The Psychology of Ego-Involvements: Social Attitudes & Identifications

By Muzafer Sherif; Hadley Cantril | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
EXPERIMENTS ON EGO-INVOLVEMENTS

We have said that what an individual comes to regard as himself is a genetic development, a product of learning. In the normal course of affairs, the components of the ego include the individual's body and physical characteristics; the things he learns belong to him, such as his clothes, his toys, his keepsakes, his room, his hut, his house, his mother, his sweetheart, his children; together with a whole host of social values he also learns and with which he identifies himself--his country, his politics, his language, his manner of dressing, the characteristics of his particular society.

In spite of the relative similarity of the norms to which an individual in a given society or a group may be exposed, the content of any single individual's ego, what he regards as himself, is a rather distinct constellation of social and personal values that vary not only in their number and nature but also in the intensity with which they are held. Within the range of individual differences due to variations in instinctual drive, ability, and temperament, the similarity of the content of individual egos will increase, of course, with the uniformity of the situations, experiences, or norms to which an individual is exposed.

These contents of the ego, these things, persons, ways of conducting oneself, social norms of various kinds, provide for the individual the standards of judgment or frames of reference which determine to such an important degree his social behavior and reactions. And when any stimulus or situation is consciously or unconsciously related to them by the individual, we can say there is "ego-involvement." Thus, the ego in its various capacities enters in as an important determinant which may color, modify, or alter our experiences and behavior in almost any situation. For our standards, our values, our goals and ambitions, our ways of doing things have become involved. We feel elated, restricted, gratified,

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