Article Reviews & Studies

Psychology & the Social Self


The Layers of Social Self and Other People

The “social self” is a complex idea composed of a variety of psychological layers. Social self includes: the self-concept, self-esteem, and self-presentation (Kassin et al., 2017).  These layers of self will interact with one another to create a multifaceted social existence. It is equally possible to analyze how people review and come to know others.  Getting to know others also means understanding people’s explanations, attributions, behavioral patterns, thought processes, and perceptions.  Furthermore, people are exposed a certain number of confirmation biases, and comparable impression-resistances. It is possible to deeply investigate attribution theories and find many reasons for how people make sense of other people’s behavior (Chadee, 2011).  Chadee (2011) shows behaviors and their motive standards can be used to compare people’s judgment, experiences, and their social interaction. In a business setting, social interaction can also be analyzed, and certain consumer stimuli can dramatically influence brand evaluation. The phenomena of negative versus positive communication impacting self-esteem or brand evaluation also crosses over into the social networking world, where self-esteem is directly impacted by communication (Valkenburg, et al., 2006). Ultimately, whether reviewing the social self or the social interaction of others, it appears there is a large affinity for self-fulfillment (Kassin et al., 2017). And after all, having an accurate understanding of oneself leads greater freedom in experience and health (McMinn, 2011).

The Social Self

The first of the three constituents of social self, the self-concept, can be broken down into the rudiments of the self-concept, introspection, self-perception, influences of other people, autobiographical memories, and culture and the self-concept (Kassin, et al., 2017). The second part of social self, self-esteem, is built out of need and is comprised from a variety of perceptions, self-regulations, and mechanisms of self-enhancements. The third component of social self, self-presentation, is responsible for strategizing self-presentation, and verifying and monitoring one’s self.  The mechanism of self-efficacy is founded around favorable consequences and involves the mastery of these topics of social self and more (Gecas, 1989).

Perceiving Persons


The perception of other people plays a distinct role in the decision-making process.  Depending upon a person’s perception of other people, their environment and behavior may change.  Regardless of the immediate social influence other people may have on any given person, all persons tend to have a lot of confirmation bias, resistance of change to unfamiliar character, and an affinity for self-fulfillment (Kassin, et al., 2017). How people analyze other people can be enumerated on basis of physical appearance, situational circumstances, behavioral evidence, and trustworthiness (2017).  Bias confirmation and an affinity for similarities and familiarities takes great precedence; thus most people end up with friends which are very similar to themselves and each other (Hans, 2016).

How People Make Sense of Behavior

Motives or reasons can be derived from behavior, and personality traits can be derived from the combination of behavior and motive. People tend to want to attach reasons to behaviors to better understand other people (Chadee, 2011). Behavior has been long differentiated in terms of perception, compared to the observation and analysis of an inanimate object. This is one of the centerstage focuses within Heider’s Theory of Attribution.  In a simpler sense, person perception is far more complex than object perception.  This is because persons are considered “action centers” and have abilities, wishes and sentiments which can be used to act purposefully (2011).  Additionally, Heider argued that people are naturally motivated to seek a uniformed impression of people (Crandall, 2007).

The concept of inferring a stable disposition such as a mood, behavior, attitude, or personality trait from a person is outlined in Jones and Davis’s Abandoned Theory of Explanation (Chadee, 2011). These analysis techniques help explain basic human action and are usually intention-based.  Kelley’s Theory of Attribution as Casual Judgment takes it a step further in becoming the first systematic treatment of lay causal explanations. Kelley ensures question is placed upon where to locate the dispositional properties responsible for any given effect. In other words: if an action is enjoyable, is it enjoyable because someone wanted it to be enjoyable, has a relative affinity for the action, or because it is authentically enjoyable?  Kelley urges the analysis of the data itself to come to an appropriate conclusion (2011).

Social Comparison

One of the most fundament and profound mechanisms in psychology which influence a person’s behavior, experience, environment, and judgment, is social comparison (Chadee, 2011). Social comparison is occurring all the time, even subconsciously, and involves an in-depth analysis of how other people perform. Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory outlines many hypotheses which include: human organisms evaluate themselves, people compare their abilities to those of others, people tend to compare themselves to others who are more relative in ability, it can be impossible to change one’s ability, comparison with others can be accompanied by hostility or derogation, and few others.  Festinger’s main purpose was to determine why people talk, who they talk to, and to analyze the results on the conversation (2011).

Da Vinci

There are several conclusions as to why people compare themselves to others. One conclusion is comparison helps the mind process information more efficiently than new simulations (Chadee, 2011). Another theory is that people use comparison to fulfill goals, satisfy self-evaluation, and for self-enhancement. It can be used to retrieve more knowledge about oneself. Comparison is also sometimes necessary for successful communication.  It is easy to see through these benefits of social comparison that it would undoubtedly influence and shape self-perception, motivation, and behavior (2011).  In fact, there are studies which have revealed activities may directly increase or decrease, depending upon the influence of social comparison and social recognition variables. For example, one study revealed contributions to charity increased as individuals could see how many other people contributed (Frey, 2004).

Consumers’ Response to Negative Communication

One article published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (2001) proved that negative word of mouth communication can negatively impact brand evaluation.  Furthermore, it highlighted the likelihood of a consumer to attribute the consequences of a negative word of mouth communication with the focal brand itself (Laczniak, et al., 2001).  The overall pre-conceived brand name strength had a positive impact on the degradation of the overall brand evaluation (2001), perhaps paying credence to the idea that people still like what they know, trust, and are familiar with.  Studies within the article also explain that the consumer will be highly likely to attribute the negativity towards a communicator if negative information about a favorable brand is presented in conversation (2001).  Even though a brand representative may be perceived by a consumer to be equal as a peer, if the representative explains something unfavorable to the consumer, the consumer will attribute the negativity to the representative (rather than the brand).  It is also true that the perception of authenticity or trustworthiness plays a factor in the consumer’s analysis of a statement or situation (Ackerman, 2017).

The Impact of Social Networking on Self-Esteem

Many studies have been evaluated to determine the impact of social media (networking sites) on self-esteem and general well-being (Valkenburg, 2006). A few variables would impact the ability for a social networking site to influence an individual’s self-esteem, but one of the most important is frequency of use.  The frequency of use has a direct impact on the likelihood of an unfavorable influence on self-esteem (Neira, 2013). Additionally, the frequency of use amplifies the impact the social media sites would already have on the individuals.  More positive feedback throughout the sites enhanced an individual’s self-esteem, while more negative feedback throughout the sites decreased self-esteem (Valkenburg, 2006).  It also appears that increased social media use leads to the increase of upwards social comparison, or the idea of comparing oneself to “someone better” (Schmuck, 2019).


Social Behavior

People will always seek ways to better understand themselves and the behaviors of others. This is largely because people are social beings and heavily rely upon social interactions to survive and achieve self-fulfillment.  Despite the ironic affinity for people to want to associate with familiar and self-confirming items, it is still natural to investigate all social interactions. It is similarly natural for other people to be able to influence one’s social self and self-esteem. Modern times can be more confusing when it comes to social self, self-esteem, and analyzing the behaviors of other people.  New age, complicated business structures can make behavior analysis much more difficult. Social networking sites have set new social standards and allowances but have had a direct impact on self-esteem.  Still, it is possible to continue to study and develop ideas about the behavior of others and one’s reflection of their social self.


Ackerman, D. S., and Hu, J. (2017) Assuring me that it is as ‘Good as New’ just makes me think about how someone else used it. Examining consumer reaction toward marketer‐provided information about secondhand goods. J. Consumer Behav., 16: 233– 241. doi: 10.1002/cb.1631.

Alves, H., Koch, A., Unkelbach, C., (January 2016). My friends are all alike – the relation between liking and perceived similarity in person perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Volume 62. Pp. 103-117. DOI:

Chadee, D., (2011). Interdependence in Social Interaction by Ann C. Rumble. Theories in Social Psychology. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. United Kingdom. Pp. 191-193.

Crandall, C., Silvia, P., N’Gbala, A., Tsang, J., & Dawson, K. (2007). Balance Theory, Unit Relations, and Attribution: The Underlying Integrity of Heiderian Theory. Review of General Psychology., 11(1), 12–30.

Frey, B. S., & Meier, S. (2004). Social comparisons and pro-social behavior: Testing “conditional cooperation” in a field experiment. The American Economic Review, 94(5), 1717-1722. Retrieved from

Gecas, V. (1989). The Social Psychology of Self-Efficacy. Annual Review of Sociology, 15, 291-316. Retrieved July 9, 2020, from

Kassin, S., Fein, S., Markus, H. R., (2017). Social Psychology. Tenth Edition.  Cengage Learning. Boston, MA. Pp. 5-6.

Laczniak, R., DeCarlo, T., Ramaswami, S., (2001). Consumers’ Responses to Negative Word-of-Mouth Communication: An Attribution Theory Perspective. Journal of Consumer Psychology. Vol. (11), Iss. (1). Pp. 57-73.

McMinn, M., (2011). Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling. Tyndale House Publishers. Carol Stream, IL. Pp. 194-198.

Neira, C., and Barber, B., (December 16, 2013). Social Networking Site Use: Linked to Adolescents’ Social Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, and Depressed Mood. Australian Journal of Psychology. Retrieved from:

Schmuck, D., Karsay, K., Matthes, J., and Stevic, A., (September 2019). “Looking Up and Feeling Down”. The influence of mobile social networking site use on upward social comparison, self-esteem, and well-being of adult smartphone users. Telematics and Informatics. Volume 42.

Valkenburg, P., Peter, J., Schouten, A., (2006). Friend Networking Sites and Their Relationship to Adolescents’ Well-Being and Social Self-Esteem. CyberPsychology & Behavior. Vol. (9), No. (5). Pp. 585-589

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