What Is Self-Knowledge in Psychology? Examples & Theories - Deepstash
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Self-knowledge in psychology

Self-knowledge in psychology

In psychology, self-knowledge is accurate information one possesses about oneself.

This includes knowledge about our emotional state, personality traits, relationships, opinions, beliefs, values, needs, goals, preferences, social identity and behavioural patterns.

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Sources that contribute to self-knowledge

  • The physical world. It is limited to physical information about ourselves such as height and weight.
  • Social comparisons with others who are better off and worse off than us.
  • Reflected appraisals. We see ourselves reflected through others evaluations of us.
  • Introspection. Noticing our own thoughts, feelings, motives, and desires.
  • Self-perception through observing and examining our own behaviour.
  • A rational analysis of our negative thought processes through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness techniques to help assess our emotional intelligence skills.

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The benefits of self-knowledge

  • Knowing oneself helps with realistic decision-making, such as life partner choices, education and career, and where to live.
  • It helps to form our understanding of others.
  • It helps to make sense of experiences.
  • It helps with proactive responses instead of reactivity.
  • It is important for encouraging positive change.

A lack of self-knowledge leads to over-estimation of one's strengths, which can cause lower life satisfaction.

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Use self-knowledge for self-mastery

  • Self-knowledge includes honest self-assessment that can lead to positive changes.
  • Self-knowledge leads to a meaningful narrative of our lives and a sense of continuity.
  • Knowing ourselves helps us live consistent and fulfilling lives, help to understand our basic motivations, and enable us to control our emotions. 

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Psychosocial domains

  • Blind spots. These are unconscious processes that prevent us from self-knowledge.
  • Self-deception. In this state, we believe our wishful thinking.
  • Conflict triggers. These are others' words or actions that are perceived as offensive and create conflict.

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Self-knowledge vs self-awareness

Self-knowledge is information about subjective tendencies, for example, our emotional state or behavioural patterns.

Self-awareness is awareness about our moods or thoughts about that mood. It is the path toward self-knowledge.

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Self-knowledge, self-identity, and self-concept

  • Sheldon Stryker states that identity is a part of one's self that is evoked while interacting with other people.
  • Self-concept is the image we develop about ourselves. It may or may not be based on reality.
  • Self-knowledge comes from a variety of sources, such as external evidence.
  • Low self-esteem is associated with a lack of clarity, stability, and consistency of the self-concept.

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Six theories about self-knowledge

  1. Unmediated observation model - We get self-knowledge through our thoughts, separate from outside knowledge.
  2. Transparency model - Reflecting and then deciding for yourself about the state of the world.
  3. Social constructionism - understanding ourselves and the world through the use of language to produce a shared reality.
  4. "Looking-glass self" - our self-knowledge is developed through interactions with others.
  5. Narrative self - using explanations and interpretation to create a basis of reality.
  6. Self-perception theory - people learn about themselves by noticing behaviour and reaching conclusions.

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