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Discovering The Self Concept. What is a Self-Schema and How We Define Self-Concept in Social Psychology.

Updated on January 25, 2013

What is the Concept of Self?

Within each society there are different ideas about the importance of individual people in relation to the society as a whole. In some places people view themselves in terms of their relationships with other people (Myers, 2010). In other parts of the world a person's identity is dependent on his personal accomplishments (Myers, 2010). In every part of the world people living under shared culture and geography are what creates a society. Each of these people has a basic concept of who they are as a person. This is the concept of self which determines how a person thinks or feels about themselves and others.

How do We Define Ourselves? The Self-Schema.

Understanding the concept of self begins with the beliefs by which a person defines who they are. These defining beliefs are called self-schemas and are the building blocks with which identity is constructed (Myers, 2010). Self-schemas are the diagrams through which people evaluate themselves and others (Myers, 2010). A schema is a belief that a person holds about themselves. If a man believes that he is fat then this belief is a schema through which he views himself. He also views other people comparatively through this same schema. He notices those people who are fatter than he is or who are not as large as he is and he notices the difference.

I Am Myself Now and Who I Will Be Then

According to Myers (2010) “our self-concepts include not only our self-schemas about who we currently are but also who we might become” (p. 39). This means that our self-concept is partially dependent not only on the images and beliefs we have of ourselves as we are now but also of our beliefs of all the other possibilities that we could become. If the fat man has been dieting and exercising daily and has started losing weight he still has a self-concept based on how he views himself in his current physical condition but added to this is the self-schema of how he believes that he will look and feel after he has lost a certain amount of weight.

The Roles We Play, Play a Part in Who We Are

Self-schemas are the building blocks of self-concept which is assembled in several ways. One way in which people develop their self-concept is through the roles they play in life. When a person begins a new role such as student, teacher, or parent; the new life role is at first approached at first with trepidation but gradually becomes part of how the person views themselves (Myers, 2010). According to Myers (2010) “our self-concepts are determined by multiple influences, including the roles we play, the comparisons we make, our social identities, how we perceive others appraising us, and our experiences of success and failure” (p. 56). Each of these traits can be seen as separate overlapping frames which when laid one on top of the other create a complete image of how the individual perceives themselves.


The extent to which a person controls his own life, the level of effectiveness which that person believes he holds, his sense of self-worth, his ability to understand himself and his the social roles in which he acts; collectively form the individual's self-concept. These are the different frames through which a person views himself. Every person has a concept of themselves constructed from each of these elements.


Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.) Retrieved from the University of Phoenix eBookCollection database.

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2012. Wesley Meacham- This article is copyright protected and is the property of Wesley Meacham. All images in this article, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Wesley Meacham. Please do not copy this article in whole or in part without giving credit to the original author.


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    • wpcooper profile image


      23 months ago from Barstow

      Where does this tie in though with the looking glass self and various hiearchies in the environment?


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