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cloud the causal relationship between the independent and dependent variables.

9. What is the role of theory in social psychology?
A theory is a set of interrelated statements or propositions about the causes of
a phenomenon that helps organize research results, makes predictions about
how certain variables in¬‚uence social behavior, and gives direction to future
research. A theory is not the ¬nal word on the causes of a social behavior.
Theories are developed, revised, and sometimes abandoned according to how
well they ¬t with research results. Theories do not tell us how things are in an
absolute sense. Instead, they help us understand social behavior by providing
a particular perspective. Often, more than one theory can apply to a particular
social behavior.
Sometimes, one theory provides a better explanation of one aspect of a
particular social behavior, and another theory provides a better explanation of
another aspect of that same behavior. Some research, called basic research, is
designed to test predictions made by theories. Applied research is conducted
to study a real-world phenomenon (e.g., jury decisions). Basic and applied
research are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Some basic research has
applied implications, and some applied research has theoretical implications.
Chapter 1 Understanding Social Behavior 27

10. What can we learn from social psychological research?
Two common criticisms of social psychological research are that social
psychologists study things that are intuitively obvious and that because
exceptions to research results can nearly always be found, many results must
be wrong. However, these two criticisms are not valid. The ¬ndings of social
psychological research may appear to be intuitively obvious in hindsight
(the hindsight bias), but individuals cannot predict how an experiment will
come out if they donʼt already know the results. Furthermore, exceptions to
a research ¬nding do not invalidate that ¬nding. Social psychologists study
groups of individuals. Within a group, variation in behavior will occur. Social
psychologists look at average differences between groups.

11. What ethical standards must social psychologists follow when conducting
research?
Social psychologists are concerned with the ethics of research”how
participants are treated within a study and how they are affected in the long
term by participating. Social psychologists adhere to the code of research
ethics established by the American Psychological Association. Ethical
treatment of participants involves several key aspects, including informing
participants about the nature of a study and requirements for participation prior
to participation (informed consent), protecting participants from short-term
and long-term harm, and ensuring anonymity.
The Social Self
Though I am not naturally honest,
I am so sometimes by chance.
”William Shakespeare




James Carroll is a best-selling author, novelist, and journalist. He comes from Key Questions
a remarkable family whose members played important, sometimes decisive As you read this chapter,
roles in the events of the late 20th century. Carroll™s life illustrates how the ¬nd the answers to the
interlocking in¬‚uences of birth, family life, education, and historical forces following questions:
all in¬‚uence the development of one™s sense of self.
1. What is the self?
Carroll™s father was the most important in¬‚uence in his life. His father™s
2. How do we know the self?
dream was to be a priest, and James lived that dream for his father. He was
the altar boy who became the priest and the college chaplain. Carroll loved 3. What is distinctiveness theory?
his life as a priest. Soon, however, Carroll™s life changed in ways that were 4. How is the self organized?
unexpected and traumatic. These events created a breach between son and
5. What is autobiographical
father, a breach only partially closed before the father died. memory?
It is easy to see why Carroll™s father so strongly in¬‚uenced him as a
6. What is self-esteem?
young man. He was a ¬gure of mythic proportions; he led a life almost only
possible in movies, surely a ¬gment of Hollywood imagination. As a young 7. How do we evaluate the self?
lawyer, Carroll™s father caught the eye of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and 8. What is so good about high
became a top agent. When the Vietnam War began, the U.S. Air Force self-esteem?
recruited the FBI agent and made him director of the agency that selected the 9. What are implicit and explicit
bombing targets in Vietnam. Improbably, the now General Carroll”James™s self-esteem?
father”was the individual in charge of the U.S. Air Force™s war against 10. What is emotional
North Vietnam. intelligence?
The Vietnam War forced the young Carroll to confront exactly who he
11. What is self-evaluation
was. On the one hand, his father was helping to run the war in Vietnam, maintenance (SEM) theory?
and James™s brother, who was an FBI agent, was tracking down draft
12. How did self-enhancement
evaders and keeping tabs on antiwar protesters. James™s superiors in the
help some survivors of
Catholic Church also strongly supported the war. But Carroll, as a young September 11, 2001, cope
seminarian, was turning against the war that his father was directing. In with trauma?
a moving account of his crisis of conscience and self-identity, Carroll, in
29
Social Psychology
30


his memoir An American Requiem (1996), chronicles his con¬‚ict with church
13. How do we present the hierarchy, the government, his father, and most of all himself. The son, who still
self to others? admired and loved his father the general, began to align himself with antiwar
protestors, draft resisters, and Catholic antiwar radicals.
14. What is self-monitoring?
In Memorial Bridge, Carroll™s stirring novel of the Vietnam War period, the
15. What is self-
author artfully and seamlessly painted a barely ¬ctionalized picture of the con¬‚ict
handicapping?
between his father and himself, a con¬‚ict that forever changed his sense of who
16. How accurate are we in
he was. Carroll recalls being a participant in the famous antiwar demonstration
assessing the impression
at the Pentagon and looking up at the sixth ¬‚oor of the building, knowing that
we convey?
his father was looking down on his son, the protestor, the radical, who had just
17. What is the spotlight
left the priesthood. But perhaps the most de¬ning moment of Carroll™s life was an
effect?
earlier event, the moment that he publicly and irrevocably created a self-identity
18. What is the illusion of
separate and distinct from his father, much of his family, and the experience of
transparency?
his life. When as a newly ordained priest Carroll conducted his ¬rst mass at an
air force base in front of his family and his father™s colleagues, the generals who
were directing the Vietnam War, he expressed his moral outrage at their conduct,
taking that moment to express clearly”a clarity he may have regretted later”his
personal identity as distinct from his family™s image of him.
In Carroll™s life, we can see the interplay of the various parts of the self: The
personal self”his own beliefs, knowledge, and principles”and that part of the
self in¬‚uenced by his relationships with family, friends, and church. Finally, we
see the impact of the great social events of the time. It is no wonder that Carroll
the novelist can write movingly and fervently about the effects of family, church,
and country on one™s self-concept. Carroll notes that he was much like his father
and that he tried to live his father™s dream, but events conspired to break both
their hearts (Carroll, 1996).



Self-Concept
How do we develop a coherent sense of who we are? The vignette describing James
Carroll suggests that our personal experiences, interaction with others, and cultural forces
all play some role in our de¬nition of self. Who am I? The answer to this question is the
driving force in our lives. If you were asked to de¬ne yourself, you most likely would
use sentences containing the words I, me, mine, and myself (Cooley, 1902; Schweder,
Much, Mahapatra, & Park, 1997).
The self may be thought of as a structure that contains the organized and stable
contents of oneʼs personal experiences (Schlenker, 1987). In this sense, the self is an
object, something inside us that we may evaluate and contemplate. The self is “me,”
the sum of what I am. A signi¬cant part of what we call the self is knowledge. All the
ideas, thoughts, and information that we have about ourselves”about who we are, what
characteristics we have, what our personal histories have made us, and what we may
yet become”make up our self-concept.

Self-Knowledge: How Do We Know Thyself?
re¬‚ected appraisal We use several sources of social information to forge our self-concept. One comes
A source of social
from our view of how other people react to us. These re¬‚ected appraisals shape our
information involving our
self-concept (Cooley, 1902; Jones & Gerard, 1967). A second social source is the com-
view of how other people
parisons we make with other people (Festinger, 1950). Self-knowledge comes from
react to us.
Chapter 2 The Social Self 31

social comparison
the social comparison process by which we compare our own reactions, abilities, and
process A source of social
attributes to others (Festinger, 1950). We do this because we need accurate informa-
knowledge involving how
tion so that we may succeed. We need to know if we are good athletes or students or
we compare our reactions,
race car drivers so that we may make rational choices. Social comparison is a control
abilities, and attributes
device, because it makes our world more predictable. to others.
A third source of information comes from the self-knowledge gained by observing
our own behavior. Daryl Bem (1967) suggested that people really do not know why
they do things, so they simply observe their behavior and assume that their motives
were consistent with their behavior. Someone who rebels against authority may simply
observe her behavior and conclude, “Well, I must be a rebel.” Therefore, we may
obtain knowledge of our self simply by observing ourselves behave and then infer that
our private beliefs must coincide with our public actions. Another method of knowing
introspection The act of
the self is through introspection, the act of examining our own thoughts and feelings.
examining our own thoughts
Introspection is a method we all use to understand ourselves, but there is evidence to
and feelings to understand
suggest that we may get a somewhat biased picture of our own internal state. Thinking
ourselves, which may yield a
about our attitudes and the reasons we hold them can sometimes be disruptive and con-
somewhat biased picture of
fusing (Wilson, Dunn, Kraft, & Lisle, 1989). More generally, the process of introspec- our own internal state.
tion”of looking into our own mind, rather than just behaving”can have this effect.
For example, if you are forced to think about why you like your romantic partner, you
might ¬nd it disconcerting if you are not able to think of any good reasons why you are
in this relationship. This doesnʼt mean that you donʼt have reasons, but they may not be
accessible or easy to retrieve. Much depends on the strength of the relationship. If the
relationship is not strong, thinking about the relationship could be disruptive because
we might not think up many positive reasons in support of the relationship. If it is pretty
strong, then reasoning might further strengthen it. The stronger our attitude or belief,
the more likely that thinking about it will increase the consistency between the belief
and our behavior (Fazio, 1986).

Personal Attributes and Self-Concept
Now that we have noted some of the methods we may use to form and gain access to
our self-concept, letʼs see what is inside. What kind of information and feelings are
contained in the self? First of all, the self-concept contains ideas and beliefs about
personal attributes
personal attributes. A person may think of herself as female, American, young, smart,
An aspect of the self-concept
compassionate, the daughter of a single mother, a good basketball player, reasonably
involving the attributes we
attractive, hot-tempered, artistic, patient, and a movie fan. All of these attributes and
believe we have.
many more go into her self-concept.
Researchers investigated the self-concepts of American schoolchildren by asking
them the following kinds of questions (McGuire & McGuire, 1988, p. 99):
• Tell us about yourself.
• Tell us what you are not.
• Tell us about school.
• Tell us about your family.

These open-ended probes revealed that children and adolescents often de¬ned them-
selves by characteristics that were unique or distinctive. Participants who possessed
a distinctive characteristic were much more likely to mention that attribute than were
those who were less distinctive on that dimension (McGuire & McGuire, 1988).
Social Psychology
32

According to distinctiveness theory, people think of themselves in terms of those
distinctiveness
theory The theory attributes or dimensions that make them different, that are distinctive, rather than in
suggesting that individuals terms of attributes they have in common with others. People, for example, who are taller
think of themselves in
or shorter than others, or wear glasses, or are left-handed are likely to incorporate that
terms of those attributes or
characteristic into their self-concept.
dimensions that make them
People usually are aware of the attributes they have in common with other individuals.
different”rather than in
A male going to an all-male high school is aware that he is male. But being male may
terms of attributes they have
in common with others. not be a de¬ning part of his self-concept because everybody around him has that same
characteristic. He will de¬ne himself by attributes that make him different from other
males, such as being a debater or a football player. It may certainly be important in another
social context, such as when taking part in a debate about changing gender roles.
People who belong to nondominant or minority groups are more likely to include
their gender, ethnicity, or other identity in their self-concept than are those in dominant,
majority groups (e.g., white male). Among the schoolchildren in the study (McGuire
& McGuire, 1988), boys who lived in households that were predominantly female
mentioned their gender more often, as did girls who lived in households that were pre-
dominately male.
Of course, not all knowledge about the self is conscious simultaneously. At any
given time, we tend to be aware of only parts of our overall self-concept. This working
self-concept varies depending on the nature of the social situation and how we feel at
that moment (Markus & Gnawers, 1986). So when we are depressed, our working self-
concept would be likely to include all those thoughts about ourselves that have to do
with failure or negative traits.
Although the self-concept is relatively stable, the notion of a working self-concept
suggests that the self can vary from one situation to another (Kunda, 1999). For example,
as the late Ziva Kunda (1999) pointed out, if you are shy but are asked to give examples
of when you were very outgoing, at least momentarily you might feel less shy than usual.
However, the ease with which the self may change may depend on how self-knowledge
is organized and how important the behavior is.

The Self and Memory
In addition to personal attributes, the self-concept contains memories, the basis for
knowledge about oneself. The self is concerned with maintaining positive self-feelings,
thoughts, and evaluations. One way it does this is by in¬‚uencing memory. Anthony
Greenwald (1980) suggested that the self acts as a kind of unconscious monitor that
enables people to avoid disquieting or distressing information. The self demands that
we preserve what we have, especially that which makes us feel good about ourselves.
According to Greenwald, the self employs biases that work somewhat like the mind-
control techniques used in totalitarian countries. In such countries, the government con-
trols information and interpretations of events so that the leadership is never threatened.
Similarly, we try to control the thoughts and memories we have about ourselves. The self
is totalitarian in the sense that it records our good behaviors and ignores our unsavory
ones, or at least rationalizes them away. The self is a personal historian, observing and
recording information about the self”especially the information that makes us look
good. Like a totalitarian government, Greenwald claims, the self tends to see itself as

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