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Exploring the Self
Module 59:
The Self
• The self is now one of Western
psychology’s most researched topics
• Self – in modern psychology, the center
of personality, the organizer of our
thoughts, feelings, and actions
• Possible selves:
– visions of the self you dream of
• (rich, successful, admired, etc.)
– self you fear becoming
• (unemployed, lonely, academically failed,
– Motivate us by giving us specific goals to
work towards
The Self (Cont.)
• Spotlight effect –
overestimating others’
noticing and evaluating our
appearance, performance, and
– (like a spotlight shining on us)
– Fewer people notice our
clothing, nervousness, irritation,
attraction, embarrassing
moments, etc. than we think
Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy
• Self-esteem – one’s feelings of high or low selfworth (beliefs about self-worth)
– High self-esteem = sleep better, are more persistent
on difficult tasks, are less shy, anxious, and lonely,
and are happier
– Low self-esteem = are more likely to be critical,
oversensitive, and disparage others
• If self-esteem is threatened, people are more likely to be
violent & excessively critical of others
– Two types:
• defensive self-esteem – focus is on keeping your
image/esteem up so failure & criticism are seen as
• secure self-esteem - not worried about external
evaluations so enables us to focus on ourself & not other’s
views of us.
• Self-efficacy – one’s sense of competence and
effectiveness in a specific situation (beliefs about
– The sense that one can control the outcome of one’s
– High self-efficacy predicts achievement in school
• Develops in childhood but it continues as a lifelong process.
• A person’s cognitive skills, abilities & attitudes create our selfsystem
• We develop new behaviors and strengthen our selfefficacy by observing others and through mastery
• Different from Self-Esteem which is more global – How you feel
about yourself in overall.
Internal Locus of Control
• The perception that we control our own
fate (leads to high self-efficacy)
External Locus of Control
• The perception that chance, or forces beyond a
person’s control, control one’s fate
Self-Serving Bias
• Self-serving bias – a readiness to perceive oneself
– Said another way, we tend to see ourselves in a positive
• Some examples:
– People accept more responsibility for good deeds than for
bad, and for successes than failures
• Tend to praise ourselves for a good grade on a test or criticize the
test if we do poorly
– Most people see themselves as better than average
• We overestimate ourselves and underestimate others
Extreme Self-Serving Bias
• Narcissism – excessive self-love and selfabsorption
– Narcissism is rising, just like self-serving perceptions
– Studies have found that agreement with narcissistic
statements is correlated with materialism, desire to be
famous, inflated expectations, more gambling, and
more cheating
Criticisms of Self-Serving Bias
• Critics of self-serving bias point out that some
people feel worthless and unlovable
• This could be because:
– Self-Handicapping - Self-directed put-downs may
be subtly strategic and contain some reassurance
• Before a big event, self-disparaging comments prepare
us for possible failure
• Some self-disparaging comments can help us learn
from our mistakes
• Self-disparagement often pertains to one’s old self
Culture and the Self
• Individualism – giving priority to one’s own goals over group
– Defines one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than
group identifications
– Typically people from North America, Western Europe, Australia,
or New Zealand
• Collectivism – giving priority to the goals of one’s group
(often one’s extended family or work group)
– Defining one’s identity according to the group
– Typically people in Asian cultures