The Role of Self-Relevant Information in Individuals’ Representations of the Self
Introduction. This paper discusses the role of self-relevant information in individuals’ representations of the self. Self-relevant information is defined here as a type of social information that contains such data about an individual as other people’s opinions, judgements, and attitudes about that person. Critical assessment of the existing knowledge on the relationship between self-relevant information and individuals’ representations of the self shows its insufficiency, especially concerning Russian samples. This paper: (a) considers various concepts of individuals’ perception of self-relevant information, (b) focuses on the known properties of self-relevant information, and (c) describes the procedure and results of an empirical study of the relationship between self-relevant information and individuals’ representations of the self.
Methods. The authors undertook a socio-psychological experiment that employed standardized self-reports and interviews as the means for data collection. Content analysis and repeated measures ANOVA were the data processing methods. The sample consisted of 129 individual participants with a mean age of 19.3 years, 49 % of whom were men.
Results. The respondents perceived social information as self-relevant if it contained a) direct or indirect reference to them; b) information important for their actions and meeting their needs; and c) references to social objects associated with them. The study showed that self-relevant information affects individuals’ self-appraisal and the accuracy of their representations of the self. Negative self-relevant information encourages individuals to seek new social information and to verify it by social comparison.
Discussion. This study, carried out on the Russian sample, enriches our knowledge of individuals’ perception of self-relevant information and our understanding of how self-relevant information may lead to distorting individuals’ representations of the self. The findings offer some criteria for distinguishing self-relevant information from the irrelevant one. The results can be used to further study social identity transformations among participants of Internet communities and to assess threats of online communications in different age groups.
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