Interrelationship of Self-Perceptions Culturally-Based Perceptions Impressions and Term Paper

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Interrelationship of Self-Perceptions, Culturally-Based Perceptions, Impressions, and their effects on Leadership Abilities

Humans have the most highly organized social structure of any creature on earth. In an attempt to ascertain our relative position in a complex social hierarchy, we constantly evaluate and re-evaluate ourselves. We do this by comparing ourselves to other human beings. We use this information to establish our opinions of ourselves, the various social groups to which we belong and our opinions of others. We belong to many social groups, our family, our group of friends at school, a community and a culture that includes our ethnic backgrounds. We must make decisions about our place in each of these groups. These opinions constitute what we think of ourselves, and gives us our self-esteem, or self-worth.

Our attitudes and beliefs regarding ourselves and others effect our ability to learn our acceptance of subordination to authority figures and our ability to achieve a goal. Many studies have focused on how our beliefs about others and ourselves develop. Other studies have focused on how these beliefs effect our ability to perform a task. Many factors effect these beliefs, and this has been another entire group of studies. The following research will integrate this information and discuss the interrelationship of these many factors concerning how we form our perceptions of ourselves and others in hopes of gaining synthesis of the many studies and theories concerning this topic. This will be accomplished through a review and critique of past research on the various subject areas.

Culture and Perception

Everyone on earth belongs to a culture, with which they identify. This culture is the largest social group to which we belong. A culture is defined as a set of rules that govern a particular people. Within this groups are the many families and subgroups that make up the larger whole. The most major defining attributes that define a particular culture are the foods that it eats, the clothes that it wears, certain manners of etiquette to which it adheres, and certain holidays or special days that have a prescribed ritual shared by everyone in that group. Within in a culture there is usually a formal hierarchy, which in some cases may be strictly defined.

Even in cases of ethnic mixing, Culture is still the highest social group that we use to define ourselves and make comparisons. In cases of a mixed ancestry often the person will pick one culture, with which they most identify and discard all or part of the other culture. Sometimes they will pick elements of both cultures and combine them in their own unique way. This can form into a new culture if there are a sufficient number of people in this situation, or may fade away after the person is gone and leave the two individual cultures.

This discussion of culture is important it is important to understand this concept, because culture is the largest group to which we belong. We decide if we fit into a culture by making comparisons between ourselves and other members of that group. We compare many attributes to make this decision. We may compare physical attributes, emotional responses to certain situations and attitudes and feelings to make these decisions. We then act and dress to emulate the others of that groups, reinforcing in ourselves and others that we are a member of that groups. It may be mentioned at this point that American Pop Culture is one of the largest cultural groups worldwide and media images dictate how millions act and dress in order to "fit in."

There is not one human being on earth that is not a member of one culture or another. A child's development is effected most profoundly by the attitudes and norms of those around it in the formative years. This leads us to the social cognition model of development. Social cognition simply means the learned way of thinking that a child inherits from the environment in which it is raised.

We adapt intellectually to our environment The child adapts to his/her environment by responding to stimulus provided by the parents and siblings. The child then finds praise or negative response for their reactions. They then adapt their behavior accordingly the next time. This eventually forms a set of rules that the child uses to elicit the desired response from those around them. This is how social cognition develops. By this definition, social cognition is simply that knowledge that comes from a person's particular group.

As was stated before, we make comparisons between our selves and others to establish our opinions about ourselves and those around us. When we do not fit the idealized mold of what we expect of ourselves, it can cause low self-esteem, and can effect how we perceive others who more closely fit the culture in which we are trying to judge them. Social cognition gives us a set of categories by which to judge others and ourselves. In a high school setting there are often sub-cultures and categories, all of which have a prescribed expectation of how they dress and how they act. There is the "brainy" group, the "nerd group," the "beauty queen" group, and the "athletic superstar" group for example and everyone compares themselves to the various groups to find out where they fit into the puzzle.

When a person feels that they do not belong to a group, or the group to which they feel they belong is undesirable to them, it can lead to social adaptation problems, low self-esteem, and teen-age depression. The teen years are the most sensitive as far as social cognition theories are concerned. Problems that occur in this stage can have lasting effects long into adulthood. This summarizes the work performed by Bugenthal, et al., (1993) concerning these various categories and how they define the way we will respond when we meet a social challenge. In their work they found that when faced with a social challenge, a situation that does not follow that prescribed set of rules, various cultures and subcultural attributes would largely define individual responses. Lackey et al., (1996) found that these social norms also had an effect on how a person perceived their level of support when facing a crisis.

Lackey et al. (1996) and others have determined that social support has a profound effect on a person's ability to overcome stress and to adapt to new situations> it has been found to be an important element in the success of medical treatments and in the overall health of people. We seek this social support from those around us. Therefor those who do not have a culture to which they feel a connection will not have a perception of a great amount of social support and this in turn can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. It is known that social support is critical in making person have a desire to recover from a disease and that they indeed do have a better outcome when recovering from a disease.

Social norms and attitudes towards others may not always be accurate and may lead to unrealistic perceptions of other people. These false perceptions are called stereotypes and cause us to make inaccurate categorizations of others based on false information. Kreuger and his many associates through the years, studied these effect in-groups, and termed these stereotypes as "false consensus." By the term "false" consensus, they mean that the perception that they are a member of this groups is false. There is actually no consensus of the group. They found that false consensus was a powerful phenomenon Krueger and Clement (1994), and often overrode logic in many cases.

The consensus view of stereotypes and social norms states that we compare our attitudes and beliefs to those of others. When they match, then the person feels that their own values and beliefs are validated and justified and that they are therefore correct. This leads to a feeling of self-esteem. It has been found that individuals are more likely to engage in false consensus in order to boost their own self-esteem. A real-world example of this is when low-self-esteem boys become gang members in order to make themselves feel a part of a group, when in reality they are nothing like them. This false belief that they are like the other gang members raises their self-esteem because it gives them a justification for their belief system by comparison. The inability to find a group in which to justify a person's belief system leads to low self-esteem. We, as humans must find a place where we "belong."

Work on false consensus between member in-groups and outgrips was conducted by Krueger & Zieger, (1993). Ingroup referred to the group with which the individual identified, whereas outgroup referred to those outside the individual's group. Kruger and Zieger's research confirmed and synthesized past studies regarding this phenomenon. Kruger and Zeiger found that even when a person's beliefs outside of their group was proven false, they still did not…[continue]

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