Social Psychology: Discovering the Self

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Self-Concept, Awareness, and Self-Schemas

In general, self-concept refers to a sum of beliefs that individuals have about themselves. There is no unanimous assumption about the basic components of self-image because many hypotheses rely on different factors involved in defining the nature of personality identification. To have a deeper understanding of what features differentiate humans from animals, it is necessary to refer to the concept of self as an integral part of each individual, “a symbolic construct which reflects an awareness of our own identity” (Crisp and Turner, 2010, p.2). Despite the fact that self-concept is an integral part of each human, people are not fully aware of this issue. The level of awareness depends on personal peculiarities and contextual frameworks. In this respect, self-awareness defines the extent to which people realize their feelings, traits, and behavior. At the same time, this concept can be presented as the realization of the personal characteristics of individuality.

There are two types of self-awareness that define a person’s ability to involve in public and private relationships. Public self-awareness embraces a wide social context in which an individual interacts with other members of society. This type of awareness defines the extent to which an individual may successfully interact with other individuals. In contrast, private self-awareness refers to the person’s realization of inner qualities and identification of unique features. Self-concept and its realization are not inborn phenomena. Self-awareness could be examined at neurological, biological, social, and cultural levels. Biological aspects of perceiving the self are premised on a complex set of social-cognitive behaviors paying attention to other people’s attitudes to the self. According to Crisp and Tuner (2010), “people who are privately self-aware are more likely to adhere to personal standards of behavior” (p. 6). Therefore, a high level of personal self-awareness contributes to an individual’s ability to perceiving other levels of self-realization.

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The Acting Self

The self-concept cannot be defined in a limited definition of identity. In fact, the self-concept can be introduced with regard to the role, relationship, and interactions in which a person is engaged. In this respect, the acting self could be considered as a subject that dynamically interacts with other members of society. A person is an agency whose identity is affiliated with the type of community it belongs to (Stets & Burke, 2003). While evaluating the self as an active self, it is reasonable to consider this issue through the prism of relations between the self and identity. In fact, identity formation is a complex process premised on self-determination and conceptualization.

Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

While deliberating on the main elements of self-concept, it is purposeful to define our personal, subjective attitude to it. Hence, self-esteem refers to a subjective evaluation of them as positive or negative. The extent to which people assess their self-esteem differs, depending on various situations in which people interact (Crisp & Tuner, 2010). Hence, individuals with high self-esteem are usually brought up by parents with an authoritative style of children’s education, whereas individuals with lower self-esteem have less confidence in their skills and abilities.

Thinking about Others

Attributions: Internal, External, Explanatory Style

Self-awareness is not enough for communicating with people and understanding their attitudes. In order to effectively interact with others, it is necessary to predict their behaviors and define their inner dispositions which are called attributions. These stable characteristics have been revealed through abilities, attitudes, and personality features (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2011). Due to the fact that individuals do not always see these attributions, they judge them according to how a person acts or what he/she says. In this respect, the theory that explains and predicts the behavior of others is called attribution theory. Personal attribution premises on the fact that a person’s actions are explained by individual characteristics and traits, whereas situational attribution relies on a contextual background that influences a person’s action (Kassin et al, 2011). The concept is based on three components, such as personal, permanent, and pervasive. The former defines how people explain the cause of actions. They often experience events and view themselves that the cause of this action. Such an assumption refers to an internalized vision. External vision focuses on the impersonal explanation of the event.

Attitudes and Behavior

While responding to a particular issue, should it be aboriginal rights or terrorism, people have either positive or negative reactions to these issues. These reactions are expressed as people’s attitudes toward a particular event. According to Kassin et al (2011), “attitude is a positive, negative or mixed evaluation of an object that is expressed at some level of intensity – nothing more, nothing less” (p. 203). Such feelings as love, hate, like, admiring, and dislike can be categorized as reactions that people express while presenting their attitudes. Therefore, people constantly make assumptions and judgments about surrounding people and define whether they like them or not.

Attitudes are formed on the basis of the actions and behavior of other individuals. There is also a hypothesis that attitudes are shaped on a genetic basis. For instance, siblings can be predisposed to similar objects or events. At the same time, attitude toward other people is still predetermined by the way they act or behave (Kassin et al, 2011). Similar to the behavior influencing attitude, the latter has a potent impact on behavior. For instance, consumers might dislike a new product launched to the market and as a result of these behaviors, producers start thinking over the strategies for increasing demand.

Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination

Attitudes are shaped on the basis of general assumptions about one person. However, these attitudes can often be applied to other people, which leads to the formation of prejudices and stereotypes. Hence, prejudices refer to biased perceptions of people who are predetermined by the expression of general opinion about a specific object or person (Crisp & Tuner, 2010). For instance, people can believe that education is important for professional growth. This stereotype is shaped on the basis of experience and categorization of the information individuals draw from the surrounding environment. However, there are still exceptions when people become successful and wealthy even though they did not enter higher education. The growing biases and stereotypes that are shared by one group can lead to discriminative trends. There are different forms of discrimination due to reliance on different outlooks. Racism is considered to be one of the most apparent forms of discrimination known in human history (Crisp & Turner, 2010, p. 190). It focuses people’s reluctance to accept equality and civil rights given to people irrespective of their racial affiliation.

Influencing Others

Power of Persuasion and Persuasion Techniques

When a person wants to change other individuals’ opinions or attitudes, he/she resorts to persuasion techniques. Hence, persuasion is an attempt of an individual to influence others and make them share his/her own outlook on a particular issue. There are two leading characteristics of a persuasion process: trustworthiness and expertise. The first one defines how honest and transparent the source of persuasion is, whereas the second one focuses on how well an individual knows how to persuade another person (Baumeister & Bushman, 2010). The power of persuasion has a complicated nature because people can use central and peripheral routes of influence. As such, central routes focus on the persuasive mechanisms that rely on careful consideration of message content. In contrast, while applying a peripheral model, people make use of attractive sources of influence.

Characteristics of Persuasion, Message, and Audience

There are many sources of persuasion, which could be used by a person to influence others. While using peripheral routes of persuasion, the audience is affected significantly by various source characteristics. The central route of persuasion deals with the ability of a person to use data that has credible sources (Kassin et al, 2011). The main target of a persuasive process is premised on a message that is delivered through a communication medium, which a person who knows what to say and how to do so. In this respect, informational strategies, positive emotions, and the creation of incentives allow a person to change other’s attitudes to a specific issue.

Influencing Others: Obedience and Conformity

Social interaction is the key to human’s normal co-existence with each other. Social influence, therefore, is among the core elements of social behavior because communication and mutual dependence stem from the human desire to survive. People are able to live a life only through interaction with other people. For normal existence, it is necessary to affect other people and make them do what they want. There are two kinds of social influence: informational and normative (Baumeister & Bushman, 2010). Informational influence, which is also called social proof, refers to people’s actions that must correspond with the correct patterns of behavior in a specific social context. This influence is more associated with obedience. In contrast, normative social influence relates to the concept of conformity with the norms accepted in society.

Aggressive Behavior and Aggression Cues

People’s behavior is based on examples from life. They imitate certain actions, reactions, and patterns to express their feedback. However, individuals might often demonstrate their aggressive behavior due to the existence of such models. Moreover, they “also develop more positive attitudes and beliefs about aggression in general, and they construct aggressive ‘scripts’ that serve as guides for how to behave and solve social problems” (Kassin et al, 2011, p. 450). There are specific events or situations, leading to pain or an unpleasant feeling, which often serves as aggressive cues for expressing a negative attitude.

Prosocial Behavior

Baumeister and Bushman (2010) define prosocial behavior “…as doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole” (p. 257). It also involves behavior that considers other people and respects social norms. Culture is also an important indicator of prosocial behavior because it shapes a social whole in which people cooperate and adhere to rules for mutual benefits. Psychologists approve the idea that helping is the basis of prosocial action. At the same time, the majority of scientists believe that conformity and obedience generate antisocial trends among individuals because of the unpredicted consequences of this behavior. The positive impact of conformity is also discussed among scientists because some of the rules accepted in society should be observed.

With regard to the above, fairness and justice are considered the leading principles of prosocial behavior. For instance, if consumers believe that the quality of the product corresponds with its price, they are more likely to pay for it because the price is fair. This principle, therefore, serves as a powerful tool for predicting positive social orientation. Finally, prosocial behavior could be affected by other people since individuals are constantly interacting in a social environment.

Relationship Building, Love, and Attraction

A person’s experience and shaped attitudes predetermine his/her reasons for expressing attraction for other people. Multiple research studies have identified four factors predicting attraction, such as proximity, similarity, reciprocal linking, and physical attractiveness (Delamater, 2006). Proximity implies both a person’s availability and geographical distance. Similarity refers to the homogeneity of individuals, whereas physical attractiveness focuses on the appearance of individuals. Finally, reciprocal thinking implies that people feel more comfortable when they are admired by others.

There are different theories and hypotheses concerning the reasons why people fall in love. According to a three-factor theory, “when we experience physiological arousal we look for external cues to explain it” (Crisp & Turner, 2010, p. 359). Hence, there should be a stimulus that would make a person fall in love. This stimulus can be presented through anxiety, physical attraction, or the presence of an attractive person. Additionally, when people are at the beginning of romantic relationships, they engage in passionate love. However, in the course of development of these relationships, love and attraction become less passionate and turn into an enduring love. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as a compassionate love (Crisp & Turner, 2010). According to a well-known typology of love proposed by Lee, passionate, friendship, and game-playing love are three basic types of affection that can be presented in a context both as a combination of several types or as a display of one type.

Group Dynamics

The concept of group dynamics touches on the interaction between individuals either into one social group or between several groups. In order to understand the origins and nature of group dynamics, it is necessary to consider decision-making patterns, control the disease rates in society, create efficient treatment mechanisms, and observe the popularity of ideas and technological advances (Delamater, 2006). Group dynamics is vital for understanding such phenomena as sexism, racism, and other types of stereotyping and biased perception.

Types of Groups

There are several types of groups that are based on diverse principles. Particularly, there are primary and secondary groups. Primary groups shape small communities in which members have lasting relationships. Primarily relationship presupposes that people spend a great amount of time together, and engage in a variety of activities. They also know each other’s tastes and preferences. Secondary groups belong to large communities of formal and institutional character (Delamater, 2006). This type of interaction is not based on strong emotional ties and, therefore, people involved in this group do not know much about each other. The primary group can interact in a secondary context as well. For instance, primary groups can attend hospitals or universities that build the conditions to form a secondary community.

Consequences of Groupthink

The essence of groupthink consists of people’s endeavors to achieve commonality in understanding and perceiving ideas. The theoretical framework implies that groupthink “is more likely to occur when groups are highly cohesive, have particular types of group structure, and are engaged in highly stressful situations” (Kassin, 2013, p. 336). If a certain group adheres to a false assumption, it can lead to negative consequences, such as conflicting situations with other groups. Due to these negative assumptions, there is a great possibility for generating defective decisions.

Social Dilemmas

In the case of diverse opinions emerged in one group, people will seek to fight for their personal benefits. People involved in social dilemmas are affected by such factors as group dynamics, situational factors, and structural arrangements. Establishing trustful relations is vital for promoting successful communication because it minimizes the threat of being exploited (Kassin, 2013). The connection between social dilemmas and culture is evident because most of the conflicts are based on people’s inability to reach a consensus concerning their cultural beliefs. It is of particular concern to faith, religion, and personal views. Therefore, in order to resolute conflicts, it is necessary to take into consideration cultural diversity issues that can contribute to searching for common ground.

Future of Psychology

Negotiation and culture are two primary issues that can be discussed in the future due to increasing trends in creating globalized communities. Indeed, understanding cultural and ethnic peculiarities will help the world community to reach consensus on many issues such as religion, cultural, or ethnicity. Aside from these considerations, close attention should be paid to gender roles performed in society due to the recent shifts. Specifically, gender equality and negative attitude to gender itself as the decisive factors for recruiting a person for a job position are on the current agenda in social psychology. All these aspects should be constantly discussed to introduce different, more appropriate interpretations of various concepts, including group dynamics, gender roles, and self-awareness. Communication and group thinking are also significant in managing the psychological aspects of humans.

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