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CHAPTER 2: The Emerging Self and Social Learning Theory
Detailed Outline Terms/Concepts/
Print & Media
Self-concept structure as
the blueprint development
• Hamachek (1992)
• Purkey (1970, 1978)
Definition • Structure •
Self-structure and cultural
• Allport (1955); Combs (1978);
Hamachek (1992); Jourard
(1968); Kelly (1955); Mead
(1934); Purkey (1970), Rogers
Exercise 2.1 Recalling
Figures 2.1, 2.2, 2.3
Altering the self-concept
Ecstatic and Traumatic
events • Interventions •
Repeated life events
• Purkey (1970); Purkey &
Exercise 2.2 Examining
Exercise 2.3 An ecstatic
PowerPoint Slide #6
Stability of self-concept • sub-selves, • internal frame of
reference, • external views
PowerPoint Slide #7
Chickering (1969); Erikson
(1968); Kohl-berg (1976);
and social learning
Social cognition learning
model • Social learning
Vygotsky (1962, 1968);
Bandura (1971, 1986, 1997,
• self-talk • zone of proximal
Curra (2000); Gibbs (2003);
Exercise. 2.4 “Positive
Violence and abuse
Homicide • Suicide •
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Substance abuse SAMHSA, 2003
Technology and selfdevelopment
• digital divide Exercise. 2.6 “Alone
with my technology”
Counseling Inferences • awareness and understanding
of learning processes, • client
social learning, • the helper’s
own learning, • the client’s
subsequent self-identity and
The Emerging Self and Social Learning Theory
1) Learn about the structure proposed by self-concept theory and how self-concept
development interacts with social and cultural influences.
2) Learn about the types of events and experiences that might alter self-concept
3) Revisit social learning theories to understand how they relate to self-concept
development and enculturation.
4) Relate self-concept development with worldview.
5) Understand deviant behavior in the context of self-development and cultural influences.
6) Learn about particular social and cultural phenomena and their relationship to the
emerging self, including different forms of violence and abuse, educational development,
and new technology.
This chapter explores self-concept theory and the influence of society and culture in human
development. The hypothesis is that, while society and culture play a prominent role in a
person’s development, it is the emerging self-concept, interacting with particular social and
cultural influences, that filters experiences, information, traditions, and knowledge, and
structures them into a distinctive view of self and the world. Self-concept theory explains the
structure and stability of this construct while social learning theories, explain the behavioral and
cognitive processes involved in its construction.
This chapter considers ways that self-concept changes during a person’s lifetime, and relates
these events to social and cultural factors that frequently play mitigating roles in the process of
growth and development. Ways of altering the self-concept explored in the chapter are: Ecstatic
and traumatic events, self-determination, intervention (such as counseling), and repeated positive
or negative life events
For counselors and other helpers, a few fundamental teachings about self-concept that are
essential. First and foremost is that the self-concept is just that, a theory. It is not something
clients show us. As a theory, self-concept is most helpful in allowing counselors and clients to
construct assumptions about influential beliefs and values, explore self-talk that might be
inhibiting development, and gain general understanding of how clients view themselves and the
world around them. From this exploration, clients then choose aspects of their self-views they
want to change in making life decisions.
Another inference from the teachings about self-concept is that, although they can change, selfviews, particularly as related to personality, remain relatively stable over a lifetime. Counselors
and clients can focus on changing behaviors that might ultimately bring about different selfviews. New behaviors might be selected and incorporated expeditiously, but any adjustment to
self-concept will usually take time.
Counselors and human service providers also understand the powerful influence they have in
establishing an effective helping relationship with clients. How they use that power while
respecting the social and cultural background and experiences of each client is the hallmark of
ethical and professional practice. Perhaps most importantly, successful professionals take time to
learn about and understand their own self-views. Helping people examine and explore their
perceptions about themselves and the world is best facilitated by counselors and other
professionals who willingly engage in their own self-reflection for the purpose of identifying
behaviors, views, and values that might inhibit their performance and helpfulness.
This chapter also introduces different theories of social learning and relates them to selfdevelopment. The theoretical development and research in the social learning theory and selfdevelopment provide knowledge of possible processes by which people construct self-views. The
inferences of this knowledge for professional helpers touch on four areas of awareness and
understanding: (a) awareness of learning processes, (b) understanding of the client’s social
learning, (c) awareness of the helper’s own learning, and (d) awareness of the client’s subsequent
self-identity and worldview.
Final sections of this chapter present several social aspects that have an impact on individual
development as well as how people function in families and society. Brief treatments about
deviancy, violence and abuse, substance abuse, education, and new technology are presented.
Few professionals are equipped or prepared to handle any or all issues that clients might bring to
helping relationships. For this reason, training in specialized areas is important, as is appreciation
of one’s limitations as a helping professional. Certain deviant, violent, and abusive behaviors
demand knowledge and practice beyond the usual preparation required to help with normal
When working with clients who exhibit behaviors or face challenges related to any of the
variables presented in this chapter, successful counselors and human service providers learn
about family and cultural background to help clients work through issues within an appropriate
context. Ignoring ethnic or cultural factors places the helper at risk of encapsulation, which
inhibits empathic understanding and limits the likelihood of successful helping relationships.
EXERCISES, RATIONALE, AND DISCUSSION POINTS
Think of a time in your life when you had an experience or an event occur that you seriously
considered, but ultimately rejected. What perceptions allowed you to consider this opportunity,
yet other strongly held views guided you not to accept it into your worldview? If you had the
same experience today, would the outcome be different? If so, how? Share your thoughts with
classmates or colleagues, and ask them to share a similar experience.
RATIONALE: By examining real life events and experiences that were ultimately rejected helps
students understand the dynamics of self-concept development.
DISCUSSION POINTS: How many students rejected positive or beneficial experiences that
could have enhanced their development?
Think of a behavior or belief that you hold about yourself that is unflattering, demeaning, or
otherwise unhelpful to you. Write the belief down in your own words. Now think about it. What
is it about this belief that encourages you to hold on to it? What would you have to do, or what
would have to happen, to alter this belief?
RATIONALE: Continuing the process of self-exploration begun in Exercise 2.1.
DISCUSSION POINT: See how many students look to others in their lives to make things
happen, rather than themselves.
Think of an event in your life that you would describe as ecstatic or joyous. Recall the event in as
much detail as possible and recount it to a friend or classmate. As you reflect on this event, what
impact do you think it had on your self-views at that time in your life? If there were significant
changes in how you viewed yourself or others, have you sustained these perceptions?
RATIONALE: This exercise gives students an opportunity to reflect about a particular important
experience in their life.
Instructions: Review the list below and identify names about which you have some knowledge.
Based on that knowledge, decide whether you could appropriately label the person as a positive
deviant. Form a rationale for each decision and share with a classmate.
Person Positive Deviant?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Dalai Lama
RATIONALE: Explores the concept of positive deviancy.
DISCUSSION POINT: In doing this exercise with your class, you might find differences of
opinion about some of the prominent figures, and whether their deviancy was truly positive.
Instructions: Review the list of behaviors and decide whether each is criminal (destructive) or
cultural (individual) in nature. Leave blank any you cannot label. Share your responses with the
Behavior Criminal, Destructive, Cultural, or Individual
Dressing in sexually provocative ways
Robbing a bank
Protesting at a political rally
Stealing food from a grocery
Wearing culturally authentic clothes
Using profanity in public
Worshiping in public places
Preaching on a street corner
Looking down when talking to someone
Changing religious affiliation
Having extramarital affairs
Marrying more than one spouse
Children sleeping in same bed with parents
Driving over the speed limit
Hitting a child for discipline/punishment
Hitting a spouse for discipline/punishment
Not worshiping at a mosque, synagogue, or church
Boycotting a popular product
Running away from home
Achieving the highest academic goals
Dropping out of school
Being sexual active as a single adult
Being sexually active as an adolescent
RATIONALE: Continued exploration of deviancy, positive and otherwise.
“Alone with My Technology”
Instructions: Keep a log for the next two weeks. On your log, record the time you spend alone or
with one other person doing the activities listed. Total the time, and compare results with
Activity Total Time
Listening to music
Doing school/job-related work on computer
Surfing the Internet
Talking on the phone
Playing on the computer
Watching videos or DVDs
Total Combined Time
THE EMERGING SELF AND
• Self-concept, or self-view, is the blueprint to a
• Countless perceptions result in unique understanding
of oneself and the surrounding world.
• An unconscious process of constructing a self-identity
• Common to human development across societies and
Structure of Self-Concept
• An orderly structure that provides harmony and
concurrence among the limitless perceptions a
person accumulates to form a self-view and
ultimately a unique worldview.
• Purkey’s (1970) illustration of the self-concept as a
large spiral made up of a core (center) and infinite
RATIONALE: Technology will continue to be a tremendous influence on individual development
and on interactions by people of diverse cultures.
DISCUSSION POINT: What do students think about the amount of time they spend by
themselves interacting with others or with objects on the Internet?
Students will prepare an ethno-biography to assist in personal-cultural development, provide
opportunity to become acquainted with the diversity of class members, and facilitate in building
respect for differences in people and clients in the future. The biography could include the
following: 1) student’s name, 2) why the student’s parents gave that particular name, 3) what
growing up was like, 4) family’s educational background, 5) greatest successes, 6) notable
failures/setbacks, 7) ways the student feels different, 8) overall implications for the student’s
work in the helping professions, and 9) other pertinent information the student wishes to include.
On completion of their ethno-biography, students will share pertinent facts and feelings about
doing this assignment in class discussion. Students must retain the right to share or not share
information of their choosing.
Slide 1 Slide 2
Slide 3 Slide 4
• A person’s perceptions and subsequent construction of
a self-concept are processes and products influenced
by family, society, and culture.
• Several identity constructs: gender, race, social class,
• In addition: biological factors.
Self-Structure and Cultural Influence
Altering the Self-Concept
• Self-views are dynamic and fluid within the structure of the
• The link between self-concept and behavior is not a causal
• The self-concept serves as a guidance system, perhaps a
compass, which helps people choose goals in life.
If people strive to maintain the self-concept, yet at the same
time want to alter aspects of its organization, the challenge for
counselors and other helpers is to understand how self-views
Ecstatic Events; Traumatic Events; Intervention;
Self-Determination; Repeated Life Events
Stability of Self-Concept
• Self-concept is a stable structure that perpetuates
• Counselors and human service providers who work
with diverse clients understand the stability of the selfconcept because they appreciate the consistency that
comes from an internal frame of reference.
• Understanding the difference between an external
assessment and an internal point of view is particularly
important when helping people who are from different
cultural and social backgrounds, or who have belief
systems contrary to the helper.
Social Cognition Learning Model
Vygotsky (1935/1978, 1962) attempted to develop a theory of
cognitive development with particular relevance to an everchanging society, the impact of culture on human development,
and practical implications for education and learning.
Three basic premises set the foundation for his theory: (1) the
significant role a person’s culture plays in the process of human
development. (2) the central role of language in human
development, (3) the zone of proximal development(Vygostsky,
1935/1978). This idea focuses on what children are capable of doing
on their own in comparison to what they are able to do with help
Social Learning Theory
Learning often takes place through observation without any
identifiable or direct reinforcement. Furthermore, learning through
modeling does not necessarily result in behavior change
Sometimes, learning through modeling simply is integrated into a
person’s pattern of cognitive functioning (i.e., into the
construction of self-concept).
During the past decades of social learning research, theorists have
placed increased emphasis on the role cognition plays in the
understanding and interpretation of human learning and behavior.
This makes particular sense when considering cultural learning
and the integration of cultural traditions and beliefs into a person’s
Slide 5 Slide 6
Slide 7 Slide 8
Slide 9 Slide 10
SAMPLE TEST QUESTIONS
___b__1. In theory, the self-concept is relatively stable because
a. the sub-selves (inner perceptions) are stationary
b. to be otherwise, would create inconsistent and chaotic personalities
c. cultural and social influences are so powerful
d. of enculturation processes.
___b__ 2. Altering the self-concept
a. is impossible with the exception of horrific events
b. occurs through several processes, including ecstatic and traumatic events, interventions,
self-determination, and repeated life experiences.
c. is usually a fairly quick and simple process if the right behavioral strategies are used
d. all of the above.
___a__3. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development focuses on
a. what children are capable of doing on their own in comparison to what they are able to
do with help from others.
b. the theoretical distance between a child’s self (the core) and beliefs about family.
c. parents who are divorced and the distance between where they live
d. the similarity between a person’s self-view and worldview.
___d__4. Bandura’s theory of social learning helps explain
a. the minimal role that family plays on self-development
b. why conformity is the key to personal success
c. the value of individualism over collectivism
d. the importance of modeling and reinforcement in learning culturally acceptable
___c__5. Positive deviancy is a term used by some authorities to
a. make light of conservative social values
b. diminish the importance of social and cultural values
c. explain activism and noble behaviors that appear contrary to social norms
d. explain how psychopathic personalities give meaning to life.
6. How does self-concept theory and perceptual psychology help us explain the differences that
occur among children from the same family? Same culture?
7. Relate self-efficacy to self-concept development.
8. Using the concept of positive deviancy, do some criminal acts take on different meaning?
What factors help us distinguish between criminal behavior and positive deviancy?