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Self image

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A person's self image is part of their self concept, the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, nature of external genitalia, I.Q. score, is this person double-jointed, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experience or by internalizing the judgments of others. Those items include the answers to such questions as:

  • Am I skinny?
  • Am I fat?
  • Am I weak?
  • Am I strong?
  • Am I intelligent?
  • Am I stupid?
  • Am I a good person?
  • Am I a bad person?
  • Am I a male?
  • Am I a female?
  • Am I likeable?

Information which refers to the self is preferentially encoded and recalled in memory tests, a phenomenon known as "Self-Referential Encoding" (Rogers et al. 1977).

The formation of a self image can be a very challenging project for an individual, especially when family, peers, community, or the general society issues strongly negative evaluations of a person that happen to be inaccurate. The consequences can be severe for the individual, who may learn self-hatred. They can also be severe for the society. As a European folk saying instructs, "Call a man a thief and he will steal."

CorrectionEdit

The correction of an inaccurate self image can be aided by reality testing. However, when social forces directed against the individual have been strongly manipulative, it may be very helpful for the individual to secure professional help in rectifying matters. Such rectification is most often directed at the individual, but corrective efforts could also be applied to members of the general community and/or social institutions that have manipulated individuals in a detrimental way. (See child abuse, racism, sexism, etc.)

What is not known to othersEdit

It should be noted that some information about an individual is not directly available to others, and that information may be very pertinent to the formation of an accurate and well functioning self image. For instance, only the individual may know whether certain of his or her acts were malicious or benevolent in intent. Only individuals know whether in their internal experience they are male or female or, perhaps, something else.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Rogers, T.B., Kuiper, N.A., Kirker, W.S. (1977) Self-Reference and the Encoding of Personal Information, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 677-688.
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