The Reflected Self: Creating Yourself as (You Think) Others See You

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Denise likes to paint but doesn't think of herself as a very good painter. Because her family often jokes about her paintings, she believes that they don't think she is very good, either. One day Denise's rabbi asks her to paint a mural for the synagogue wall. Denise is surprised when the rabbi tells her, "We all think you are a terrific painter. Your father and sisters brag about you all the time." When Denise realizes that her family and friends think she is a good painter, she changes her view of herself and starts to think of herself as artistically talented.

This example demonstrates the reflected self—the idea that people come to see themselves as they believe others see them. Early psychologists and sociologists felt that the self was built on just such reflected appraisals (e.g., Cooley, 1902; James, 1890; Mead, 1934). In keeping with this long tradition, most researchers of the self have acknowledged the importance of social processes in constructing and modifying the self-concept (eg., Baumeister, 1982, 1986; Goffman, 1959; Gollwitzer, 1986; Rhodewalt, 1986; Schlenker, 1986; Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1982).


Mark R. Leary & June Price Tangney


Guilford Press


New York



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Handbook of Self and Identity

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