Term Paper: Interrelationship of Self-Perceptions, Culturally-Based

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[. . .] This idea explains "hate groups" and bigotry in which the persons who are members will hold onto ideas about those of other cultures, even if these beliefs are not based on fact. When we are afraid or uncomfortable, this sense of belonging brings comfort and can override other stimulus and logic in many cases.

Now we have discussed the effect that the need for a sense of belonging can have on our perceptions about others and ourselves. We have found that these norms are learned by watching and emulating those around us. We have found that being a member of groups gives us a place to validate our beliefs and that beliefs that cannot be validated can have profound negative effects on an individual. We have found that these influences can be very powerful and can even override the truth in many cases. Humans will seek out a group in which to belong, even if they truly do not represent a member of that group. This need to belong to a group can be an overwhelming force in out lives as we go on a constant quest to belong. Who can argue that it does not have long-standing roots, somewhere in the pack of the wolf, or herd of the caribou. Studies have clearly shown that we are pack animals and must belong to a group to which we feel a connection.

Self-Perception and Self-Esteem

Self-perception and self-esteem have been studied more than any other area of social psychology. The leading principle behind the popularity of this subject is the need for psychologists and others to determine what motivates us to perform an action. In the previous section we found the culture to which we belong can have an effect on our self-esteem and that will do anything to avoid being alone. If that is so, what motivates people to act in ways that violate the prescribed social norms of the group to which they belong? This will be the subject of the next section.

Protection motivation theory also has an effect on our actions. Orbell (1998) performed a longitudinal study of women and their motivation to take precautionary health precautions, by way of screening for cervical cancer, based on the protection-motivation theory. Protection motivation theory states that person will be motivated to perform an action when they perceive that it will prevent some future harm. Orbell (1998) concluded that protection motivation theory offers an explanation of the results, but that there are obviously other factors involved in the choice to undergo the test.

This raises some very important issues in the fueled of social psychology. We know that every action has a perceived cost and a perceived benefit. We also know that early detection of cervical cancer gives the woman a much higher chance of a positive outcome and recovery than if the disease is not detected until its later stages. The test is painless and simple and does not involve a large amount of time. It would seem logical that any woman would have greater perceived benefits as compared to the costs for this procedure. However, there are still a relatively high number of women who do not undergo these tests.

It the motivation were purely based on cost vs. benefit, then one would expect a higher percentage than those obtained by Orbell (1998). This would lead us to believe that there is some other motivating factor in this decision not to have the test. This would lead us to turn to social factors and learned perceptions and stigmas attached to the tests.

We get many of our responses from our culture, but in addition to seeing validation from the group, we also seek validation from ourselves. Our expectations of ourselves must match our perceptions of ourselves in order to obtain self-esteem. If we have an expectation, such as the ability to perform on a math test, then we perform in that manner, either good or bad then our perceptions of ourselves and our ability to perform at a certain level on a math test are validated. Eventually, if this idea is continuously re-enforced, then it becomes a part of our belief system about us and we will either lower or raise our future expectations accordingly. When we expect success, it is likely that we will act in a way to validate this perception, by either studying or other means to improve our chances of good performance. Likewise, if we have a perception that we will fail, then will act in a way that will validate these beliefs and lead us to fail as a result of our own reactions.

This phenomenon is just as powerful as the idea of false consensus as far as culture is concerned. We must have our beliefs about ourselves validated and we will act in a way to validate them. This has been commonly called "self-fulfilled" prophecy and has been shown to be a strong motivator in human actions. What a person believes about him or her influences their actions and they in turn become their beliefs in reality. This concept was discussed in Feldman et al. (1988). This study culminated years of prior work and put together all of the elements of self-validity, attitude, intention and behavior. The connection found by them was unmistakable and had been echoed in many previous studies. Our attitudes about ourselves have a profound effect on our behaviors.

There is a connection between cultural values and self-fulfilled values. As we continually seek to act in a way that achieves a sense of belonging, we seek feedback from others. This effect of this feedback can have a profound effect on how we feel about ourselves. If we constantly receive feedback that we are a failure or a "good student," then we will act in a way to validate that belief. We will internalize others perceptions about ourselves. This serves a dual purpose, we can than validate the perceptions of the group and validate our perceptions about ourselves at the same time. In this way the perceptions of the group can lead to a type of self-fulfilled prophecy that does not come from within ourselves, but from without in the attitudes of others about us.

When our self-perceptions do not match the feedback that we receive from others, than we have two choices, either change the way we believe and act to match the group, or find another group. Which action a person takes depends on their own sense of already established self-efficacy and self-esteem. It they have high self-esteem they will likely disregard the opinions of the group and seek their own validity. However, if they have low self-esteem, they will often change their actions and express beliefs mores closely resembling the group. If they truly do not feel the way in which they act, it will lead to conflict within the person. This often leads to symptoms such as depression and can lead to maladaptive behaviors.

Effectiveness of Teachers, Leaders, Recruiters and Impressions

The previous two sections have focused on how others feel about us and how we feel about ourselves. There is a delicate balance between our self-perceptions and the feedback that we receive. We seek others who will validate our beliefs and when this does not happen, it leads to many symptoms of maladaption.

These concepts not only effect the way we feel about ourselves, but also effect the way we feel and react to others. If a person is perceived as having high self-esteem, then others tend to "like" them and will often try to be like them. In the case of an authority figure, the person who is the subordinate often has a perception that the authority figure has more influence or power than themselves and there fore acts in a way that validates this belief.

Watt and Bornholt (2000) found that social categories in high school students had an effect on their attitudes about math. In most cases, the students reflected the group attitude about mathematics and their like or dislike of the subject. Gender differences were found among the groups. The teacher could have an effect on these findings and there were other confounding variable not identified in this study that may have effected the results that were not accounted for in the experimental design.

As we wander through our daily lives, making comparison between ourselves and those we meet, we find ourselves judging others by our ever-changing standards. When someone tells us something, we will either believe it "find it credible," or disbelieve it, "find it discredible. When we feel that the person has a higher ranking than ourselves, we see them as powerful. We will perceive powerful people to have greater credibility (Nesler et al., 1993). When we perceive the person to be credible, then we act in a way to validate our beliefs,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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