Self Schema
Knowledge about one's self.

Cognitive-affective structures representing one's experience.  They organize and direct the processing of info relevant to the self. We hold self-schema for particular domains, domains that are personally important for which we have well-developed self-concepts.(self-concept) Packages of self-knowledge derived from experience and our interpretation of experiences (I’m friendly, a people person, I don’t trust others, “I’m shy) – vary in content and in how elaborate they are, some are interrelated (student athlete) and others are separate; they vary in their temporal focus (past, present, future) and in the extent to which they are congruent or discrepant from each other
Self- Schema - (Markus) how we organize information about ourselves; generalizations that we make about ourselves derived from experience; organize and guide how we select information about ourselves. Reflect what we think about, care about, spend our time and energy on – McCrae and Costa (1988) family and work roles, personal attributes associated with agreeableness and conscientiousness, and interests and hobbies were the most often used descriptors of the self for both the young and the old; Ogilvie (1987) life satisfaction in old age is positively correlated with enacting one’s major identities
                Markus (1977) G1 viewed selves as independent; G2 viewed selves as dependent; G3 neutral on this dimension. All Ss participated in judgment making tasks that provided descriptions about independence/dependence. Findings: G1 responded faster to adjectives which described them as independent; G2 dependent

Multiple self-schema

Schematic - having a schema for a particular dimension
we are self-schematic on dimensions that:
                 are important  to us, on dimensions for which we think of ourselves as extreme, and on dimensions, on which we are certain that the opposite does not hold. (e.g. independence - not dependent, much knowledge indicating one's independence, a particular ethnicity, being an athlete)
We use our schema to filter information. We think harder about schema relevant information.
Aschematic - not having a schema for a particular dimension
                not invested in, involved with, or concerned with a particular attribute
Self-schema help us to remember schema-relevant information, to muster evidence. Difficult to change. Self-knowledge is more accessible in memory than knowledge about others (greater familiarity and complexity in self-knowledge.). We make self-schematic judgments rapidly or slowly depending on the circumstance (p.186).
Paradox of the expert   if you know a lot about a topic, why aren't you slower in retrieving info about that topic (more info to go through)?  Expert schema subsume large, well-integrated chunks of information, so for familiar judgments, efficiency should increase. (combines several bits of info into a large cluster)
We tend to notice attributes in others on dimensions for which we are schematic. Self-schema provide us with interpretive frameworks for understanding our own and schema related behaviors in others. The self-schema integrates self-relevant experiences; situations and events that are relevant to an individual’s self-definition are uniquely compelling and interesting to that individual - Heightened sensitivity to stimuli relevant to self-schema; they are the focus of attention, better remembered, more efficiently processed (Rodgers & Kuiper, 77; Kuiper and Rodgers, 79) masculine Ss recalled more masculine adjectives; Mueller & Ross (1984) the elderly had better memory for materials evaluated with reference to the self (self-referent effect)

Possible Selves  (Markus and Nurius, 1986)  are the future oriented components of the self-system. Ideas of what people may become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming. Representations of the self in future states. Can be an incentive (we can imagine ourselves attaining a goal state). Possible selves provide focus and organization for the pursuit of goals because they enable the person to use appropriate self-knowledge and to develop images that allow rehearsal of the actions needed to attain the goals. The existence of some discrepancy is essential for behavioral change.
                They include personal efficacy expectations, images of the self in future settings, feelings about those situations, and an evaluative and interpretive context for the self's current status and ongoing activities.
    Conceptions of one's possible selves allows us to develop clear visions of the future, set goals that enable achievement of these visions, and develop behaviors that enable the reaching of goals.


Possible selves and Aging – (Markus & Herzog) Aging requires casting away some possible selves and provides opportunities for the creation of new ones (some conflicts no longer exist – e.g. should we have another child. Reducing conflict among one’s possible selves may be responsible in part for high self-esteem in old age. Holoahan (1988) found that among 70 year olds, life goals were good predictors of good health and well-being. Older adults tend to rein in their possible selves to achieve a relatively good fit between their actual and their ideal (100 year old farmer – now has a kitchen garden). The strengthening of self-defining schema (good mother, teacher, artist) allows one to compensate for domains never conquered and for a lack of knowledge or skills (I may not be a great athlete, but I’m a good carpenter). This compensation allows for self-acceptance, a key feature of positive adjustment among the middle-aged (Ryff, 1989)

Self Knowledge goes forward and backward in time. What has been and what might have been.


Past selves – an important component of the self-schema. People reconstruct the past to give meaning and affirmation to the present. Past selves can function as sources of pride and distinction or shame and embarrassment and thus have powerful influence on present behaviors and anticipation of possible future selves.
Greenwald (1980) people construct their past selves to their own advantage – used to bolster the self, to provide meaning for current and past lives, and to maintain well-being. We use past lives as standards, to determine whether we have changed, how we have changed, are we improving or declining.
People’s recollections of their past lives correspond to societal stereotypes of the changes that accompany aging – on attributes thought to decline with age (e.g. memory), elderly Ss recall having less of that attribute in middle age than do currently middle aged Ss.
Linville (82,87) a complex self structure can protect the person from emotional turmoil when the self is threatened – a complex structure means that you define yourself in many ways – a person who defined herself only as a wife and mother will have greater difficulty with empty nest syndrome or if her spouse dies – if she defines herself as wife, mother, volunteer, church-lady, grandmother, friend, etc. however – she will have more domains to fall back on and be less susceptible to depression – the greater the complexity, the better the mental health (Coleman & Antonucci, 1983).






Self-discrepancy TheorySelf-discrepancy TheorySelf-discrepancy Theory

(Higgins, 1987,1989a).


Actual self -how you currently are

Ideal self - how you would like to be

Ought self - what you think you should be


                Discrepancies between the actual self and the ideal self result in dejection emotions (disappointment, dissatisfaction, sadness);  discrepancies between the actual self and the ought self leads to agitation (fear, threat , restlessness,  anxiety)


                Whether a person believes that he/she can resolve the discrepancy affects the types of emotions experienced.  Failure to believe in the ability to meet one's ideal is associated with depression, listlessness, and fatigue. Perceiving a discrepancy between one's actual self and ideal self as not amenable to closure produces a sense of hopelessness, an ability related depression (p.192)


Self complexity (Linville,  1987) the less complex a person's cognitive representation of the self, the more extreme will be the person's swings in affect and self-appraisal in response to one's ups and downs.  Self-complexity acts as a buffer against the negative impact of stressful life events.


Stability of the self-concept?

                Multiple self-concepts that are situationally cued. The working self-concept is continually active, shifting is response to personal needs and situational contingencies. It regulates ongoing behavior.


                Context effects - activates one self schema rather than another. When people describe themselves they mention attributes that make them distinctive in a given context.


                Priming - which aspects of the self that have been recently activated by previous experience also influence which components are currently accessible for interpreting current


                Wicklund - objective self awareness - priming - involves the encoding of focused attention directed toward one facet of the self - encoding information in terms of relevance to the self; we become self aware when we see ourselves in the mirror, hear our voice on tape; know we are being.

                When self aware we evaluate ourselves; comparing ourselves to some standard (can produce negative feelings and depression)



                Self-awareness can serve as a behavioral guide (Duval, Duval & Neely (1979)  videotape on venereal disease; self vs. non-self focus/ priming - put self in mind in relation to the issue. Self-focused Ss were more likely to do something (imagine you are at the doctor's and she tells you that you are HIV positive). Ss in the self-focus condition were more likely to listen to the arguments and to see a doctor. Priming a memory set about you and you in relation to the issue


Self- consciousness scale - a disposition to focus attention inward; private s.c. - focus on personal aspects of the self (bodily sensations, beliefs...); public self-consciousness - our awareness of being a social object


                Gender, racial, and ethnic identities are part of the self-schema; self-concepts reflect distinctiveness. When 4th graders were asked to describe themselves they told of things that set them apart




                Yarmey & Johnson (1982) we like photos of ourselves best if they are poses that reflect our self concepts


                McGuire & McGuire (1981) self reflects distinctiveness - 4th graders - "I am tall"; "I have red hair"