Sunday, September 2, 2007


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.

Social Roles

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.

Social Categorisation

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.

Social Comparison

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.

Self Presentation

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
Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008).
Social Psychology and Human
(1st ed.) Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth

Carr, S. C. (2003). Social Psychology. Context, Communication and Culture.Milton: John Wiley

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

Goa, C. D. (2007). Social identity theory and the reduction of inequality: can cross cutting categorization reduce inequality in mixed race groups? Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(4), 537-550

Hewitt, J.P. (1997). Self and Society a Symbolic Interactionism Social Psychology. (7th ed.), London: Allyn and Bacon.

James, W. B., Witte, J.E., & Galbraith, M. W. (2006). Havighurst’s social roles revisited. Journal of Adult Development, 13(1). 52-60.

Jones, A. M. & Buckingham, J. T. (2005). Self-esteem as a moderator of the effect of social comparisons on women’s body image. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(8), 1164-1187.

Kashima, Y., Foddy, M. & Platow, M. J. (2002), Self and Identity. Personal, Social and Symbolic. New Jersey: Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Malim, T. (1997). Social Psychology. (2nd Ed). Wiltshire. Macmillan press Ltd

Myers, D. G. (2008). Social Psychology. (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill

Rogers, P. & Lea, M. Social presence in distributed group environments: the role of social identity. Behaviour & Information Technology, 24(2). 151-158

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

Appendix A: Psycho-social Variables that Contribute to the Creation of My Social Self

Click on the concept map to see a larger version.

Appendix B: Glossary


Collectivist Culture- The extent to which an individual or group are orientated towards the group (Carr, 2003.). Priorities are given to the groups goals (Myers, 2008)

Individualistic Culture- The extent to which an individual or group are orientated towards themselves (Carr, 2003). Priorities are given to the individuals goals over the group’s goals (Myers, 2008).

Interdependent Self
- Constructing one’s identity in relations to others (Myers, 2008).
Personal Identity-definition of self in terms of traits, idiosyncrasies and personal relationships (Vaughan & Hogg, 2005).

Looking glass self- The tendency to look at oneself, by imagining how another person perceives you. (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008)

McClelland's Theory of Needs- Humans are motivated by three categorises of needs
affiliation, achievement and authority (Deckers, 2005) - Previous blog posting titled "McClelland's Theory of Needs" gives further explanation of McClellands Theory of needs.

Social Categorisation/ Groups- The tendency to divide the social world into separate categorises. Therefore creating the ‘us’ group and ‘them’ group (Baron & Byrne, 2004).

Social Comparison-comparing own abilities and opinions to with others (Myers, 2008).

Self Concepts-Information the self including, self awareness, self esteem and self deception. From these components self beliefs are constructed about oneself (Baron & Byrne, 2004; Malim, 1997).

Self Esteem-how favourably one views themself (Baumeiter & Bushman, 2008)

Self presentation- Self presentation is the desired personal representation expressed to society through behaviour (Fiske, 2004).

Social Identity-A personal definition of who you are. This can include personal attributes and shared attributes with others (Baron & Byrne, 2004).

Social Roles-Different roles played by individuals within society. Social roles change depending on context. They also create scripts about how to behaviour in social situations (Myer, 2008; Baumeister & Bushman, 2008; Baron & Byrne, 2004)

Upward Social Comparison- Veiwing oneself below that of another person (Baumeiter & Bushman, 2008)

Appendix C: Social Presentation

Social Presentation can be used for:

- to be seen as worthy and moral (can be seen in parents and religious leaders). (Fiske, 2004)

-to be liked. Can avoid conflict, and conform to opinions. (Fiske, 2004)

-to be feared (can be seen by people in authority such as parents. Can use vocal or physical gestures to instill fear or create high standards and goals. Furthermore, can use fear to control others. (Fiske, 2004)

Self promotion- to be seen as competent (often seen in a job interview) rather than be liked. Often self promoters seek out expressions of respect and awe. (Fiske, 2004)

-to be seen as helpless. Attract attention, and seeks assistance from those around them in a variety of areas. (Fiske, 2004)

Taken From
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

Appendix D: Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic interactionism is a theory which is based on how humans define the interaction between their:

  • identities
  • expereiences
  • behaviours
  • realities and
  • social interactions

Humans create self idenitity based on their interactions and experiances with others. (Armstrong, 2007).

Armstrong (2007) claims the three basic principles of symbolic interactionism are:

"a) Humans act toward thing/experiences on the basis of the meaning those things/experience have for them.

b) The source of the meanings for thing/experiences are derived from or arises out of soial interaction with others and

c) The meanins of things/experiences are handled in an modified through an interpretive process used by the individual in dealing with the things he/she encounters." (Armstrong, 2007).

Taken from
Armstrong, K. L. (2007). Self, situations, and sport consumption: An exploratory study of symbolic interactionism. Journal of Sport and Behavior, 30(2), 111-129

Appendix E: Motives and Direction of Social Comparison

Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching, (2007) also hypothesised and confirmed the following motives and directions for social comparision

  • People will make lateral comparisons for self-evaluation.
  • People will make lateral comparisons for common bond.
  • People will make upward comparisons for self-destruction.
  • People will make upward comparisons for self-improvement.
  • People will make downward comparisons for self-enhancement.
  • People will make downward comparisons for altruistic reasons.

Taken from-
Chien-Huang, L. & Chia- Ching, T. (2007). Comparison conditions, comparison patterns and models of comparative behaviour. Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(6), 761-776

Appendix F: Reasons for Social Comparisons

According to Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching (2007) social comparisions are more likely to occur as age increases. Chien- Huang & Chia-Ching (2007) also hypothesised reasons that will lead people to engage in social comparisions including:
1: Conditions of ability
2: Uncertainty
3: Frustration
4: Self-relevant domains

Taken from
Chien-Huang, L. & Chia- Ching, T. (2007). Comparison conditions, comparison patterns and models of comparative behaviour. Social Behaviour and Personality, 35(6), 761-776

Appendix G: Social Roles

13 Major Adult social roles in contemparary society defined by James, Witte & Galbraith (2006)

Friend is the interaction with both females and males
with whom one has chosen to spend time and develop a

Spouse/Partner includes activities associated with one’s
marriage or intimate relationship involving both couple
and individual identity.

Kin/Relative role encompasses the relationships and
activities with all relatives other than parents, children,
and spouses.

Learner role activities relate to the acquisition of knowledge
and the development of learning skills.

Daughter/Son is one’s adult relationship and activities
with parents/stepparents or with the spouse’s parents/

Parent includes the relationship and activities relating to
being a father, mother, or stepparent.

Citizen involves community/civic, environmental, political,
patriotic, or volunteer activities related to neighborhood,
town, state, national, or international social issues/concerns.

Home/Services Manager role includes activities involved
in acquiring a place to live, managing ordinary household
tasks, handling financial aspects of living, and performing
as a consumer of various services.

Worker includes activities related to the job for which
one receives pay or still performs although retired.

Leisure Time Consumer includes the activities undertaken
for recreation or diversion during one’s discretionary

Religious Affiliate pertains to participating in religious
activities related to one’s beliefs in a spiritual being(s).

Grandparent role consists of the relationships and activities
related to being a grandparent.

Association/Club Member includes participation and
activities in organized groups, involving social, civic, fraternal,
athletic, patriotic, and/or auxiliary groups.

Taken From-
James, W. B., Witte, J.E., & Galbraith, M. W. (2006). Havighurst’s social roles revisited. Journal of Adult Development, 13(1).52-60.

Appendix H: Self Evaluation

Theory- I feel that I have understood the concepts related to the psycho-social variables that contribute to the social self. My examples of theoretical literature through out the essay give a clear indication of my understanding. However, I could have expanded more on the integration of the social self and personal self. I could have identified other psycho-social variables that influence the social self including self schema's and expanding on self concept.

- I felt the research I have done was quite extensive. With the use of journal articles, books and websites I was able to build my understanding. However, theoretical aspects were focused on more by me. Although I found a variety of interesting research relating to the self I did not use them in my essay. This could have been useful in expanding on some of my theoretical concepts.

Written Expression-
Flesch Reading Ease- 38.1
Flesch Kincaid Grade Level- 11.8
Word Count- 1,496

Both my reading ease and grade level could have been improved with shorter sentences and the use of less complex words.

My APA style could be improved within my appendices. I felt I used consistent APA referencing style through the text. I struggle with written expression; however, I tried to keep the paragraphs as short and succinct as possible. My use of headings created flow and structure to a topic which had a variety of fuzzy overlapping concepts. My concept map was not APA format, however, the colours created and indication of the differing levels of concepts.I also don't know if my glossary in the appendices was useful or just confusing (I ended up only placing links on the word only when first mentioned, to reduce confusion with links that lead to other areas).

Online Engagement- I created my blog later in the term, however, once online I made attempts to interact and create blogs regularly. I feel my online engagement with students could be improved by making more meaningful contributions to others blogs. Comments on other peoples blogs can be found on the following links. I enjoyed collaborating and networking with other students.

Jess' Blog 2
Beck's Blog
Karen's blog
Christina's Blog
Jess's Blog
Jules' Blog
My blog
Zoe's Blog
Rachels Blog
Zoe's Blog 2

My Personal blog entries can be found on these links
Life. be in it!
Getting down to the nitty gritty
Please don't ask me how ideas for my blog ended up...
it's a hard life :o)
Funny little cartoon, made me smile.
McClellands Theory of Needs
Guilty of Ignorance-
Some thoughts on Prejudice
Is anyone innocent?
Where to begin