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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Self - Understanding What and Who We Are

Source Knol: The Self

Studies have indicated that chimps, orangutans, and dolphins are capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror. [2][3] This ability to acknowledge one's body and externally recognize that body is limited to only a few species in the world. The self can be broken up into two different aspects. The actual content of one's self, their character and being, is called self concept. [4] When one contemplates about their self it is called self-awareness. [5] Together these two things form the thoughts, beliefs, and understandings we have about who and what we are. They give us identity.

Mental structures that organize information about ourselves are called self-schemas. [6] Everything we choose to notice or remember is dictated by our self-schemas. Lets imagine two people go to a convention. One person loves books and the other loves video games. The book worm will most likely remember conversations, images, or text from the convention that has to do with books, while the video gamer will remember anything having to do with video games. People naturally remember things that relate to themselves. In one simple experiment, subjects were divided into two groups. They were both read a list of adjectives and asked to remember as many as possible, except one group was told to remember adjectives that would explain their own personalities while the other group tried to remember words related to other people. The group memorizing adjectives about themselves were able to remember more. [7] This is an example of the self-reference effect, which is the tendency for a person to remember something better if it is related to their self.

Humans are able to plan for the future and change their behavior and choices. This is not something that many animals are capable of. In fact, humans are the only species capable of planning events so far in advance and modifying ourselves to the extent that we do. This ability is called self-regulation. [8] We are capable of imagining things that have not happened yet so that we can change something about ourselves, such as whether or not we smoke cigarettes. Of course, quitting something like cigarette smoking or drugs is very difficult. It requires a great deal of self control, and social psychologists' have spent a lot of time researching self control in relation to self-regulation.
Self-Regulatory Resource Model
The ability to succeed and attain goals is directly dependent on motivation and self control. After a number of studies it was proposed that self control is limited. The self-regulatory resource model states that self control is akin to a muscle which can get tired after constant usage. [9] Lets imagine someone has anger management and alcoholism problems. This person has exerted a lot of self control at work so that they would not get angry with their boss, whom they hate, will be less likely to have the self control to stop themselves from drinking alcohol. If this person gets along well with their boss will probably have the self control later on to keep from drinking any alcohol.
One study involved participants having to use self control so that they wouldn't think of something for a certain period of time. Immediately afterward they were told not to laugh during a comedy movie they were shown. The group that had been asked to ignore thoughts were more likely to laugh during the movie than those who had not been asked to suppress their thoughts. [10] This supports the idea that self control is strong at first but gets weaker as time goes on, making it harder to control behavior and feelings. Stress and fatigue are the factors which weaken self control. Studies have found that people are more likely to lose self control at night time, after they have been up all day. [11] They've also discovered that self control is strongest in the morning after a person has woken up.

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