The social construction of identity

After an interminable night, it is finally daylight. Marc opens his eyes and with a bound gets up in his bed. He starts running enthusiastically around the room, his eyes wide open, thinking that this year Santa Claus is going to bring him many presents and candy, because he had done all the homework. However, when he arrived, he was surprised to see charcoal next to a letter: “the year that helps father and mother”.

Mine, yours?

One of the worst moments of childhood is the disappointment experienced by March. However, this feeling does not come from being given charcoal. The discomfort comes from the fact that Marc, who thought he behaved well, is told that in the eyes of others, he behaved badly. so Is Marc a good or a bad child? Are their own eyes or those of others right?

The duality of identity

This duality reflects that there is a part of us that we are not aware of and only from the outside we are communicated. Although our conception of ourselves may be different from that of others, s.and presents us with a duality in the perspective of identity. In this sense, there is a perception of one’s own identity, but there are aspects of it that we can only access through others. Mead (1968) was one of the first theorists to differentiate a more personal identity from a more social identity (“me” and “I”), as two parts which coexist within the person and which are in turn. . Although I tried to identify two elements, I was really pointing out a process; a continuing relationship of the person with the shaping environment and the person shaping the environment.

We could say in a few words that just as we are aware that we have two eyes or a nose because we can touch them, it is only in front of the mirror that we see ourselves clearly. Following this line, society is this reflection, thanks to which we can discern our way of being.

Compulsory reading: “Personal and social identity”

What belongs to me?

If you think it’s just you, I’ll start by trying to deny you and, for now, tell you it’s less you than you think. Identity is generally defined as a unitary set of traits that remain stable and allow self-identification; a ferry core to hang on to.

Why we are as we are and self-identification

Imagine Marc growing up and how he becomes gothic misunderstood; then skater without getting involved in anything; and then 1 Romanticón who seeks commitment; and then a bachelor with a crazy life; then a businessman; and then … Where is this stability? however, the person is able to perceive and understand it in each of the contexts. In other words, each of us can understand each other at each of our stages. For Bruner (1991), identity is located -in a space-time- and distributed-is broken down into several facets-. Not only are we able to understand each of its facets in our life, but we are also understood by others; Marc’s parents understood this with every episode of his growth.

The concept of self and its relation to identity

This fact opens the door to the theory of mental models (Johnson-Laird, 1983). While for the moment we have wondered about what we are, it is true that we have an idea of ​​ourselves in our head, a concept of ourselves. In addition, andthis self-concept serves as a model of mind on our repertoire of behaviors: We can imagine how we would act in different situations or in front of different people. Thanks to this, we can maintain internal consistency in how we think about ourselves and not fall into cognitive dissonance. This is how, in every interaction, we evoke from the outside who we are, since in this process we only evoke the characteristics of our self-concept related to our environment, with our here and now – in a box. at night we would certainly not show the same part of us as before an exam-.

Continuing with another metaphor, let us think for a moment of the case of an old painter, sitting on a chair, with a canvas in front of him, after a leafy meadow. For many hours he spends sitting trying to recreate the landscape around him, you will never be able to accurately represent every detail that reality shows you. There will always be a little leaf or shade of color that will only exist in reality. It is for this reason that in painting, he recreates reality, not creates it.

What is yours

This is how, even if we believe ourselves a lot, what we are to each other may be less. Just at this point I propose to change it, to tell you that you can be different than you imagine.

Let’s go back to our previous metaphors. For example in Marc’s experience, in which asking whether it is “good” or “bad” is given in case it would be more valued to do homework or help parents. Or more simply, in the case of the painter, who after finishing the painting will each have their own impression of him.

The issuance and interpretation of intentions

In this line it is exposed as in the interaction, our interlocutor develops an inference process. This process is based on the interpretation of the semantics and pragmatics of the message, of what and how it is said. From there, he interprets not the message, but the intentionality of the sender, with what intention we address him. Several studies show that communication characteristics such as accent, formalism or others, create different prejudices of people on their status, skills, anxiety, etc. (Ryan, Cananza & Moffie, 1977; Bradac & Wisegarver, 1984; Bradar, Bowers & Courtright, 1979; Howeler, 1972).

Based on these indices, the receiver interprets our intention and thus creates his own mental model of us. Because in the same way that we imagine how we would act in different situations, a prefixed image of the other is also elaborated which allows us to predict what he can do or say, think or feel; what can we expect from this person. This is one of the basic heuristics for processing information faster: if I can predict, I can give an answer first.

It is the same objective in the role of the receiver: Give an answer. In each relationship that we have, the other person elaborates his feedback, his feedback, according to his interpretation of our actions. And if we have said before that our actions are a little different from what we would think and the interpretation may be different from our intention, the feedback we receive may be totally different from what we expected. It can teach us parts of ourselves that we don’t know or were not aware of; make us look different.

What do I decide to be?

In this way, as a third step in the process, I tell you that you are more than you thought you were, whether you like it or not, whether it is good or bad. We continually receive feedback from the outside, in every interaction we have with others, with the environment, and with ourselves. And this message that we receive is not ignored, because we are also going through the same process that they did with us: we are now the receiver. We interpret the intention behind it and this is when we can see that they may treat us differently than we thought..

The importance of feedback in identity formation

In the process of interpretation, the mental model received from the outside comes into conflict with it, that is, how they see us and how we see ourselves. It is possible that in the comments received new unknown information has been included which does not correspond to our idea of ​​ourselves. This information will be included and integrated into our mental model based on two traits: affective burden and recidivism (Bruner, 1991).

Back at the painter’s house, he may receive several impressions of the painting, but will be shocked if all of them are only critical – recurrence of the same return – or if one of them comes from his wife whom he loves so much – emotional charge -.

We then arrive at the danger zone. These two traits modulate the influence that “how they see us” has on us.. If it is also very contrary to our initial mental model, we enter into cognitive dissonances, into internal inconsistencies due to the contradiction they cause for us. Much of the psychological distress comes from feeling that “we are not getting what we give”, or that “we are not what we want to be”, and the strength of these beliefs can cause a lot of pain and suffering. psychological disorders such as depression if they become persistent and insidious.

But it’s in this same area of ​​risk, where the person can grow, where this feedback can add up and not subtract. For personal development and growth, having defined this process, the keys are in the following points:

  • self-awareness: If we are aware of our own self-concept and the context around it, we can optimize the adaptation of what we are talking about. By being aware of who we are and what surrounds us, we are able to make the decision on how best to meet the needs of our environment.
  • self-determination: We may be aware that the feedback we receive is information about how others are receiving us. In this way, we can think about how to better develop ourselves, focus and achieve our goals.
  • self-critical sense: Just as feedback information can help us achieve our goals, it can also be useful for our personal growth. Know what to collect from the feedback we receive to improve ourselves, or in what areas it shows us we need to further strengthen. In this case, it is important to know how to recognize the needs of our environment.
  • self-regulation: The ability to be more or less flexible in each part of “being”. Both knowing how to expose oneself in an authentic way and how to defend oneself when he touches it, at the same time knowing how to make the most of what we are told and how to reject it if it is very contaminated. Optimizing resources and our own management

Finally, you can be less, you can be different, or you can be more. But – and I apologize for the expression – I’m leaving you in the most “fucking” situation of all, and you can be whatever you want to be.

Bibliographical references:

  • Bradac, JJ and Wisegarver, R. (1984). Assigned state, lexical diversity and accent: determinants of perceived state, loneliness and control speech style. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 3, 239-256.
  • Bradac, JJ, Bowers, JW and Courtright, JA (1979). Three language variables in communication research: intensity, immediacy and diversity. Research in Human Communication, 5, 257-269.
  • Bruner, J. (1991). Acts of meaning. Beyond the cognitive revolution. Madrid: Editorial alliance.
  • Johnson-Laird, Philip N (1983). Mental models: towards a cognitive science of language, inference and consciousness. Harvard University Press.
  • Howeler, M. (1972). Diversity of using Word as an indicator of stress in an interview situation. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 1, 243-248.
  • Mead, GH: Spirit, Person and Society, Paidós, Buenos Aires, 1968 BC.
  • Ryan, EB, Cananza, MA and Moffie, RW (1977). Reactions with varying degrees of emphasis in Spanish-English speech. Language and Speech, 20, 267-273.

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