by Paul Burkhart
As the title of this chapter suggests, any discussion of Social Psychology must
begin with a discussion of the “self.”
Though humans are in fact social creatures, every
pass through the filter of our own minds, values, and beliefs about
our world, culture, society, and selves – that is what ultimately makes us human.
Nothing else walking this planet can boast the ability to observe, reflect, analyze, and
(gasp, shall we say?) overanalyze everything that enters our little sphere of influence in
our little corner of the world.
Social Psychology’s findings through the years have exposed one constant truth
about humans – we each thing of ourselves first, before anyone and anything else.
are the center of our world.
The most basic form of this is found in the spotlight effect,
probably the simplest truth that so many people are reluctant to accept about themselves.
Filtering everything through our emotions gives us the feeling that everything that comes
out and from us has some part of our emotions in it.
This “illusion of transparency” can
cause problems as in the infamous conversation between couples:
Man: “What’s wrong, honey?”
Woman: “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you, you insensitive bastard!”
Thinking others can read our emotions can be troublesome; the reality being that people
around us notice so few things about us because they, like us, are thinking to much about
themselves to notice the pimple an your forehead, the color of your belt compared to your
shoes, or your embarrassing Barry Manilow shirt (I actually own one myself).
interact within our “social world” in other ways.
Our social surroundings affect our self-
awareness, especially when something about us is obviously in the minority, whether it
be dress, race, ethnicity, weight, height, or physical appearance.
Also coloring our social
judgments, other than our awareness of us and others, is the all-important factor of our
own self-interest, making it pretty much impossible to be
objective in making
a social decision.
Our social behavior is also dictated very much by our own concern of
our appearance to others.
This also causes humans to act differently with different
people, depending on what they believe these people desire from them.
Probably the simplest definition in all of psychology, one’s self-concept is their
combined answer to the question: “Who am I?”
Anyone’s individual answers to this
question will fall into one of two parts of the ultimate combined answer: their self-
schemas and their “possible selves.”
These schemas are beliefs about ourselves that
organize and guide the processing of all information pertinent to us as individuals.
“Possible selves” are exactly what the term says they are: images of what we dream of or