ours to distort information is referred to as self-deception. Identity crisis An identity crisis occurs with the difficulty of define which identity are we trying to define.

For example are you identifying yourself as a loving mother, or caring friend, or maybe hard as nails businessperson trying to crack an important deal. As can be seen from this your identity could become in crisis with the wide disparate range of type of identity your are currently defining. Erik Erikson assessed four categories in identity crisis. Namely; · Identity achieved- where you have an identity crisis and have formed a committed identity. The most mature and well-adjusted individuals. · Moratorium- where you have a crisis without commitment.

Meaning the identity crisis is still in progress. · Foreclosed identity- where you have commitment without a crisis. When you do not have a crisis because you have accepted who you are. Males are usually seen as rigid, inflexible and somewhat shallow. This is not usually said of women. · Identity diffusion- where neither crisis nor commitment has been made. This type of person suffers from confusion, aimlessness, unhappiness, and sometimes-chronic immaturity. Baumeister, Shapiro, & Tice, 198; Bourne, 1978- identify a further two major kinds of identity crisis.

Namely: · Identity deficit- linked to male adolescents and midlife transition, marked by not having a sufficiently well defines identity to enable one to make the important decisions facing them. Marked by emotional roller coasters. · Identity conflict- in contrast, arises when the multiple definitions of self come into conflict and dictate competing, incompatible courses of action. Identity conflict seems to occur at any time and in either sex. Marked by passivity, guilt , and feelings of being a traitor. What determines which aspect of self is most influential at a given time? ) A particular aspect of self may be more relevant in a particular context b) An aspect of the context can make a particular feature of self highly distinctive e. g. being the only woman in a group of men, c) People may be more keen to categorise themselves according to a particular personal trait (e. g. intelligence) or group identity (e. g. culture) because of its importance to them, d) In talking to us people may refer to us by a noun e. g. women or psychologists that activate the social identity, whereas being described in adjectives or verbs (e. g. aller, supportive) tend to activate the personal identity. A person can conceptualise themselves in “many possible future roles and circumstances and thus even as having different attributes. Still, it is important to realise that it is essentially the same self in all of those” (Markus and Nurius as cited by Baumeister, R. F. 1995). Unity and continuity is part of the definition of self. People with high self-complexity (see themselves in many varied roles) are more resilient to threats to their self-esteem because failure in one domain still leaves other domains intact.

Higgins (1987) suggests, “people have various self-guides consisting of how they ideally would like to be and how they think they ought to be” (Baumeister, R. F. 1995). Self-Concept Change Self-concepts can and do change as we develop or experience different aspects in life. However, the most change occurs during childhood, when we are still trying to find and define ourselves. A concept linked to change is internalisation where people internalise the implications of their behaviour, and so acting, in a certain way can lead to thinking oneself in that way.

Self-concept change can occur by a mechanism called biased scanning, which invokes the concept of the phenomenal self referred to above. In this way we scan our memories for what suites or fits in with the current view of self. All of the above are cognitive views of the self. There are also motivations as to how we define and therefore form or view our identity. Motivation: A Tesser (1988) as part of his Self-Evaluation Maintenance (SEM) maintains that there are two main motivations in driving many of our self-processes that underlie our cognitive, emotional and behaviour.

These are a) a drive for favourability and the b) the drive for consistency. To support a favourable view of self we apply a self-affirmation process, whereby we focus on what we do well in and avoid what we do not do well in. In addition we evaluate ourselves to others in a way that elevate those aspects that interest us as our strengths and lower the other areas if they are not over relevant to us. The consistency drive is to reduce dissonance, and to self-verify. A third motive is put forward by Devine Sedikes (1993), which is the desire you gain accurate understanding of oneself.

The overall motive is to avoid threats of losing self-esteem. Self-presentation: In order to feel good about ourselves and be liked by others, we employ the goal of good impression and impression management. On the one hand we want to look good to others, and on the other hand we are guided by our own values. Even here the desire is to ensure that others see us in the manner that we see ourselves. Thereby manage our presentation to ensure others believe our behaviour is representative of who we are. Self-Esteem: There are two sources of self-esteem.

One arises from the favourability motive with the other source being personality. Why do we need self-esteem? One view is that we are anxious about death and therefore use it as a buffer; namely terror management. This was discussed above under self- identity but is repeated for flow here. Terror management theory suggests that we attempt to assure ourselves that we have value in our society and the resulting self-esteem acts as a buffer against the anxiety of our demise; those with higher self-esteem show less anxiety when mortality is made salient. Self –esteem appears to have two main roots.

The first is direct experiences of competence and efficacy, with the second being social feedback. Self-esteem is linked to depression, where individual lacks the feeling of competence, efficacy or social feedback. This is especially true where these feeling are stable and internal to them. That is they cannot change themselves. In addition people with low self-esteem appear to have self-concepts that are confused, self-contradictory, inconsistent, incomplete and ill defined. All of which have been discussed above as key issues linked to the concept of self and identity. Self-Awareness:

When looking at self-awareness, “one is the distinction between subjective states; at any given moment, attention is either focused on the self, or it is not. Another is the importance of standards, that is, evaluative criteria against which the self is compared” (Duval and Wicklund 1972). By being self-attention people notice themselves and therefore define themselves, reflect on their traits or accomplishments (or lack thereof). The essence of self-awareness is comparing oneself against meaningful, relevant standards, and these comparisons affect our behaviour in multiple ways.

Above we have discussed the various and complex aspects of self and identity. Below I will show how these numerous aspects influence our behaviour. Behaviour Behaviour is defined as “ a generic term covering acts, activities, responses, reactions, movements, processes, operations, etc; in short, any measurable response…” Reber, A. S. (1985). As can be seen from this lengthy definition, similar to the concept of self and identity, it is no one aspect, but a long varied concept defined in short as a measurable response.

What I will show below is how the concept of self and identity influences our responses. Functions: Interpersonal tool: In our desire to attract and maintain relationships we want we behave in such a manner that we deem will achieve this. For example if we seek our lecturers attention (positively or negatively) we may try and show how clever or stupid we are. All with the aim of getting their attention in a manner to promote interaction. To make choices: We often reflect on our behaviour to determine how it meets with assessment of our ideal-self.

If we should not be achieving this we make choices that allow us to change our current behaviour to bring it more in line to meet the ideal self. Self-regulation: Both the above interpersonal tool and choices need to be managed to achieve the stated goal. Therefore our behaviour is a function of our self-regulation. An example could be where we want people to believe we are overweight through no cause of our own, and decline the second large slice of cake. Thereby regulating our behaviour to meet with our self-identity and the need for interaction with others.

Culture, History, and the Self How you behave in certain circumstances depends very much on your culture or past history. If you have been brought up in a Western culture that emphasise an independent self-concept you will think of yourself, display an independent view, and potentially suffer from an identity crisis. An example of these would be where funds are available to buy yourself a new car or build an extension to the community school. A Westerner may immediately feel it appropriate to buy the car, after all you worked hard for it.

At the same time suffer with an identity crisis because they viewed themselves as charitable but by buying the car this conflicts with their self-assessment. On the other hand a person bought up in a collectivistic culture will emphasise an interdependent self-concept that emphasise the community not self, and suffer less from an identity crisis. This person faced with the same dilemma of the choice between the new car or school may immediately feel it appropriate to place the funds available to the school, after all it is for the good of the community.

And therefore suffer less from an identity crisis because their actions coincide with their view of themselves as being community focused and therefore charitable Conceptions of Self With our best efforts to understand ourselves and our believes as to who we are or what, while at the same time managing the contradictory beliefs about yourself, we will behave in a manner to achieve these beliefs. In order to reduce cognitive dissonance, where there may be conflict between the different self-beliefs, we may change our behaviour to suite our self-view.

If we identify that others treat us, as a consequence of our behaviour, differently to how we understand ourselves, we tend to filter or bias this information to suit our own understanding to maintain consistency with our own belief. We may or may not in fact change our behaviour to fit in with the other person’s assessment, just filter or bias the assessment to fit in with our own view. Accuracy of Self-knowledge The concept of self-knowledge or lack of it, through self-deception, is linked to the conception of self, discussed above.

And our behaviour will accordingly be changed to fit into our own perception of self. Identity crisis When faced with an identity crisis we apply one of Erik Eriksons four categories to change our behaviour. For example we can: · Identity achieved- you can re-assesses either your identity formed or the cause for the identity crisis. Thereafter you can choose to change your perception and behaviour around either one of these, which will result in the removal of the crisis. · Moratorium- you can attempt to re-assess the grounds for the crisis or create commitment. Foreclosed identity- this is a difficult one as no behaviour change should take place, as you are unaware of any crisis which should be the motivator for change in behaviour. · Identity diffusion- this is similar to foreclosed identity in that no change in behaviour should be evident as you are unaware or either a crisis or a commitment has been made. · Identity deficit- If you become of the cause for the emotional roller coaster you can attempt to change your behaviour to more appropriate behaviour that is consistent to your view of self or you can come to terms with your emotional roller coaster and see it through. Identity conflict- this almost sounds like a person with mild schizophrenia. The multiple definitions of self require major adjustment or change in behaviour to remove the conflict and create compatible courses of action.. At the same time as applying the above approach to behaviour, you could re-assess your own assessment of self in terms of the situation or context you define yourself. For example if you find your behaviour is too harsh at home, which is a requirement while at work, you can change it to the change in situation.

If the person you see yourself, as at present is not in keeping with the ideal self or future self, you can change your behaviour as a means to achieve the future self. An example could be where you see yourself as a successful psychologist, but you are currently not doing well in exams or comprehension of the study material. You can study harder, communicate more with your lecturers (and hope for informative and helpful feedback), or change your assessment of what defines a successful psychologist. Thinking about, or having a suitable role model, can make us aware of other ossible selves, the selves that we can become, and inspire and motivate people to make changes in their lives. Some people may feel they want to change but can’t and so distract themselves from the task at hand but generally people are overly optimistic about what they can and this can lead to disappointment. Still, having confidence and efficacy in our ability to change is important. People high in self-efficacy believe in their ability to achieve a goal and are persistent, but stop working on a task, which cannot be solved sooner that those low in self-efficacy.

Collective self-efficacy refers to the efficacy that a group possesses as a whole, e. g. a sports team, and is correlated with their success. Self-change can occur because of our desire for self-improvement but also because of situational changes, e. g. changing jobs. Self-Concept Change As discussed above under identity crisis, one way of dealing with the crisis is to change your self-concept. In addition the change can occur, also as discussed above, by applying a bias or filter to the feedback you receive from other peoples assessment of yourself or your behaviour. Motivation:

A Tesser concept Self-Evaluation Maintenance (SEM) supports that view that in order to protect our drive for favourability and consistency we will distance ourselves from people that do not promote these drives. This is achieved by a change in our behaviour and actions towards others. For example whereas you may have been extremely friendly with somewhere in maths, now that they have taken up athletics, a sport that is highly relevant to you, you may no longer wish to maintain this friendship. Thereby changing your behaviour to protect your drives. You could also derogate their performance when compared to yours.

The third motive put forward by Devine Sedikes (1993), which deals with the desire to gain accurate understanding of oneself, will allow our behaviour to change by either the process of filtering or bias of the feedback or reducing dissonance and changing our behaviour to more accurately accept that your friend is better than you at athletics, but not too worry you are better at them at something else. Changing your behaviour to what you find relevant. Self-presentation: The concept of self-presentation as far as behaviour is concerned can be linked with self-deception.

Under this concept our existing behaviour is directed towards created a good impression. If we identify that our concept of self is not what would create a good impression we may exercise deception and change how we present ourselves, in order to keep the others persons good impression. An example could be gun control or Capital Punishment. Where you have no desire for gun control and certainly support capital punishment. If you are in the company of someone with similar views you may behave in keeping with your self-concept.

But if you discover the other persons opposing views, you may alter your behaviour to maintain a good impression and be deceptive about your views. Another example of deception is the new form of racism. Where someone from another group, in order to be politically correct, does not express there true feelings, but expresses a non racial view in order to maintain a good impression, while really feeling uncomfortable with people of other races. Self-Esteem: In order to maintain our self-esteem we often need to change our behaviour to reduce the anxiety we are feeling.

If we belief we are competent and efficient at a task, our behaviour is motivated towards performing that task. Likewise if the social feedback we receive is congruent to our perception of self our behaviour will be conducted towards performing more of that task. The contrary being true for negative feedback either form a task we thought we were good at or not. Self-Awareness: Self-awareness incorporates the SEM model put forward by A Tesser. When we compare ourselves to others in a trait we consider relevant our behaviour will be motivated to excel or do better than the other.

Alternatively our behaviour will move away from that other person. Self-awareness may therefore improve our performance or it can choke our performance by allowing us to focus too much attention on that act and allow us to fail under pressure. Conclusion- Link between Identity and Behaviour As can be seen above how we identify or define ourselves has a strong impact on how we behave. Therefore if we want to be seen to be behaving in a certain manner we should re-define how we see ourselves. Or change our behaviour to suite our perception of ourselves. References · Baron, R. A. , Byrne, D. & Branscombe (2006) Social psychology (11th ed. . Pearson Education, Inc. · Baumeister, R. F. (1995). Self and identity: An introduction. In A. Tesser (Ed. ), Advanced social psychology (pp. 51-97). McGraw-Hill, Inc. · Markus, H. R. , & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253. · Markus, H. , & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954-969. · Reber, A. S. (1985). The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. · Triandis, H. C. (1989). The self and social behavior in different cultural contexts. Psychological Review, 96, 506-520.


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