The dynamic self-concept is presented as the different perceptions that people have of themselves based on how they think that others view them. Individuals tend to think of themselves as having different self-representations which are influenced by their social circumstances. These depictions are usually activated by the social experiences of a person at a particular time and are dependent on the circumstances and people involved. Additionally, self-concept has the property of coherence and continuity, especially since people are constantly changing to fit their social needs while evaluating themselves and passing judgement on their actions. This way, the self is considered to be dynamic, being influenced by different self-motivated structures such as standards set by an individual, self-schemas and possible selves that undergo constant activation as an individual develops their self-concept (Social Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, n.d.). Using a critical analysis of the dynamic aspect of the self-concept of a person, it can be established that different self-identities arise as a result of the formation of interrelations, and their inconsistencies may have a negative effect on the emotions and behaviour of an individual.
Key Concepts, Theories and Debates
When discussing the dynamic self-concept, different concepts, debates and theories will apply. The main debates that guide the analysis of the self-concept are whether an individual has a core concept and whether the social interrelations of a person create an identity for the individual. One of the theories that guide these debate questions includes the social interaction theory that focuses on the role of a person's interrelations in creating their identity. The social constructionist theory focuses on the existence of a core self to account for consistent behaviours of people, which is theorists regard as being the true self of an individual. This theory further introduces the narratives that create behavioural inconsistencies by providing different accounts for the behaviour of an individual, and in this way explains why there are different versions of the self, hence the aspect of dynamic self-concept. Both theories focus on explaining the role that interrelations play in influencing a change of the different aspects of self-concept and provide foundational information on how the importance of social relations in shaping the identity of a person. Other theories that are useful in answering the debate questions while providing an in-depth analysis of self-concept are the ego theory and the bundle theory. The concepts of the self and identity hence form the basis of this discussion, since they are vital in explaining how the self-concept is continuously changing and how these changes may affect the emotions and behaviour of an individual.
The similarity and differences of the two main theories are evident in their approach wen addressing the dynamic self-concept. The similarity is that both theories build on self-concept while using the core identity as the basis of their approach. The difference between the two theories is evident in how they describe the core identity. The ego theory focuses on proving that there exists a core self, which is not dependent on social interactions and other conscious occurrences. On the other hand, the bundle theory focuses on cementing the role of social relations in developing the core identity of an individual by making references to conscious experiences that are constantly changing with variations in attitudes, thoughts, motivations, and feelings, thereby obviating the possibility of the existence of a core self in the midst of these mental experiences. Their differences thus provide the foundation for discussion of the dynamic self-concept and how inconsistencies may result in behavioural changes.
Analysis of the Dynamic Self-Concept
In order to fully understand how the self-concept is dynamic, the symbolic constructionist idea suggests that the self is definitive when it is linked to the social relationships that an individual forms. However, this understanding is also dependent on the idea that the core self of an individual exists, before other factors are incorporated into discussing the dynamic representations of the self. The belief that this idea presents is that an individual has to have the main trait that identifies them before other traits develop. The accuracy of this notion is founded on the belief that psychological development occurs during the adolescent stage of growth, which helps to cement the core identity of an individual (Altemeyer, 1988). This statement is true since people have a tendency to try to exonerate themselves when they feel that their actions are not in accordance with how they identify themselves. Additionally, it is also factual to believe that the core self is made up of a repertoire of narratives from experiences and is thus subject to change as a person develops and changes their perception of life. Owing to the importance rooted in establishing the existence of the core self, its origin is thus deductible. Its basis may be the religious, cultural and social beliefs that an individual conforms to, often relating to their upbringing. They thus tend to be dominant when an individual defines who they are. This explains why certain people tend to be aggressive while other people are submissive, in addition to other differing character traits that exist. For this reason, the belief that the core-self exists is agreeable.
According to Markus and Wurf (1986), the self-concept is dynamic due to the existence of a repertoire of self-representation which are less dominant than the core self. These self-representations only become evident in particular situations, which are dependent on social circumstances that invoke a reaction by the individual. Having established the fact that each individual has their core identity, it is important to analyze how different personality traits arise in an individual to understand how their inconsistency may affect the behaviour and emotions of people.
Based on the idea of social interaction, the sense of self is based on the social interaction that an individual experience while in a social setting. The state of continuity of self can only be achieved through interactions with people, who influence how an individual behaves by invoking different attitudes and reactions. Theorists such as Cooley (1922) and Mead (1934) agreed that the self can only be defined by the society within which the individual dwells (Social Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, n.d.). Evidently, forming relationships within one's social sphere plays a significant role in explaining who they are. Based on a study conducted by Kurt and McPartland (1954), where participants were asked to answer the question "Who am I?", people tend to base their definition of self to their social roles. This study showed that people defined themselves with their social roles (such as daughter, husband), their social surroundings (such as from Chicago, a Texan) and the perception of others about them (such as kind-hearted, a devoted partner) (Social Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences, n.d.). Clearly, interrelations with others form a causal link between how people perceive others and thus, how they interact.
Secondly, social identities are dependent on factors such as context, intention and consequence. These factors provide the conditions that trigger certain judgements and observations and prompt an individual to act in a particular way (Markus & Wurf, 1986). According to Drury and Reicher (2000), people adopt different identities while in social situations, and supposition explains the involvement of people in social movements and demonstrations. Rather than lose their identities, people tend to alter their behaviour to suit their social conditions at the particular time. It is accurate to establish that people try to fit into societal groups, and hence tend to conform to them. This imitation of newer practices is not restricted by the existing differences between members of that the group. This explains why people may be defined using the traits of their social groups, rather than as individuals. For example, people who choose to carry out a demonstration against a certain vice may all be perceived to be dangerous by law enforcers. Additionally, it is evident that how people react in situations also prompt the subject to behave in a way that corresponds to these reactions. Using the example of the demonstrators, law enforcers may view them as dangerous and thus react by employing riot shields. This action will, in turn, prompt the demonstrators to turn a peaceful demonstration into a fracas. From this example, the context within which an individual exists frames their actions, and consequently, their behaviour (Drury& Reicher, 2000). The intentions and consequences of actions of people within a group also complement the actions of an individual within a group. More often than not, people in a group tend to act in ways that were not anticipated for, in comparison to a situation where an individual reacts without external influences. From the example of the demonstrators, the eruption of a rumpus is likely to result in the arrest of certain individuals. From these situations, it is clear that the intentions of individuals within a group may differ from the consequences of their actions. Subsequently, consequences may result in new contexts which influence an individual to adopt a different character trait that is used to define them. It is therefore apparent that social contexts and other external factors influence the changing identities of the self.
Identity change is dependent on the different collection of identities that an individual has and one's susceptibility to the group mentality. The choice of individuals to adopt different identities lies in their perception of their own judgement (Deutsch & Gerard, 1954). The study by Deutsch and Gerard (1954) extensively explained how the susceptibility of an individual determines the ease with which they switch identities during interactions with people who are either similar or different from them. The results of this study accurately explain the issue of peer pressure. Individuals may face pressure to conform to a certain identity to fit in, especially when they have a poor perception of themselves. This explains why people who may not necessarily be rowdy are found in demonstrations and strikes. Alternatively, the adoption of different identities by such people may not necessarily be dependent on a group, although such individuals may require an additional party to help them decide whom they want to identify as. This perception of such individuals thus explains why certain people have high self-esteem and why others tend to have low self-expectations.
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