How do our beliefs about ourselves influence our thoughts and actions?


How accurately do we know ourselves?

How does our culture shape our sense of self?


Schemas -- Mental templates we use to organize our world, and predict possible future events.

Self-schemas -- the specific beliefs you have about yourself which define who you are (self-concept)

Self-concepts contain both your present view of yourself and your future (possible selves)

Self-esteem -- A personís overall sense of self worth

Common elements of self-esteem: early relationship with parents, otherís appraisal of us, comparisons to others, culturally influenced identities, specific skills

Low self-esteem has been linked to loneliness, depression, social anxiety, and alienation (Peplau & Perlman, 1982; Shaver & Brennan, 1991, Leary, 1983; Johnson, 1973)

Rosenberg self-esteem scale (1965): Most widely used , only 10 items long making it efficient.




Self-Esteem scores have been + correlated with:


General self regard (r = .78)

Self-confidence (r = .65)

Social confidence (r = .51)

Physical appearance (r = .42)

Popularity (r = .39)


And Negatively correlated with:

Anxiety (r = -.64) Depression ( r = -.54)


Self-esteem does not seem to be correlated with:


GPA (r =.10) SAT scores (r = .02) gender ( r = .10) age ( r = .13)

marital status (r= .17) work experience (r = .07)









Self-Esteem Scale (Adapted from Rosenberg, 1965)

Answer each statement based on the following scale:

1 2 3 4 5

Strongly Moderately neither Moderately Strongly

Disagree Disagree D or A Agree Agree


1. I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal basis with others.

2. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

3. All in all, I am inclined to think I am a failure.

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

6. I take a positive attitude toward myself.

7. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.

9. I certainly feel useless at times.

10. At times I think I am no good at all.





Scoring the Rosenberg self-esteem scale:


Items 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10 are scored in reverse ( 5 = 1, 4 = 2, etc.)


SES score can range from 10 to 50


A score of 30 would indicate a truly neutral self-esteem


How can self-esteem influence our self-schema ?


Brown & Dutton (1994) -- Examined self-esteemís positive influence on self-schema in their slightly deceptive "integrative ability" experiment.

If people with high self-esteem were told researchers were measuring an improtant intellectual factor, i.e. "Integrative ability, those people

claimed they had that ability in abundance.


Smith & Petty (1995) -- Used mood manipulation to determine that people with high self-esteem are more capable of maintaining a positive mood than individuals with low self-esteem.











Self - Knowledge

Studies have shown that we think we know more than we actually do,

especially when explaining our own behavior.

Nisbett & Schacter (1966)

Had students sit through a series of steadily increasing electrical shocks

D.V. -- At what shock level they told the experimenter to stop

I.V. -- Half of the students were given a pill and told the pill would produce shock like sensations.

Result -- Students who took the pill allowed the shocks to continue up to four times as high voltage than the students who did not take the pill

However, the students in the pill group denied afterwards that the pill had anything to do with how they reacted!

Also, we can think that something will affect us when it doesnít

Nisbett & Wilson (1977) - Had students give ratings on a documentary film

D.V. - The ratings they gave the film

I.V. -- Half of the students watched the film while a loud power saw was

being operated just outside the room.

Results-- Students in both groups gave the film similar ratings.

However, students in the noise treatment group were sure that the construction noises had affected their ratings.

Predicting behavior --- Often times, because of our ignorance of the strong effects which situational variables can have on our behavior, we can not reliably predict our own behaviors, even when we are highly confident in our predictions.


The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in a similar circumstance.


Why do we have so much difficulty explaining our past behavior and predicting our future behavior?

We are not consciously aware of everything that goes on in our mind.

Memories are reconstructions, and not efferent copies of events.

We can only explain what we can verbalize.

Future predictions frequently involve what we hope will happen














Culture and Self-Concept

Two major views of the self have been developed through Western and Non-Western cultures.

Western Culture -- stresses the importance of the individual as an independent entity.

Eastern Cultures -- stress the importance of community (or family) and the dependence of the individual on others for their well being

Independent Interdependent

Identity: Personal Social

What is Personal achievement group goals

important: Personal fulfillment social responsibilities

Fears: conformity Egotism















Self - Efficacy -- How competent you feel about yourself

Self-Efficacy can contribute to your self-esteem, but it is not synonymous with self-esteem.

A large part of self-efficacy comes from your perception of control over a situation.



Locus of Control -- A personís perception of why things happen or what forces are driving their behavior.


Why do some people actively and willingly deal with difficulties while others fail to act ?


Internal Locus of Control --- A belief that you control your own destiny.

External Locus of Control--- Chance or outside forces have a great deal to do with what happens in your life.



Rotterís 1966 Internal-External Locus of Control Scale

Widely used 23 item scale with a forced choice format






Choose one statement from each pair which best reflects your viewpoint.

1. A. Many of the unhappy things in peopleís lives are partly due to bad luck.

B. Peopleís misfortunes result from the mistakes they make.

2. A. One of the major reasons why we have wars is because people donít take enough interest in politics.

B. There will always be wars, no matter how hard people try to prevent them.

3. A. In the long run people get the respect they deserve in this world.

B. Unfortunately, an individualís worth often passes unrecognized no matter how hard they try.

4. A. The idea that teachers are unfair to students is nonsense.

B. Most students donít realize the extent to which their grades are influenced by accidental happenings.

5. A. Without the right breaks one cannot be an effective leader.

B. Capable people who have not become leaders have not taken advantage of their opportunities.

6. A. No matter how hard you try some people just donít like you.

B. People who canít get others to like them donít understand how to get along with others.

7. A. I have often found that what is going to happen will happen.

B. Trusting to fate has never turned out as well for me as making a decision to take a definite course of action.

8. A.In the case of a well prepared student there is rarely if ever such a thing as an unfair test.

B. Many times exam questions tend to be so unrelated to course work that studying is really worthless.

9. A. Becoming a success is a matter of hard work, luck has little or nothing to do with it.

B. Getting a good job depends mainly on being in the right place at the right time.

10. A. In the long run the bad things that happen to us are balanced by the good ones.

B. Most misfortunes are the result of lack of ability, ignorance, laziness, or all three.

11. A. When I make plans, I am almost certain that I can make them work.

B. It is not always wise to plan too far ahead because many things turn out to be a matter of luck anyhow.

12. A. In my case getting want I want has little or nothing to do with fate.

B. Many times we might as well decide what to do by flipping a coin

13. A. Who gets to be the boss often depends on who was lucky enough to be in the right place first.

B. Getting people to do the right thing depends upon ability.

14. A. As far as world affairs are concerned, most of us are the victims of forces we canít understand or control.

B. By taking an active part in political and social affairs, the people can control world events.

15. A. It is hard to know whether or not a person really likes you.

B. How many friends you have depends on how nice a person really likes you.

16. A. The average citizen can have an influence in government decisions.

B. This world is run by the few people in power, and there is not much one person can do about it.


Scoring for the Internal-External locus of control scale.

1 point for each of the following results.

Add up points to get total score.

1.A 2.B 3.B 4.B 5.A 6.A

7.A 8.B 9.B 10.A 11.B 12.B

13.A 14.A 15.A 16.B


People with an internal locus of control are more successful at :

Quitting Smoking, making money, dealing with marital problems directly, doing well at school, and delaying instant gratification in order to achieve long-term goals.


Learned Helplessness -- When an animal or a human perceives that they have no control over a bad situation, they give up trying to make the situation better. (Being resigned to fate)

Seligman (1975) -- Put dogs into a situation where they could do nothing to avoid getting shocked. After a great many shocks, the dogs eventually laid down in the cage and accepted the shocks.

Depressed individuals act much the same way.



Feelings of efficacy and an ability to control ones life have been linked to good health, and better chances of recovery from serious illness.

Mental health and Physical health are related.

Job Stress can lead to heart conditions.

The more control over the workplace environment a person perceives

themselves as having, the less stress they experience on the job.



The illusion of control -- Often, people feel that they have some control over random events.

Langer (1977)

Gambling -- People who chose their own lottery number and were then asked to sell it charged four times as much compared to people who had the lottery number randomly selected for them.

Illusory Correlation -- If we think that something is likely to be true, we will accept one example as proof of a relationship.


Confirmation bias - Confirming information is more readily accepted and stored in memory than disconfirming information.

Self-fulfilling prophecy -- It you believe something will happen, you interpret ambiguous information as consistent with your belief.

When asked to figure out if something is true, people typically ask questions which will confirm that it is true, instead of asking questions designed to prove something false.

Snyder & Swann (1984) -- Had people ask questions to determine whether what they had been told about an individual was true.

D.V. -The questions that were asked

I.V. -- Whether they were told the person was an outgoing, extroverted individual or a shy, introverted person.

Results: The vast majority of questions were designed to confirm, rather than question the description they were given.


Problem: When people tell us ahead of time what to expect, we expect that what they told us will happen, and we look for information that will confirm this expectation.

Teacherís Expectations can affect student performance

Teachers spend more time with students they expect to do well, call on them more often for answers, smile and nod at them more often.

(Cooper, 1983; Harris & Rosenthal, 1985,1986; Jussim, 1986)



Additional Errors in judgement we commonly make

Availability heuristic --- Basing our decisions on what we can think of at the time. Whatever information is readily available is used, which may not be the most appropriate information needed for a particular decision.

Availability heuristic helps explain why people frequently think that air travel is more dangerous than car trips. Dramatic events are more easily stored and recalled by memory, and therefore large airplane disasters come to mind more readily than the steady supply of fatal car accidents.

Base-Rate Fallacy -- The tendency to ignore or under utilize base-rate information (information on what the average persons actions or attitudes are), and instead be most influenced by distinctive features of the individual case being judged.

Personal stories or experiences are more vivid and recallable than

sets of statistics, and therefore can have more influence on our decision making than they logically should.

Regression toward the average -- People fail to realize that performance (academic, sports, career) which is way above or below the expected average will most likely regress (or return) toward the average.








Fortunately, as humans, most of us suffer from a "positivity" bias.

We believe that people tell us the truth (mostly)

We believe that good things should happen to us more than bad things

We are predisposed to say "yes" rather than "no"

We believe that people are mostly good


Self - Serving Bias -- The tendency to perceive oneself favorably

Self-Serving bias is an ego-protective mechanism which we use to make causal attributions of positive and negative life events.

If something good happened, we are happy to take credit

If something bad happened, we are eager to attribute it to factors other than our own efficacy.

ĎSuccess has many fathers while Failure is an orphaní

Most businesspeople see themselves as more ethical than the average businessperson (Baumhart, 1968).

86 % of people in an Australian study rated their job performance as above average. (Headey & Wearing, 1987).

Most adults believe they provide more support for their aging parents than their siblings do. (Lerner et. al., 1991).







Other Self-serving tendencies

The more favorably we perceive ourselves on a certain dimension (intelligence, sense of humor, looks), the more likely we are to judge other people on that dimension. Whatever we are best at, we like to compare with other people.

The more favorable your own self-view, the more likely you are to perceive other peopleís opinions of you as favorable.


We judge attractive people as being more like us than people who were rated as unattractive. We are basing our judgements of other peoples personalities largely on their looks.


Self-Handicapping: Deliberately putting obstacles in oneís way, so a ready excuse is available if failure occurs, and self-efficacy can be enhanced if you succeed, despite the self-handicapping behavior.

Self-handicapping is seen as a way to protect an individuals self-efficacy and self-esteem.

Self-Serving biases are basically adaptive

We would rather think of ourselves in positive terms and be in a good mood than the alternative, and self-serving biases serve to protect both our mood, self-efficacy, and self-esteem