(Other Compositions in English 145) An Examination of Attaining Self-Image through Being a Student
John Q. Student
Illinois State University
Running Head: ATTAINING SELF-IMAGE
Psychologists have studied the concept of self-image extensively. In this examination of self-image studies, three ideas are discussed. First, we all attain a good portion of our self-image through being a student and examining our own cognitive learning skills. Second, disparity between the "real" and "ideal" self-image in students can lead to a high predisposition for guilt and is found more commonly among above average intelligent students. Lastly, those students found to have high self-esteem were more likely to choose more difficult goals then their low-esteem counterparts.
An Examination of Attaining Self-Image through Being a Student
Being a student is a large portion of everyone's life, beginning somewhere around age five and ending anywhere between age sixteen and old age. Learning and going to school is fundamental in the growth process of every person. It is not only important to a person's growth of knowledge, but to their social skills and cognitive development as well. The process cognitive development, or mental development, includes the concept of self-image. Self-image is a broad subject and has been studied in all of its facets. In fact, one could say that self-image is one of the "most investigated constructs in psychology" (Bybee and Zigler, 1991). This essay will examine and relate three different studies on self-image all dealing with the development of self-concept through being a student and suggest that further research be conducted concerning the cognitive development theory and self-image.
Self Discoveries Through Learning
Insecurity and being a student often go hand in hand. Each time a student is in a classroom, he/she is going to risk error and often disapproval or punishment. In other words the student is risking his/her self-esteem. Donald G. Tritt (1991) examines the theory that much of our self-esteem comes from being a student and our view of ourselves as learners. He has found that through the learning process we continually make discoveries about ourselves, which in turn, aid us in creating our self-image. Early on in education students develop an image of where their strong and weak academic points are. This knowledge can either help or hinder the student in later years. If early on, a student believes that he/she is not productive in a certain area of study, then he/she will consequently not perform well in that area due to his/her low self-esteem. As students move on to upper level education, they discover the best ways to learn and therefore become confident as learners as well as confident as people. According to Tritt, students must find their best individual ways of learning in order to develop good self-esteem. A student must also never become accustomed to monotonous patterns of learning, but always keep their minds open to new ways of learning. Tritt emphasizes that a student must use his/her "own experiences as a learner into cognitions about self as learner" (1991). Developing self-image through experience as a learner allows for a flexible, yet solid self-concept.
Real vs. Ideal Self-Image
As stated earlier, self-image is a broad concept and therefore can include different types of self-image. For example, every person has a real and an ideal self-image. Disparity between the two may result in a high pre-disposition for guilt and low self-esteem according to Jane Bybee and Edward Zigler (1991). Controversy exists over whether real and ideal disparity is a normal sign of development or a signal of maladjustment. Bybee and Zigler (1991) examine real and ideal self-image disparity in terms of the cognitive-development formulation which states that increasing disparity between the two selves is a normal part of growth and development. They conducted a study on public school students between the fifth and eleventh grades. Some of the students were normal intellectually and others were above average intellectually.
The results of the study concerning real and ideal self-image disparity show that those with a significantly higher ideal self-image had a greater predisposition for guilt with the brighter group of students showing the highest disparity between the two selves. This finding supports Tritt's point that self-image is attained through viewing the self as a learner because the bright students put tremendous pressure on themselves to succeed resulting in an ideal self-concept that may be out of reach and therefore cause feelings of guilt when the ideal image is not attained.
Self-esteem and Goal Choice
Another study that is closely related to Bybee and Zigler's is the effects of self-image on student's goal choices. Paul Levy and Ann Baumgardner (1991) conducted their study based on similar principles of the cognitive development theory. These researchers suggest that students base their goal choices on two factors: past performance (real self-esteem) and the need to increase their self-esteem. They theorize that students with high self-esteem will choose more difficult goals than those with low self-esteem because those with high self-esteem have experienced more successes in their life and expect to achieve goals more easily. Levy and Baumgardner conducted their self-image study on two hundred college students.
The results of this study strongly confirmed the prediction that high self-esteem individuals choose more difficult goals. It also revealed that low-esteem individuals accredit their successes to luck rather than ability while the opposite is true for high-esteem individuals. Levy and Baumgardner's study expresses the importance of attaining a good self-image because high self-esteem leads to harder goal choice which ultimately leads to better performance. The goal choice study ties in with the real vs. ideal self-image study by showing the importance of the real self-image. As previously stated, a bright student may put too much pressure on him/herself resulting in a ideal self-image that is too high. The goal choice study emphasizes the importance of keeping the ideal image under control while having a solid real self-image.
Self-image is a universal concept and will always be researched, especially in psychology. The concept of attaining self-image through being a student is worthy of further research. For instance, concerning the cognitive development theory; is there a certain age when our ideal self-image is supposed to be significantly higher than our real? If so, the studies examined in this essay would suggest that younger students (those in fifth through eleventh grade) have a higher ideal self-image, while students at a college level seem to have their ideal image in check and focus more on the real self-image. Patterns such as this may be guidelines for future research.
Bybee, Jane A., and Zigler, Edward. (1991). Self-image and guilt: A further test of the cognitive-development formulation. Journal of Personality, 59, 734-743.
Levy, Paul E. and Baumgardner, Ann H. (1991). Effects of self-esteem and gender on goal choice. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 12, 529-541.
Tritt, Donald G. (1991). Cognitions of self as learner: A necessary objective in experiential education. Psychological Reports, 69, 591-598.
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