Chapter 3: Communication and the Self

INTERPLAY: The Process of Interpersonal Communication

8th Edition © 2001

Adler, Rosenfeld, & Proctor

Who are you?

  THE TOP 10 Most Important Features of who you are...

  Empty contents of purse or wallet...Are you the person these items suggest you are?

1.  Understand the influences that shape development of the self-concept.
2.  Explain the subjective, resistant nature of the self-concept.
3.  Identify the role of self-fulfilling prophecies in shaping the self-concept and influencing communication.
4.  Understand how it is possible to change one's self-concept.
5.  Explain the nature and extent of identity management.

I.  Communication and the Self-Concept
  1.  Self-concept: a relatively stable set of perceptions you hold of yourself
  2.  Contains many dimensions: physical appearance, skills, roles, talents, traits
  3.  Self-esteem - the part of the self-concept that involves evaluations of self-worth

 A.  How the Self-Concept Develops: (almost totally a product of social interaction)

     Two Complementary Theories the Describe HOW INTERACTION Shape the Way Individuals Perceive Themselves

  1.  Reflected Appraisal: everyone's self-concept is shaped by perceptions of the judgments of those around us
   a.  Significant others are very influential. 
   b.  SOs are people whose evaluations are especially influential
   c.  The way others' messages shape the self-concept

  2.  Social Comparison: evaluating ourselves in terms of how we compare w/ others
   a.  Superior or inferior
   b.  Same as or different from  (Reference Groups)
   c.  Besides being influenced by how others see us, we also are shaped by how we measure up to others.
   d.  Offers a way of reshaping an unsatisfying self-concept

 B.  Characteristics of the Self-Concept

  1.  The self-concept is subjective
   a.  Self-verification: looking for people who confirm our self-concept
   b.  Often based on obsolete information and distorted feedback
   c.  Myth of perfection is common in our society
   d.  Self-esteem may be based on inaccurate thinking, but still has a powerful 
        effect on how we relate to others

  2.  A healthy self-concept is flexible
   a. Most flexible when we are young
   b. We must remain realistic!

  3.  The self-concept resists change
   a.  People resist revision of self-perception after late 20s
   b.  Cognitive conservativism: tendency to seek information that conforms to an 
        existing self-concept
   c.  Four Necessary Conditions for Appraisals to be Regarded as Important
        1.  Must be someone we see as competent to offer new appraisal
        2.  The appraisal must be perceived as highly personal
        3.  Must be reasonable in light of what we believe about ourselves
        4.  Appraisals that are consistent and numerous are more persuasive

 C.  Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Communication
   a.  Occurs when personís expectations of an event and subsequent behavior 
        based on those expectations make the outcome more likely to occur 
        than would otherwise have been true
   b.  Has a powerful influence on personality and affects future behavior
   c.  Can behavior determine mood?

  1.  Types of Self-Fulfilling prophecies
   a.  Self-imposed: when your own expectations influence your behavior
   b.  When one person's expectations govern anotherís actions (Pygmalion in the Classroom, 1968)

  2.  Influence of Self-Fulfilling prophecies
   a.  Can be strong, acting either to improve or harm relationships
   b.  We are what we believe we are

 D.  Changing Your Self-Concept
  1.  Have realistic expectations
  2.  Have a realistic perception of yourself
  3.  Have the will to change
  4.  Have the skill to change
II.  Presenting the Self: Communication as Identity Management

     Identity Management refers to the communication strategies people use to influence how others view them.

 A.  Public and Private Selves  (Erving Gofmann (1959, 1971)

  1.  Perceived (private) self: who you believe yourself to be in moments of honest self-
       examination  (BACKSTAGE)

   2. Presenting (public image) self:  the way we want to appear to others (PUTTING ON A FRONT)
       a.  Face: the socially approved identity
       b.  Facework: verbal and nonverbal ways in which we act to maintain our 
            own presenting image and the images of others
       c.  Impression management: strategies to create a public image

  2.  Characteristics of Identity Management
      a.  We Strive to Construct Multiple Identities
      b.  Identity Management is Collaborative
      c.  Impression Management Can Be Deliberate or Unconscious
      d.  People Differ in Their Degree of Identity Management  (self monitoring)

 B.  Why Manage Impressions?

  1.  Social rules govern our behaviors--we create and maintain a front to follow social rules.
  2.  To achieve personal goals
  3.  To achieve relational goals  (affiliation, control, respect, immediacy)


 C.  How Do We Manage Impressions?


  1.  Manner: words and nonverbal actions
  2.  Appearance: personal items people use to shape an image
  3.  Setting: physical items used to influence how others view us

   IDENTITY MANAGEMENT IN MEDIATED COMMUNICATION  (Walther (1996) p. 16;  O'Sullivan (2000) p. 25)
  1.  Careful wording of messages
  2.  Desired Level of Clarity or Ambiguity
  3.  Serious or Humorous
  4.  Logic or Emotion
  5.  Allows sender opportunities to say difficult things without forcing receiver to respond immediately
  6.  Web Pages provide opportunities for creators to manage their identities (words, images, sounds; inclusion, exclusion)


 D.  Identity Management and Honesty

     1.  We have choices about how we act.
     2.  Identity Management involves deciding which face--which part of yourself to reveal.
     3.  In any case you are sharing a real part of yourself.

III.  Summary

   A.  The self-concept is a relatively stable set of perceptions individuals hold of themselves.
   B.  Self-fulfilling prophecies occur when a person's ecpectations of an event influence the outcome.
   C.  It is possible to change one's self-concept in ways that lead to more effective communication.
   D.  Identity management consists of an individual's strategic communication designed to influence others' perceptions of her/himself.
   E.  Identity managment occurs for two reasons: 
        1.  to follow social rules and conventions; and 
        2.  to achieve a variety of content and relational goals.
   F.  Identity Management can be an authentic form of communication.

Since each person has a variety of faces that s/he can reveal, choosing which one to present is a central concern of competent communicators.