My Social Self
According to Vaughan & Hogg (2005) a person’s identity can be divided into 2 components, personal identity and the social identity. I believe that personal and social identity interacts and do not act separately from each other. George Herbert Mead in 1969, proposed the theory of symbolic interactionism. His theory suggests that individuals create meaning through the interaction of their perception and the environment. Therefore, theory gives individuals cognitive understanding about who they are, which is then expressed in their behaviours and emotions. (Hewitt, 1997).
This essay will discuss some of the psycho-social variables that contribute to my social identity. I also address how social variables influence some constructs of personal identity. These concepts have been summarised on a concept map. From exploring McClelland's theory of needs I will also provide some underlying needs, that might explain social behaviour. This is done on the basis of how I have created meaning from myself, the environment and their interaction.
Within life we give ourselves a number of titles which are also known as social roles. A Social role according to James, Witte & Galbraith (2006) is an expectation of a behaviour, attitude or function in which a position in society holds. James, Witte & Galbraith (2006) have highlighted a number of common roles played by adults. I play a number of these social roles and they contribute to my social identity. Within my family environment some of my roles include sister, daughter, cousin and niece. Within the community, my social roles are diverse and include citizen, church member, friend, neighbour, and student.
Most of these roles remain constant throughout my life; however roles can change daily or over time. I also have roles which I anticipate I will play in the future. Some of which are already in progress, as I am engaged, and I will be getting married and taking on the role as wife. After I graduate, I hope that my degree will assist me in becoming the role of a counsellor or psychologist. These social roles are important as they put in place scripts about how to behave in certain situations.
Within these social roles, according to Baumeister & Bushman (2008) humans have a natural tendency to divide themselves into groups. The social categorisation theory proposes that society influences individual identity (Goa, 2007). These social groups are established based on a shared identity with other group members (Rogers & Lea, 2005). Rogers & Lea (2005) state that these commonalities are based not interpersonal relations between individuals (such as liking someone), but are based around the common factor. Social categorisation occurs when I place myself into groups that are either like me (in-groups) or not like me (out-groups) (Kashima, Foddy & Platow, 2002).
The most obvious example of this is being female. From this personal attribute I clearly distinguish myself from being male. I have various other social groups in my life that contribute to my social identity, such as my race. My mother is Tongan and my father is Australian. Therefore, I am connected in various ways to the Tongan community and the Australian community. However, living in Australia I tend to identify myself more with Australians. This observation supports Kashima, Foddy & Platow’s (2002) claim that social categorisation differs depending on context. Again, a clear distinction has been made between me (who I am) and any other race that is not either Tongan or Australian (not me).
My values and beliefs are another area of my life where social categorisation is evident. Being a Christian I have similar morals and values to many other Christians. By placing myself in the Christian category, produces the statement that I am Christian and I am not Atheist or Agnostic. My family has also instilled in me certain values and priorities which connects to or disconnects from a vast number of groups. Categorisations determine who I am, and who I am not in society. Impacting on my cognition's and can be seen in action via my social roles and self presentation.
Social catagorisation may occur for a number of reasons. Baumiester & Bushman (2008) claim that people use the stereotyping heuristic (another form of social catergorisation). This heuristic is used create mental shortcuts to simplify the world. McClelland's theory of needs also bring to light the need for another possible reason for social catagorisation. McClelland's theory suggests that humans have a need for affiliation. Social catergorisation may be a way to improve and create a sense of affiliation.
The self comparison theory that was proposed by Festinger in 1954, suggests that we compare our abilities and opinions with others (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007). Vaughan & Hogg (2005) go as far as stating that our cognitions, emotions and behaviours are formulated around the behaviours, emotions and cognitions of other people. This concept is personally confronting but at the same time very real. Social comparison can be made in order to validate oneself and are more likely to occur when insecurity is present (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007). Social comparison can be used to enhance, validate, improve or destruct one’s social identity, depending on the direction of the comparison (Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, 2007).
On a personal level, social comparisons have an impact on my social identity. I often associate and make comparison with those who are like me. These similarities are mainly found in those who have the same interests and those who are of the same background (i.e. Tongan and Australian). I would describe myself as generally optimistic, happy, caring, honest, open, humorous and passionate. These descriptions are based on my comparison of myself to people who I interact with regularly. When comparing myself with someone like Mother Teresa, I wouldn’t consider myself as caring as initially described.
The same goes for my social class, I consider myself to be middle class. This concept of myself would change depending on context and geographical location. Yet in the context of my current situation, I consider myself to be similar to those around me. According to Zuckerman & O’Loughlin (2006), we are more likely to associate with people who enhance our self-esteem. This leads to better mental health. This research, although confronting can pose questions about the people we associate with and why we associate with them. This evidence could support McClelland’s theory of needs regarding power (Deckers, 2005).
Other comparisons manifest themselves in physical attractiveness. Being a female in today’s society it is hard to avoid physical comparisons. Western culture focuses on stereotypical form of attractiveness. I use upward social comparisons against 'ideal' images. Jones & Buckingham (2005) conducted a study which suggests that women with high and low self esteem are both sensitive to comparison of attractiveness. However, the direction of social comparison differs. Jones & Buckingham’s (2005) finding suggest that the direction of my social comparison is due to low trait self esteem.
Social comparisons can give positions or places in society and contribute to the types of groups we which associate. The labels I give myself as a result of these positive or negative comparisons are instilled in my cognitions. Self presentation, allows me to either hide or promote these characteristics from society. Fiske (2004) claims that we present ourselves differently depending on how we want others to perceive us. Fiske (2004) defines 5 common forms of self presentations which include integration, self promotion, intimidation, exemplification and supplication.
Self presentation for me assists in gaining approval about my social self from peers, friends, family and other social groups. Through using the looking glass self, I imagine how others view me. When I first meet someone I am generally quiet and reserved. My looking glass self tells me that if I’m loud and rude at first, the other person might think I’m terrible company. After becoming acquainted I tend to open up more and become more active in the social situation. This is an example of my most predominant self presentation technique, integration (Fiske, 2004). This may also suggest a high need for affiliation according to McClelland's theory of needs (Deckers, 2005).
Finally my cultural background also has influence on my social identity. In contrast with Australia, an individualistic culture (Malim, 1997), Tonga has a collectivist culture (Malim, 1997). Living in Australia, the western culture has dominated my social interactions in the community. My Tongan heritage, on the other hand, has more of an influence on my family interactions. I believe it is from my Tongan background that I have developed an interdependent self. Myers (2008) suggests that interdependent people define themselves by their social connections.
The interactions of these psycho-social variables all influence my social self and self concept. This essay only covered a brief description of myself. However, from the theory, it is evident that I have an influence on society just as much as society has an influence me. The symbolic interactionism theory gives an understanding of how these variables, my perception of the world and the environment, interact to create my self concept.
Appendix A: Social-psycho Variables that Contribute to the Creation of My Social Self
Appendix B: Glossary
Appendix C: Social Presentation
Appendix D: Symbolic Interactionism
Appendix E: Motives and Directions of Social Comparison
Appendix F: Reasons for Social Comparisons
Appendix G: Social Roles
Appendix H: Self Evaluation
References- includes glossary references
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Chien-Huang, L. & Chia- Ching, T. (2007). Comparison conditions, comparison patterns and models of comparative behaviour. Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(6), 761-776
Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological and environmental. (2nd ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Fiske, S. T. (2004). The self: Social to the core. In S. T. Fiske (2004). Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. (Ch 5, pp. 169 - 214). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
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Malim, T. (1997). Social Psychology. (2nd Ed). Wiltshire. Macmillan press Ltd
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Vaughan, G.M. & Hogg, M. A. (2005). Introduction into Social Psychology. (4th ed.) Harlow: Pearson Education
Zuckerman, M. & O’Loughlin, R. E. (2006). Self-enhancement by social comparison: a prospective analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 751-760