Unit 2.5 The Self

key terms

Self= no two people are completely alike, every one is unique ( a one off, not repeated)

Aspect of being unique= there is free will ( an ability to make own decisions, uninfluenced by other factors) we should live our lives based on what we think, feel, want and decide for ourselves

Self Concept: What we think of ourselves

Ideal Self: Who we would like to be


core theory

Humanistic Theory – we are free agents- unique and have free will. We should focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past.


We have the with the potential to become our best possible person through self actualisation ( this is the idea that each us of us has an inborn drive to want to fulfil our potential)- this is achieving our ideal self ( the person an individual would like to be). Maslow argues we have a hierarchy of needs that need to be met before we can self actualise.

In this process we want to have high self esteem- this is a measure of how much we value ourselves. It can be seen as the difference between our self concept (a person’s view of our actual self- why they are) and their ideal self. The smaller the gap between our self concept and idea self then the higher our self esteem will be. If the gap is large we will have a lower self esteem.

To have high self esteem a person needs unconditional positive regard ( showing an individual love without expecting certain condition to be met)

crits of core

Ideas are vague and difficult to measure objectively- people cannot easily study themselves as they may not accurately self assess their ideal self or how much they have self actualised

It is not a very scientific theory- lots of evidence comes for Roger’s own research which is not very representative

Focuses too much on the individual, the point of psycholgy is to predict things about human behaviour – this claims humans are unpredictable

Ignores genetic evidence- 20-60% persons development comes from genetic factors.

Also ignores the idea we can have personality traits – a set of similar traits that group us into extravert, introvert, neurotic and stable (Eysenck’s theory)


Alternative theory= trait theory, argues we can identify a number of relatively stable and predictable personality features as a way of referring to our personality


Eysenck, argued each individuals personality can be assessed by two main traits- extraversion scale ( extravert=sociable, out going or introvert= reserved, quiet) and neuroticism scale ( unstable= worrying, emotional or stable= calm, secure)

core study

Van Houtte and Jarvis ( 1995)

Aim: to investigate the impact of pet ownership on adolescent personality provided evidence in terms of self esteem and a more positive self concept

Hypothesis= pet owning adolescents would report higher levels of autonomy and self esteem than non per owners.

Procedure= 130 pupils age 8-13– white American- divided into two groups pet owners and non pet owners and then matched on marital status, wealth and siblings. (matched pairs design)

Questionnaires – well known scales- rate statements about autonomy, self concept , self esteem and attachment to animals. E.g. self concept 5 part scale ‘ I am happy’ 1= strongly agree



1.Higher self esteem was reported in pet owners than no pet owners.

2.11 years old with pets had a more positive self concept

3.Higher autonomy was reported by pet owners of all ages

Conclusion: Pets can help boost people’s self esteem as they offer unconditional positive regard for pet owners

crits of core study

Generalisability: Samples was not representative – only teenagers and not other ethic groups, therefore can not be generalised to other age groups or cultures.

Reliability: Well known scales are used which will be a reliable way of measuring. Also the use of quantitative data is reliable as it can be analysed objectively.

Application: Can be used to help improve self concept and self esteem in teenagers

Validity: Students may not have been honest in responses, is difficult to self report their own self esteem. Also the study tries to assess self esteem and self concept on simple scales but these are very complex emotional issues

Ethics: Potential harm with the questions being asked, but consent was given by the parents and the children to ensure they were aware of the study.


applicationsResearch into the Self applies to the industry of Counselling= process whereby a client and counsellor, through talking, explore the difficulty the client has which affects their life.

In depression counselling= clients are encouraged think differently about themselves through a client centred approach.

  • The counsellor gives unconditional positive regard
  • Counsellor does not make any judgments
  • Counsellors offers empathy and therefore the client begins to value selves more highly
  • Helps to close the gap between self concept and ideal self and boost self esteem.