4.4 Thinking Like a Social Psychologist About the Self

Social psychologists think about the self in the same way that they think about any other social phenomenon—in terms of affect, behavior, and cognition, and in terms of the person-situation interaction. Our focus in this chapter has been on the cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of the self and on the remarkable extent to which our selves are created by the social situation in which we find ourselves.

Take a moment and use this new knowledge about how social psychologists think about the self to consider your own self. Think carefully (and as fairly as you can) about how you think and feel about yourself. What constructs did you list when you tried the Twenty Statements Test in Section 4.1 “The Cognitive Self: The Self-Concept”? Which of your physical characteristics were most accessible for you? And what about your social identities and your traits? Do you now have a better insight into the characteristics that are most important to you?

Now consider the complexity of your-self-concept. Do you think it would be better if it were more complex? Do you think you should seek out more dimensions to round it out? Or perhaps you feel that you already have a healthy and complex self-concept. In any case, you might want to keep this concept in mind as you think about yourself in the future.

And what about your relations with the social groups you belong to? Do you derive a lot of your self-esteem from your group memberships? Which groups provide you with social identities, and are there group memberships that may potentially not provide you with high social identity?

Self-esteem is one of the most important aspects of the self. Do you have high or low self-esteem? What about other people whom you know—does their level of self-esteem influence how you relate to them? And how do the aspects of your own self help (or potentially harm) your relations with others?

Finally, take a moment and consider Matt Harding again. What do you think he thinks about when he dances, and what emotions is he feeling? Why do you think he continues to engage others as he does?

In sum, the self is the fundamental part of human psychology and will form the basis of all our analyses of social behavior.

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