The Self-concept


The self-concept is a difficult term to define, yet, in contemporary psychology it is becoming a most important construct in the explanation of human behaviour. It is difficult to define because a wide range of hyphenated terms using ‘self’ as an adjective have been employed to designate sometimes the same aspect and at other times different aspects of behaviour. In other words, a wide range of ‘self’ terms have been used by psychologists in inconsistent and ambiguous ways. Other ‘self’ terms that are often used synonymously with self-concept are self-esteem, self-attitudes, self-image and self-acceptance. The self-concept is promoted in this chapter as the set of attitudes a person holds towards himself. It is an important concept because, of all the reasons for the current surge of interest in the study of human behaviour, none is more compelling than the desire of individuals to know more about themselves, to understand what makes them tick. The psychologists’ construct of the self-concept is the operational approach to the perennial philosophical question “Who am I?”. We have all asked ourselves this question many times, and, while sometimes we feel we really do know who we are, there are times when we have felt confused and at a loss to determine the issue. We can be quite shocked to discover that other people may not agree with our self-perceptions. Occasionally we learn things about ourselves that we never thought were there — as when we give vent to a fit of anger or consider deceiving the Inland Revenue in our tax returns.


Body Image Handicapped Child Bright Student Essential Psychology Inland Revenue 
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Further Reading

  1. Burns, R.B. (1979). The Self Concept. (London: Longmans)Google Scholar
  2. Burns, R.B. (1982). Self Concept Development and Education. (London: Cassell)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

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