Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 4: The self (pp. 95–137)

What's it about?

People construct the self-concept in much the same way as they form impressions of others. According to self-perception theory, they also look at their own behavior to infer their own characteristics. They also use thoughts and feelings and other people's reactions. However, there are differences in how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others, producing actor–observer differences in attribution. Self-knowledge is organized around multiple self-aspects, which are not always a coherent structure, but by means of selectivity we manage to make a coherent structure of the self.

There are two major self-evaluation motives: the self-accuracy motive and the self-enhancement motive. We strive for an accurate image of how well we function, but we also want to keep our self-esteem high. Self-esteem can serve as a buffer against threats.

We strive for a coherent self-concept, and process information in a way that serves this need for consistency. Self-relevant events and their causes are appraised and lead to different reactions. Self-discrepancy theory describes how people compare the self with internal standards, and this comparison motivates us to take action. Self-awareness can emphasize the discrepancy. The level of self-monitoring determines whether we engage in self-expression or self-presentation.

Confronted with threat, there are different coping strategies. Which coping strategy is the best depends on the kind of threat we are dealing with, and on personal characteristics, such as level of self-esteem.

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 4 introduction
  2. Constructing the self-concept: What we know about ourselves
  3. Constructing self-esteem: How we feel about ourselves
  4. Effects of the self: Processes of self-regulation
  5. Defending the self: Coping with stresses, inconsistencies, and failures
  6. Chapter overview (PDF)
  7. Fill-in-the-blanks
  8. Multiple-choice questions