Psychology of the Self

Corey L. Guenther and Mark D. Alicke

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Psychology of the Self

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The “self” is surely one of the most heavily researched areas in social and personality psychology, even if the debate continues as to whether a self truly exists. Whatever stance one adopts regarding the self’s ontological status, there is little doubt that the many phenomena of which the self is a predicate—self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-enhancement, self-regulation, self-deception, self-presentation—to name just a few, are indispensable research areas. Furthermore, the study of the self extends far beyond the topics that explicitly reference the term. Social comparison theory, for example, comprises studies on how people define their characteristics by assessing where they stand relative to others. And of course, the study of the self extends beyond psychology: philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, not to mention fiction writers and other artists, have all been fascinated with the self. William James’s classic distinction between the self as knower (or pure ego) and the self as known (or the empirical self) provides a useful scheme within which to view the multitudinous aspects of self-functioning (see James 1890, cited under Self-Awareness Theory). Whereas prior conceptions of the self as knower tended to posit a “transcendental” capacity for the ego, James made this concept more congenial to psychologists by simply referring to it as the function that allows for continuity among thoughts and experiences. James’s distinction perseveres in the interest that self-theorists accord to how people acquire self-knowledge and how this knowledge is manifested in behavior. The major topics related to self-functioning that social and personality psychologists address concern the ways in which people understand and define their characteristics (self-knowledge), how people use task and social feedback to monitor their goal progress (self-regulation), the influence of personal standards, expectations, and values on perception of others (self in social judgment), and how people maintain desired self-images. The self has been studied as an individual difference variable (primarily by personality theorists), as a determinant of social perception, attribution, and judgment, and as an essential element in social relations. A major theme has been the interplay between motivational and nonmotivational factors in self-evaluation. Most current perspectives on the self include the motives that can potentially bias the way information regarding the self is obtained, processed, and recalled, as well as the ordinary cognitive processes that underlie self-functions. This integration has broadened theoretical explanations involving the self and bodes well for the future vigor of this research area.

Article.  14542 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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