Free Essay. Features and Functions of Self-Knowledge

Published: 2023-07-13
Free Essay. Features and Functions of Self-Knowledge
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Knowledge Intelligence Motivation Personality Essays by wordcount
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1648 words
14 min read

Self-knowledge is one of the critical concepts in human psychology. Showers and Zeigler-Hill (2003) define self-knowledge as the process of familiarizing and understanding individual internal qualities, including one's strengths, weaknesses, and motivation achieved through self-evaluation and honesty. Since self-knowledge is naturally humanistic, it incorporates the evaluation and comprehension of both the positives and negatives of human nature. The concept also includes the practice of mindfulness, the effort towards adequate awareness that makes one own their actions and thoughts. The three main concepts of self-identity include psychological motives, self-enhancement, and self-verification. This paper will analyze and evaluate the three theories highlighting their functions in the contemporary world.

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Psychological Motives

Cassam (2014) defines psychological motives as the factors that lead to the arousal of one's mind and direct the person to act in a particular manner. In most cases, people want to associate with positive experiences and use them as the benchmark of their subsequent characters. Such orientations of mind amongst populations trigger the owners to sufficiently remember events in a perspective that paints their traits as the most welcome way of conduct. A psychological motive is thus an intervening variable because it intervenes between the stimulus of a person's mind towards the activity and the response of the person to the stimulus.

Features and Functions of Psychological Motives

Hattie (2014) highlights the practical case of self-motivation. The scholar credits the need for love and companionship as psychological arousal, which motivates a person towards pursuing other peoples' company. Oyserman et al. (2004) add that during their interactions, people under psychological motives mostly talk about their pleasant experiences and avoid negative encounters. The need for positive imaging makes the process of understanding the right motivation of a person toward a particular activity challenging (Tyler, Kramer & John, 2014). This challenge arises from the existing impossibility of someone directly experiencing his or her motives.

Evaluation of the Theory

Psychological motives evidence three expansions of self-knowledge (Showers, Ditzfeld, & ZeiglerHill, 2015). These aspects include self-assessment motivation, self-enhancement motivation, and self-verification motivation. Bak (2014) defines self-assessment motivation as the desire of a person to establish pure truth about oneself. This aspect ensures that the person has an adequate measure of self-knowledge. Self-assessment motivation implies that people make efforts to know who exactly they are, revealing both their positive and negative qualities (Fernandez, 2013). This concept thus banishes the idea of peoples' minds only leaning towards their positive attributes and not scrutinizing their weaknesses.

Self-enhancement motivation is the desire of a person to obtain unrealistically favorable self-knowledge (Kwang & Swann, 2010). Since the aspect makes people lean on their positive features at the expense of their negative qualities, it implies that people only seek to acquire compliments about their traits, even if the praise springs from the wrong motive. Also, if the person possesses more negative attributes than positive ones, self-enhancement motivation ignites their minds to identify with the positives (Oyserman, Elmore & Smith, 2004).).

The self-verification indicates a person's aspiration to acquire the confirmation of self-knowledge (Cassam, 2014). This motivation drives people to establish how exactly they are in terms of character. Therefore, self-verification helps people verify their true nature, revealing both their positive and negative attitudes (Showers, Ditzfeld, & ZeiglerHill, 2015). The three aspects of self-motive help in protecting and enhancing the sense of self.


Kwang and Swann (2010) define self-enhancement as the interpersonal or cognitive activity that people use to attract positive perceptions. The aspect relates to motivated reasoning that seeks hospitable conclusions about one's self and status in the world. People use different strategies during the self-enhancement execution process to explain or remember actions, decisions, and characteristics in a manner that draws desired self-views (Alicke & Sedikides, 2009).

When people fail in promoting their qualities, the need for self-enhancement pushes them to reinterpret the meaning of feedback or mundane task so that it suits their gaol (Kwang & Swann, 2010). Mostly, such people opt to reconstruct events and give explanations that serve their interests. In the case of a work environment, they end up designing excuses for their poor performance or even misbehaving (Valverde, Sovet & Lubart, 2017). Some of the specific self-enhancement examples include rejecting justified blame for failure, overlooking past failures quickly, and performing prejudiced memory search of self-knowledge.

Evaluation of Self-Enhancement

Debates Surrounding the Theory

Kwang and Swann (2010) indicate the existence of numerous debates surrounds the efforts of understanding the concept of self-enhancement. According to the scholar, psychologists question if there exists a distinctive need to see one-self and identity in a positive perspective. This reasoning leads to two arguments. Firstly, if self-favouring is such a perspective that everyone must struggle to attain, and then all cultures would be fighting for self-enhancement. This argument receives backing from the work of two early scholars. According to Heine and Lehman (1999), collectivist and eastern cultures like Japan, Taiwan, and China show no evidence for self-enhancement. Instead, the cultures models their people towards loyalty, cooperation, and respectfulness, especially to the existing leaders. The work of Alicke and Sedikides (2009) identifies the different nature of western culture, which supports self-enhancement approaches like independence, leadership, and uniqueness.

Self-Enhancement is Illogically Effortful

The process of self-enhancement also necessitates queries about whether it is logical (Swann & Read, 1981). Coliva (2016) suggests the need to understand the circumstances that provoke the need for self-enhancement if one is to establish the existence of the type of relationship. One needs to note the information that triggers the self-enhancement and verify if it is cognitive loud. Other notable parameters include the ability of self-esteem, cognitive load, and a combination of the tow to weaken self-deprecating social comparisons. Swann and Read, (1981) articulate that if the self-enhancement role is relatively essential in social comparisons, then the two aspects or their combinations should weaken the self-deprecating social comparison. Since there is no evidence confirming the ability of the process to social comparison, self-enhancement is thus not a cognitively useful process.

Demerits of Self-enhancement

Self-enhancement attracts several social costs, as indicated in this discussion. Firstly, some scholars consider it a recipe for maladjustment since the whole process is illusory (Showers, & Zeigler-Hill, 2003). The process majorly focuses on attributing success to oneself and directs the failure to either the circumstances or other people. Coliva (2016) articulates that due to the need for self-enhancement, people end up engaging in a downward or empty social comparison after their inferior performance. In some cases, the less self-esteemed denigrate the validity of feedbacks indicating their failure, diminishes its relevance attribute, and selectively forgets negative feedback on features they regard as necessary (Fernandez, 2013).


The last component of self-knowledge and identity is self-verification. Swann and Read (1981) describe self-verification as the desire to confirm one's identity or self-view. The process fulfills peoples' need to maintain their coherence, prediction, and control. Self-verification make the low-esteemed people chose negative feedback at the expense of positive feedback (Swann & Buhrmester, 2003). The preference indicates their intentions of confirming and sticking to their current self-identity.

One of the practical cases of self-verification is how people desire their biography to represent their exact characters even after their death. A large number of people wish for definite exaggeration of their qualities than those who would accept a degenerated biography. Another survey referred to as sculptures test indicate that posthumous self-verification does not resemble one's life satisfaction.

Literal Support of Self-verification

Seeking Self-Verifying Settings and Partners

There are different ways of supporting the self-verification theory. Surveying participants who possess different self-view reveals the nature of self-verification (Showers & Zeigler-Hill, 2003). In the type of survey, participants with positive self-views would mostly prefer the assessors they think views them positively. In contrast, those with negative self-knowledge would prefer evaluators who see them negatively. Similar studies from other scholars have also indicated that most people prefer associating with partners who verify their actions.

The Proposals and Origin of the Theory

Self-verification theory indicates that people want others to perceive them how they know themselves (Swann, & Read, 1981). For example, as extroverts wish other people to recognize them as extroverts, introverts also desire people to view them as introverts. Inversion of these perceptions, therefore, disqualifies the intent of the theory.

Swann and Read (1981) note the origin of the theory as writings of the symbolic interactionist who believed that people from self-views to predict the responses of others and come up with the best reaction. According to the interactionist, people who believe in their intelligence allow them to predict how other people will notice their sharpness. This anticipation motivates them, especially school, and can push them to attain chances of studying in premier institutions. Due to the critical role self-view play in people's lives, they invest in maintaining them through self-verifying information.

Features and Functions of the Theory

The striving for self-verification stabilizes people's lives makes their experiences articulate, logical, and understandable. Most people adapt to the processes due to their positive self-views and self-verification. The two concepts also boost their social life. Research by Kraus and Chen (2014) indicates that members of small groups attain self-verification from other group members. Verifying one member's characters increases the member's performance and commitment to the success of the group. Engagement leads to overall group performance.

There exist numerous benefits of self-verification theory, as indicated in this discussion. Portraying the real one's self in job interviews allows employers to understand their employees before their engagement (Swann & Buhrmester, 2003). Prior understanding of employees eases the process of assigning trainers to the employees during indication. It also helps during the actual assignment of duties to workers.

Besides, people with high self-verification usually presents the actual information in their certainty. These people are generally optimistic about life. They are quite happy with how they see themselves and freely interact with other people. Their free routine socializing with other like-minded people increase their chance of securing other opportunities.

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