McGill University, Montreal (QC), Canada
COGNITION AND SELF-WITH-OTHER:
MY ADVISOR AND THE POPE ARE WATCHING ME FROM THE BACK OF MY MIND
One of the grand ideas of psychology is that the sense of self is constructed largely in relation to other. I will outline a social cognitive perspective on this principle, focusing on the cognitive representation and activation of relational knowledge. Through a consideration of self-evaluative thoughts and feelings, I will examine the process whereby relational schemas become activated to create a 'private audience' that shapes self-construal. I will outline a range of methodologies, each tailored to address a specific theoretical question. The issue of multiple selves and their links to multiple audiences, for example, is addressed in studies using priming manipulations in which subtly reminding an individual of a particular significant other leads to a shift in self-construal. The issue of cognitive structure is addressed in studies examining the spread of activation across associative links between concepts, as revealed in patterns of reaction times to experimental stimuli. I end with a discussion of the potential for integrating the social cognition of the dialogical self with basic principles of learning theory, and report studies in which conditioning paradigms have been used to modify the activation of relational knowledge and thereby ameliorate the self-critical tendencies of some individuals.