Self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to an objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, etc.), but also items that have been learned by persons about themselves, either from personal experiences by internalizing the judgments of others. Self-image may consist of six types: # Self-image resulting from how an individual sees oneself. # Self-image resulting from how others see the individual. # Self-image resulting from how the individual perceives the individual sees oneself. # Self-image resulting from how the individual perceives how others see the individual. # Self-image resulting from how others perceive how the individual sees oneself. # Self-image resulting from how others perceive how others see the individual. These six types may or may not be an accurate representation of the person. All, some, or none of them may be true. A more technical term for self-image that is commonly used by social and cognitive psychologists is
self-schema The self-schema refers to a long lasting and stable set of memories that summarize a person's beliefs A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistem ...
. Like any
schema The word schema comes from the Greek word ('), which means ''shape'', or more generally, ''plan''. The plural is ('). In English, both ''schemas'' and ''schemata'' are used as plural forms. Schema may refer to: Science and technology * SCHEMA ...
, self-schemas store information and influence the way we think and remember. For example, research indicates that information which refers to the self is preferentially encoded and recalled in memory tests, a phenomenon known as " self-referential encoding". Self-schemas are also considered the traits people use to define themselves, they draw information about the self into a coherent scheme.

Poor self-image

Poor self-image may be the result of accumulated criticisms that the person collected as a child which have led to damaging their own view of themselves. Children in particular are vulnerable to accepting negative judgments from authority figures because they have yet to develop competency in evaluating such reports. Also, adolescents are highly targeted to suffer from poor body-image issues. Individuals who already exhibit a low sense of self-worth may be vulnerable to develop social disorders. Negative self-images can arise from a variety of factors. A prominent factor, however, is personality type. Perfectionists, high achievers and those with " type A" personalities seem to be prone to having negative self-images. This is because such people constantly set the standard for success high above a reasonable, attainable level. Thus, they are constantly disappointed in this "failure." Another factor that contributes to a negative self-image is the beauty values of the society in which a person lives. In the American society, a popular beauty ideal is a slimness. Oftentimes, girls believe that they do not measure up to society's "thin" standards, which leads to their having a negative self-image.^


When people are in the position of evaluating others, self-image maintenance processes can lead to a more negative evaluation depending on the self-image of the evaluator. That is to say stereotyping and prejudice may be the way individuals maintain their self-image. When individuals evaluate a member of a stereotyped group, they are less likely to evaluate that person negatively if their self-images had been bolstered through a self-affirmation procedure, and they are more likely to evaluate that person stereotypically if their self-images have been threatened by negative feedback. Individuals may restore their self-esteem by derogating the member of a stereotyped group. Fein and Spencer (1997) conducted a study on Self-image Maintenance and Discriminatory Behavior. This study showed evidence that increased prejudice can result from a person's need to redeem a threatened positive perception of the self. The aim of the study was to test whether a particular threat to the self would instigate increased stereotyping and lead to actual discriminatory behavior or tendencies towards a member of a "''negatively''" stereotyped group. The study began when Fein and Spencer gave participants an ostensible test of intelligence. Some of them received negative feedback, and others, positive and supportive feedback. In the second half of the experiment, the participants were asked to evaluate another person who either belonged to a ''negatively stereotyped group'', or one who did not. The results of the experiment showed that the participants who had previously received unfavorable comments on their test, evaluated the target of the ''negatively stereotyped group'' in a more antagonistic or opposing way, than the participants who were given excellent reports on their intelligence test. They suggested that the negative feedback on the test threatened the participants' self-image and they evaluated the target in a more negative manner, all in efforts to restore their own self-esteem. A present study extends the studies of Fein and Spencer in which the principal behavior examined was avoidance behavior. In the study, Macrae et al. (2004) found that participants that had a salient negative stereotype of "skinheads" attached, physically placed themselves further from a skinhead target compared to those in which the stereotype was not as apparent. Therefore, greater salience of a negative stereotype led participants to show more stereotype-consistent behavior towards the target.


Residual self-image is the concept that individuals tend to think of
themselves Themselves, previously known as Them, is an American hip hop duo based in Oakland, California. It consists of Doseone and Jel. They are also part of Subtle (band), Subtle and 13 & God. The duo's first studio album, ''Them (Themselves album), Them' ...
as projecting a certain
physical appearance Human physical appearance is the outward phenotype right , Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for the character of petal color in pea plants. The letters B and b represent genes for color ...
, or certain position of social entitlement, or lack thereof. The term was used at least as early as 1968, but was popularized in fiction by the ''Matrix'' series, where persons who existed in a digitally created world would subconsciously maintain the physical appearance that they had become accustomed to projecting.


Victims of
abuse Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm ...

manipulation Manipulation may refer to: As underhand influence *Psychological manipulation **Crowd manipulation *Data manipulation *Media manipulation *Internet manipulation *Market manipulation In a physical context *Card manipulation *Coin manipulation *Hat ...
often get trapped into a self-image of
victimisation Victimisation ( or victimization) is the process of being victimised or becoming a victim Victim may refer to: Films and television * ''The Victim'' (1916 film), an American silent film by the Fox Film Corporation starring vamp Valeska Suratt * ...
. The psychological profile of victimisation includes a pervasive sense of helplessness, passivity, loss of control,
pessimism Pessimism is a negative mental attitude in which an undesirable outcome is anticipated from a given situation. Pessimists tend to focus on the negatives of life in general. A common question asked to test for pessimism is "Is the glass half empty or ...

, negative thinking, strong feelings of self-guilt,
shame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness. Definition Shame is a discr ...

self-blame Blame is the act of censuring A censure is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism. In parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, Procedural law, rules, and Norm (sociology), customs governing meetin ...
depression Depression may refer to: Mental health * Depression (mood), a state of low mood and aversion to activity * Mood disorders characterized by depression are commonly referred to as simply ''depression'', including: ** Dysthymia ** Major depressive ...
. This way of thinking can lead to hopelessness and despair.

Children's disparity

Self-image disparity was found to be positively related to chronological age (CA) and intelligence. Two factors thought to increase concomitantly with maturity were capacity for guilt and ability for cognitive differentiation. However, males had larger self-image disparities than females, Caucasians had larger disparities and higher ideal self-images than African Americans, and socioeconomic status (SES) affected self-images differentially for the 2nd and 5th graders.


A child's self-awareness of who they are differentiates into three categories around the age of five: their social self, academic persona, and physical attributes. Several ways to strengthen a child's self-image include communication, reassurance, support of hobbies, and finding good role models.

Evolved awareness in mirror

When does a child become aware that the image in a mirror is their own? Research was done on 88 children between 3 and 24 months. Their behaviors were observed before a mirror. The results indicated that children's awareness of self-image followed three major age-related sequences: * From about 6 through 12 months of age, the first prolonged and repeated reaction of an infant to their mirror image is that of a sociable “playmate”. * In the second year of life, wariness and withdrawal appeared; self-admiring and embarrassed behavior accompanied those avoidance behaviors starting at 14 months, and was shown by 75% of the subjects after 20 months of age. * During the last part of the second year of life, from 20 to 24 months of age, 65% of the subjects demonstrated recognition of their mirror images.

Physical activity

Regular practice of endurance exercise was related to a more favourable body-image. There was a strong association between participation in sports and the type of personality that tends to be resistant to drug and alcohol addiction. Physical exercise was further significantly related to scores for physical and psychological well-being. Adolescents who engaged regularly in physical activity were characterised by lower anxiety-depression scores, and displayed much less social behavioural inhibition than their less active counterparts. It is likely that discussion of recreational or exercise involvement may provide a useful point of entry for facilitating dialogue among adolescents about concerns relating to body image and self-esteem. In terms of psychotherapeutic applications, physical activity has many additional rewards for adolescents. It is probable that by promoting physical fitness, increased physical performance, lessening body mass and promoting a more favourable body shape and structure, exercise will provide more positive social feedback and recognition from peer groups, and this will subsequently lead to improvement in an individual's self-image.

Automatic activation of stereotypes and threat

Does self-image threatening feedback make perceivers more likely to activate stereotypes when confronted by members of a minority group? Participants in Study 1 saw an Asian American or European American woman for several minutes, and participants in Studies 2 and 3 were exposed to drawings of an African American or European American male face for fractions of a second. These experiments found no evidence of automatic stereotype activation when perceivers were cognitively busy and when they had not received negative feedback. When perceivers had received negative feedback, however, evidence of stereotype activation emerged even when perceivers were cognitively busy.

Women's sexual behavior

A magazine survey that included items about body image, self-image, and sexual behaviors was completed by 3,627 women. The study found that overall self-image and body image are significant predictors of sexual activity. Women who were more satisfied with body image reported more sexual activity, orgasm, and initiating sex, greater comfort undressing in front of their partner, having sex with the lights on, trying new sexual behaviors (e.g. anal sex), and pleasing their partner sexually than those dissatisfied. Positive body image was inversely related to self-consciousness and importance of physical attractiveness, and directly related to relationships with others and overall satisfaction.


One hundred and ten heterosexual individuals (67 men; 43 women) responded to questions related to penis size and satisfaction. Men showed significant dissatisfaction with penile size, despite perceiving themselves to be of average size. Importantly, there were significant relationships between penile dissatisfaction and comfort with others seeing their penis, and with likelihood of seeking medical advice with regard to penile and/or sexual function. Given the negative consequences of low body satisfaction and the importance of early intervention in sexually related illnesses (e.g., testicular cancer), it is imperative that attention be paid to male body dissatisfaction.

See also

Body image Body image is a person's thoughts, feelings and perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. The concept of body image is used in a number of disciplines, including psychology, medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, phi ...

Body image
Body schema Body schema is a concept used in several disciplines, including psychology Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
Dunning–Kruger effect The Dunning–Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm (philosophy), norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception ...

Dunning–Kruger effect
* End-of-history illusion * Face (self image) *
Fear of negative evaluationFear of negative evaluation (FNE), also atychiphobia, is a psychological construct reflecting "Fear, apprehension about others' evaluations, distress over negative evaluations by others, and the expectation that others would evaluate one negatively" ...
* Figure rating scale *
The Honest Body Project The Honest Body Project is a collection of photographic portraits and stories from women aimed to empower and encourage self-love. The project was created by photographer ''Natalie McCain'' from Rockledge, Florida, Rockledge, FL. The collection co ...
Positive mental attitude Positive mental attitude (PMA) is a concept first introduced in 1937 by Napoleon Hill in the book ''Think and Grow Rich''. The book never actually uses the term, but discusses about the importance of positive thinking as a contributing factor of su ...
Self-concealmentSelf-concealment is a psychological construct defined as "a predisposition to actively conceal from others personal information that one perceives as Mental distress, distressing or negative".Larson and Chastain (1990). Its opposite is self-disclosu ...
Self-concept One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of beliefs about oneself. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to the question ''"Who am I?"'' Self-concept is disting ...

Self-efficacy Self-efficacy, a concept originally proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura Albert Bandura (; born December 4, 1925) is a Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be r ...
Self-esteem Self-esteem is an individual's subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, "I am unloved", "I am worthy") as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith an ...
Self (psychology) The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectua ...
Self-schema The self-schema refers to a long lasting and stable set of memories that summarize a person's beliefs A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistem ...
Style of life The term style of life (german: Lebensstil) was used by psychiatrist Alfred Adler as one of several constructs describing the dynamics of the personality. Origins Adler was influenced by the writings of Hans Vaihinger, and his concept of fictional ...


{{DEFAULTSORT:Self Image Conceptions of self Perception Psychological theories