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Self-Concept and Behavior

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Self-Concept and Behavior

What do you think of yourself? Are you smart or kind? White or black? Male or female? Several factors contribute to how we view ourselves, or our self-concept and behavior.

  • What is the importance of self-concept?
  • What are some examples of self-concept?
  • What is the relationship between self-concept and behavior?
  • What is the difference between self-concept and behavior?
  • What is the impact of gender and race on self-concept and behavior?

Importance of Self-Concept

Self-concept can play an important role in our psychological, physical, and social well-being. A negative self-concept can result in increased psychological issues, poor health, and more social conflicts. It can affect how we interact with others, make decisions, and our overall behavior.

Self-concept is who we think we are, or who we think others think we are.

Self-concept can be divided into two elements: self-conception and self-evaluation. Self-evaluation refers to how we judge ourselves. Self-conception refers to how we fit into the social system.

Adolescence is the point in our lives when we truly begin shaping our identity and our self-concept, although it remains fluid throughout life. We have some concepts of self in early childhood, but they become more abstract as we get older. Our parents and peers during this time can play a large role in how we perceive ourselves. The feedback we receive from them may be either positive or negative. A negative self-concept especially during adolescence can increase a person’s risk of developing anxiety or depression or being withdrawn.

One consequence of developing a self-concept is that as we become more aware of the groups we belong to and the ones we don’t, we may be more prone to having generalized perceptions of them and who we think they should be.

Self-Concept and Behavior, woman hugging herself, StudySmarterSelf-love, Freepik.com

Self-Concept Examples

The groups we identify with play a significant role in shaping our self-concept. Group self-concept examples can include your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. But it can also include the school you go to, your family, and even your soccer team. It is important for us to maintain a consistent self-concept

As children, we start to recognize our unique attributes; but they are often more concrete, or basic perceptions. For example, we may be able to recognize that we are taller than our friends or that we are really good at dancing. However, it is not until adolescence that we begin to form more abstract perceptions of ourselves. We start to perceive ourselves as patient or short-tempered, liberal or conservative, etc.

Self-concept is built on our awareness of several factors. Let’s explore some examples.

Physical: Awareness of our physical attributes such as attractiveness or physical fitness. (“I am beautiful.”)

Social: How we interact with and treat others. (“I am selfish.")

Family: How we interact and relate to family. (“I am a good son.”)

Competence: How well we manage basic expectations and needs such as employment or self-care. (“I am a great musician.”)

Academic: Our intelligence, how well we do in school, our ability to learn new things. (“I am great at math.”)

Affect: Ability to interpret and understand the emotional state of ourselves and others. (“I get anxious easily.”)

Relationship Between Self-Concept and Behavior

Self-concept is relevant to all our day-to-day functioning. It is often the driving factor in how we make decisions and how we behave. It affects our motivations and our attitudes. The relationship between self-concept and behavior cannot be ignored. If your self-concept includes a lack of self-control, then you may exhibit more aggressive or delinquent behaviors. If self-love is a central part of your self-concept, you may be less likely to exhibit self-destructive behaviors. Many of us decide what is good and acceptable based on how we've categorized ourselves. This can also influence behavior.

You categorize yourself as popular, so you feel like you have to bully other girls to maintain that status.

As we mentioned earlier, your self-concept can impact how you view others. For example, if you view yourself as part of a “superior race”, you will likely begin to form stereotypes of other races believing they are less than you. These stereotypes can lead to discriminatory behaviors. If you were to shift your self-concept towards being a humble part of the human race, you may begin to form more accepting views of others, resulting in more welcoming behaviors.

Self-Concept and Behavior, group of boys taunting one, StudySmarterDiscriminatory behaviors, Freepik.com

Additionally, life events can occur that will completely change our self-concept. A widower goes from married to single. A recently disbarred lawyer can no longer practice law. These changes in how we view ourselves will inevitably lead to changes in behavior. A widower may start a new hobby he never would have imagined doing while married. The disbarred lawyer may do a complete one-eighty and pursue their creative interests.

Difference Between Self-Concept and Behavior

While adolescence is a time in which we discover our identity, it is not always a time of clarity. Adolescents test several different versions of themselves, and their self-concept may not be stabilized. As a result, their self-concept and their behavior may not align.

For example, a 15-year-old may view themselves as kind and caring but, due to peer pressure, they start bullying an “unpopular” girl just to fit in. These conflicts may occur frequently through adolescence.

It's important to note that although self-concept and behavior are closely related, they do not have the same function. Self-concept involves cognition and may not always lead to a behavior. It may simply create a state of mind that only affects a person’s emotional state. According to Carl Rogers, a pioneer of humanistic perspectives, self-concept is built on three pillars: ideal self, self-image, and self-esteem.

  • Ideal self: Who is the person you want to be? What attributes or qualities would you like to possess?

  • Self-image: How do you see yourself at this very moment? What are your personality traits, social roles, and physical attributes that shape your self-image?

  • Self-esteem: How much do you like yourself? Do you accept and value yourself for who you are? High self-esteem may be causally associated with our ability to cope, set goals, and behave in a way that facilitates productivity.

Behaviors are sometimes, but not always, a consequence of a person’s self-concept. They could also just be autonomic or conditioned responses.

The Impact of Gender and Race on Self-Concept

Gender and race are both social constructs, meaning that they are ideas dictated by the rules of society. Still, they are concepts that help us understand and organize our world. They can also dictate how we are treated in society, sometimes unfairly.

Impact of Gender on Self-Concept

We’ve already discussed how self-concept can be shaped by the groups we identify with. Therefore, the impact of gender and race on self-concept should come as no surprise. Gender identity is an important step in developing our self-concept and can inversely influence other elements of self-concept.

For example, males have a higher overall self-concept than females (Muthuri & Arasa, 2017), and gender disparity can have a negative effect on self-esteem.

Due to gender norms created by society, self-concept in regards to gender can also impact our behaviors and interests. If your self-concept identifies as female, you might feel obligated to wear dresses and put on makeup. If your self-concept identifies as male, you might feel obligated to play sports and have short hair. Gender can even affect self-concept in the workplace. Maybe you are interested in engineering and you identify as female. But you think that career path is only for boys so you go into something more "suitable" for girls like art therapy. But at the end of the day, you do not have to align with gender norms to identify with that gender.

Impact of Race on Self-Concept

Race is a social construct that has historically been a source of discrimination in America. Racial minorities of all kinds have faced hardships. Race is an important part of our self-concept, but also, some of the social consequences of being of a certain race can also shape our self-concept. Our race is often linked to culture and can impact what we like, what we eat, how we dress, how we talk, our spirituality, and much more.

Self-Esteem

There are several theories in regards to how or if race affects self-esteem and, therefore, self-concept.

The social comparison process theory suggests that racial minorities would have lower self-esteem due to social comparison of the majority group.

Reflected appraisal theory suggests that a group's perception dictates self-esteem.

However, several studies do not support these theories. For example, African-Americans report higher self-esteem than Whites (Twenge & Crocker, 2002). If self-esteem were based on the perception of a group or social comparison, this would not be the case, and other factors may be at play. One explanation might be that African-Americans have developed more protective factors or ways to ward off the effects of discrimination. Protective factors may include a sense of ethnic identity, participation in a religious group, spirituality, and overall social rapport.

Asian-Americans report the lowest levels of self-esteem, which may be linked to the fact that many Asian cultures are collectivistic. Collectivistic cultures prioritize the group over the individual. Therefore, they might not put very much emphasis on expressing high self-esteem. To do so would fail to promote modesty, group harmony, and connectedness.

Self-Concept and Behavior - Key takeaways

  • Self-concept is who we think we are, or who we think others think we are. It can be divided into two elements: self-conception and self-evaluation.
    • Self-concept is relevant to all our day-to-day functioning. It is often the driving factor in how we make decisions and how we behave. It affects our motivations and our attitudes.
  • Adolescence is the point in our lives when we truly begin shaping our identity and our self-concept.
  • Group self-concept examples can include your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. But it can also include the school you go to, your family, and even your soccer team.
  • According to Carl Rogers, a pioneer of humanistic perspectives, self-concept is built on three pillars: ideal self, self-image, and self-esteem.
  • Due to gender norms created by society, self-concept in regards to gender can also impact our behaviors and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Concept and Behavior

Self-concept is relevant to all our day-to-day functioning. It is often the driving factor in how we make decisions and how we behave. It affects our motivations and our attitudes. What you think is acceptable for you to do based on how you've categorized yourself can greatly influence your behavior.

According to Carl Rogers, the 3 parts of self-concept are ideal self, self-image, and self-esteem.

Gender identity is an important step in developing our self-concept, and can inversely influence other elements of self-concept. Males have a higher overall self-concept than females (Muthuri & Arasa, 2017), and gender disparity can have a negative effect on self-esteem.

 Race is an important part of our self-concept, but also, some of the social consequences of being of a certain race can also shape our self-concept. Our race is often linked to culture and can impact what we like, what we eat, how we dress, how we talk, our spirituality, and much more.

Our personality and self-concept can determine our interests and therefore our behaviors. If we like to take risks and see ourselves as brave, we might be more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as sky diving. 

Final Self-Concept and Behavior Quiz

Question

What is self-concept?

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Answer

Self-concept is who we think we are or who we think others think we are.

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Question

Adolescence is the point in our lives when we truly begin shaping our identity and our self-concept, although it remains ______ throughout life.

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Answer

fluid

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Question

What are the two elements of self-concept?


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Answer

self-evaluation and self-conception

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Question

_____________ refers to how we fit into the social system. 

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Answer

Self-conception

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Question

True or False? Self-concept affects our motivations and our attitudes. 


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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following is not one of the 3 pillars of self-concept according to Carl Rogers?

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Answer

self-control

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Question

True or False? We have no concepts of self in early childhood.

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Answer

False. We do but they are more concrete

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Question

Due to ___________ created by society, self-concept in regards to gender can also impact our behaviors and interests.

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Answer

gender norms

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Question

True or False? Behaviors are always a consequence of a person's self-concept. 


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Answer

False

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Question

The ___________________ theory suggests that racial minorities would have lower self-esteem due to social comparison of the majority group.

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Answer

social comparison process

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Question

______________ theory suggests that a group's perception dictates self-esteem


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Answer

Reflected appraisal

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Question

What are protective factors?

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Answer

Protective factors are ways to ward off the effects of discrimination.

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Question

True or False? High self-esteem is valued across all cultures and ethnicities. 


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Answer

False

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