The Self and Self Awareness

This week the lecture on the self-concept really caught my attention. I am about to enter my senior year so I have been having a lot of questions about what I want to do with my life. Recently, I have become very worried that my major, clinical psychology, does not represent my strengths and that I may not be cut out for it. I have spent a lot of time getting caught up thinking about who I truly am. Listening to this lecture introspection being described as the idea that there is a true self within and the criticism of that idea really let me let a lot of anxiety go. I am always trying to figure out what about my personality makes me behave the way I do and therefore what is my personality best suited to career wise. Realizing that so much about the way we act is built around situation and decisions makes me relax a bit.

The self-esteem lecture was also quite the eye opener for me. I am very guilty of almost every self-esteem maintenance related step. I constantly self-handicap especially before exams because I have a lot of anxiety related to assessment. I am dyslexic and I find myself talking about my learning difference a lot more when I am approaching midterm and final exam periods. This reduces my anxiety. I had not made the connection of this behavior being related to self-esteem but I found myself engaging in this behavior as the exam for this class approached. Once I realized I was engaging in self-handicapping I was able to study a lot more efficiently this week. It was interesting to me that sometimes self-esteem maintenance is actually damaging.

Cognitive dissonance was also a concept that came up for me this week. I am deciding whether or not I want to spend money to visit my friend in Chicago in August. I have to buy the tickets soon and I was worried that if I made the jump and bought the tickets I would experience a lot of anxiety over the decision because plane tickets cost a lot of money. Now I’m a little less worried because I know that my brain will probably adjust and my attitude will change making me favor the decision to go more. However, I wonder if being aware of this concept will make it less likely to occur and I won’t actually feel more positive about this permanent decision. I am interested about how awareness of these concepts may reduce behaviors.

If someone were more aware of how they maintain self-esteem and how they deal with cognitive dissonance would they engage in behaviors that maintain self-esteem and reduce dissonance less as a result? I know that these processes are relatively automatic but I want to know more about how awareness impacts them. I know that when we are more cognitively more alert we are able to not engage in automatic thinking but how does this relate to these concepts?

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and the Fundamental Attribution Error

As I wrote about in my last post, I am a camp counselor at a summer arts camp for children ten to eighteen years of age. One of my campers, who I will call Charlie, has been kind of a loner during morning free time, snack and lunch. He often sits in a corner either on his phone or is drawing in a notebook. Because Charlie was always actively engaged during class time we assumed, as counselors, that Charlie simply wanted to be alone during free time. Some campers are introverts and need that time to relax and recharge. I thought Charlie was one of those kids.

As I began to think about this blog post, I found myself pondering the self-fulfilling prophecy. I started to realize that this theory might apply to the way I view Charlie’s anti-social behavior. If I assume that Charlie is antisocial and likes it that way then I am less likely to offer Charlie assistance in becoming more social which only makes Charlie not find friends and makes me further believe that he likes being alone. I should clarify that Charlie is ten year olds so it is harder for him to take initiative than an older person. We are also at the stage in camp where friend groups have already been formed and therefore Charlie would feel more insecure about making the first move. I planned to try to encourage Charlie to reach out to more people during free time to see if he actually likes being alone. What I found when I attempted to do this is that Charlie really likes to talk. He very enthusiastically spoke to me about his interests. This behavior completely surprised me. I asked him if he liked sitting by himself during free time and he immediately not only told me he wanted to sit with other campers he also told me exactly what group of kids he wanted to sit with.

Thinking about the self-fulfilling prophecy has made me think about how it can be related to attributions. If it were more instinctual for people to look at behavior as an external attribution this prophecy would be less likely to be fulfilled. Fundamental Attribution Error appears to be heavily linked to the self-fulfilling prophecy. More awareness of FAE may lead to more awareness about how our perceptions color behavior.

I also began to have questions about the self-fulfilling prophecy and how it may become a factor that is related to internal attributes. How might incorrect attributions of behavior lead a person to incorrectly perceive how someone is treating them and hurt their own mental health as a result? Looking at the covariation model and using it to guide perception might not only lead to more accurate conclusions about people but actually help people realize that their self perceptions might be built on incorrect assumptions about why people treat them they way that they do. This class focuses a lot of attention about how our perceptions of people may be incorrect and how that is not the greatest for the person we are jumping to conclusions about but this could also effect our own self-perceptions and therefore our self esteem.

Prosocial Behavior- Assuming Responsibility and Why We Help

The lectures on prosocial behavior this week made me think very deeply about my role as a day camp counselor. The five helping steps became incredibly salient in my day-to-day thinking. Yesterday, a camper dropped a large iced coffee in the middle of the floor of the lunchroom. This room also doubles as the dance studio. As a counselor, I knew it was my job to help out but there were about ten counselors in the room who were also supposed to aid the clean up process. None of us immediately rushed to help even though it was easily recognizable as an issue that needed to be dealt with before the post-lunch movement class (although not an emergency). This was a clear example of the bystander effect. All of us knew one or two of us had to clean up the huge mess but no action was being taken. We had all completed the first step of noticing what had happened and had interpreted the event but were having trouble with assuming responsibility.

My mind began to jump to the five helping steps and I immediately thought about diffusion of responsibility. I did not want to clean up the coffee and I felt as though I could reasonably assume that the other counselors were feeling the same way. I was expecting that one of them would step up and maybe the other counselors were as well. The second I finished this thought I went to go get paper towels but it almost made me laugh how immediately the lecture became relevant in my life. Having knowledge of the helping steps made me act prosocially.

This event also made me think critically about why people help others. The altruism argument came to my mind. I feel now as though my actions were unfortunately rooted more in selfishness than altruism. The camper who had dropped the coffee had already moved away from the area out of embarrassment and also because she understood that we would take care of it so it was hard to feel too bad for her. But I did not act out of concern for the space. I acted because of this lecture and I wanted to seem less selfish which, in a way, is inherently selfish. I wanted to look like a responsible counselor in front of my much older and more experienced counselors.

I do believe that Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis makes logical sense but I have yet to see it play out and it also seems as though it would be hard to manage. I saw a counselor later in the day offer to use her free period to assist in a class and I thought that it could be a possible example of this hypothesis. It could be that the helping counselor acted out of altruism rather than selfishness because she knows first hand how hard it is to teach a class without an assistant. Of course, it is also plausible that the counselor did this for purely selfish reasons and I do not know because I did not ask her about her motives.

It had already amazed me how often these concepts pop up in daily life.