William James: Self – Father

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William James: self-concept father

William James was the precursor of self-concept, this in his work ‘’ Principles of Psychology ’’ points out that two dimensions can be distinguished within the total self, the self as a connoisseur and the self as known as known. The self as a connoisseur defined it as the part of oneself that orders and understands the experiences in a totally subjective way, that is, that the particularity of their experiences distinguishes it as a person, while the self as known is the total sum of Everything an individual can call "himself".

According to James, the hierarchy of self-concept would be shaped like a pyramid. In the base there would be the material self, that is, its body and its possessions, in the center there would be the social self that refers to the characteristics that people who know him have in mind, and at the top, the spiritual self which refers to thoughts, moral judgments, etc. that would be the most valuable and durable. 

Likewise, we find that James says in his book ‘’ Principles of Psychology ’’ that man is shown before the others in various ways trying to get the recognition of him and the idea he creates before others are part of his self-concept. Thus he expresses: ‘’ A man has as many social people how many individuals recognize and keep an image of him ’. James anticipated in this way, the eminently social character of self-concept influence.

Numerous authors have continued to investigate and draw theories about self-concept, a century later, Machago defines in his book the teacher and self-concept of his students:

‘’ self-concept is built and defined throughout the development of significant people from the family, school and social environment, and as a consequence of the experiences of success and failure.’’

According to González and Tourón, the self-concept refers to the perceptions that the individual has of himself. For the authors it is a cognitive training that is created from a mixture of images of who we are, what we want to be and what we manifest to others. It is therefore a knowledge that is not present at the time of birth, but is the result of an active construction process by the individual throughout its evolutionary development.

There are many authors who have renewed the definition of self-concept, including García and Doménech, Fariña, García and Vilariño, Salum-Fares, Marín and Reyes, etc.

In a definition of the most current concept, Estévez says that self-concept can be defined as the knowledge and beliefs that the subject has of himself in all dimensions and aspects that configure him as a person, that is, in the body, psychological aspect , emotional, social, etc. It involves an objective and/or subjective description of oneself, which has a multitude of elements or attributes.

A year later, García-Sánchez, Burgueño-Menjibar, López-Blanco and Ortega define it as ‘’ The labels that a person is attributed, generally related to physical, behavioral and emotional parameters ’’ ’’ ’.

According to the RAE dictionary, self-concept is the "opinion that a person has over herself, which has associated a value judgment". Therefore self-concept greatly influences personality. According to Cazalla-Luna & Molero, if we have a high self-concept from an early age, many future psychological and pedagogical problems would be avoided.

The self-concept for years, has had a one -dimensional and global conception, but since the mid -197 multidimensional and presents a structure composed of several dimensions arranged hierarchically.

Following Rodríguez, we can observe several different models that show the probable relationship between the different factors that form the self-concept:

  • The multidimensional model of independent factors states that there is no correlation between self-concept factors and defends the relative absence of such a correlation, which has received some empirical support, and not so much the most restrictive version of the same.
  • The multidimensional model of correlated factors states that all self-concept factors are related to each other, having received much more empirical support than the independent factors model.
  • The multidimensional multifaceted model where there is a single aspect, that is, the content of the self-concept domains, presents multiple levels: the different domains of self-concept (the physicist, the social or the academic).
  • The multi -dimensional multi -faceted taxonomic model is different from the previous one because it varies in that there is a minimum of two phases, and each phase has at least two levels.
  • The compensatory model that confirms that there is a general phase of the self-concept in which the most characteristic phases that are related in a reciprocal form are integrated.
  • The multidimensional model of hierarchical factors suggests that self-concept is composed of hierarchical organized dimensions where the general self-concept dominates the top of the structure.


Among the different multidimensional models that exist, we highlight the proposal of García and Musitu and Goñi; It states that self-concept is formed by multiple dimensions organized in a hierarchical way, where the general self-concept is at the cusp of the structure. This model was raised by Shavelson et al, and appears in the following figure:

As we can see in Figure 1, the general self-concept consists of the academic and non -academic self-concept. Academic self-concept refers to the skills and skills attributed to the school and non -academic self-concept refers to the perception that each one has of himself. At the same time, non -academic self-concept is subdivided into three types of self-concept: social self-concept, emotional or personal self-concept and physical self-concept.

According to Esnaola et al:

  • Social self-concept refers to perceptions as a social being that a person has on himself, these perceptions vary depending on the interactions of the person in different contexts.
  • Personal self-concept refers to the perception that each person has on himself.
  • Physical self-concept refers to the vision that a person has on their own physical appearance.

According to Contreras, Fernández, García and González The physical self-concept is one of the most important dimensions in the construction of general self-concept and could be defined as: ” The mental representation that is made by integrating body experience and feelings and emotions that it produces ” 

We must also highlight the remarkable importance of academic self-concept, since it would be impossible to understand school behavior without considering the perceptions that the individual has of himself and his own academic competence. Therefore, according to you, we can define academic self-concept as the representation that the individual has of himself as a candidate for the acquisition of certain skills or characteristics for the acquisition of learning in an educational context.

The educational context has a great domain so that both teachers and students represent a great source of information for the construction of academic self-concept.

In addition, numerous studies relate academic self-concept to academic performance, according to Byrne and Mbooya it is a stronger relationship than that established between academic performance and general self-concept.

The academic performance implies the realization of the goals, achievements and objectives that are established in the programming of each subject that a student attends, formulated through qualifications, the result of an evaluation to express whether or not the student has exceeded the certain tests, subjects or courses. On the other hand, Rodríguez and Torres determine that academic performance is the degree of knowledge that a student demonstrates in an area or subject, compared to the norm and the school average.

As Martí says, academic performance is related to variables such as personality, intellectual coefficient, motivation, customs, self-concept, self-esteem or teacher-student relationship.

Numerous studies affirm the relationship between self-concept and academic performance of students.

The significance that academic performance has for self-concept is not dependent only on the absolute level of performance that the student has achieved, but on the appreciation that the student has of the performance of it compared to that of their peers. Therefore, it can happen that two students with the same academic performance but located in two different classes do not have the same academic self-concept. According to Marsh and Parker, the social comparison determines the self-concept, the student also compares her academic capacity with those of her peer and use this sensation of her academic ability to build her academic self-concept. Likewise, Jerusalem and Lange, Schwarzer say that an individual will be considered adequate or not adequate depending on the environment in which it is located, since the comparison with lower level groups encourages the individual, while comparison with a higher level groups deter To the individual.

Within the educational field, the main achievements to be achieved are: to increase academic self-concept, autonomy and academic performance. Studies that connect self-concept and academic performance are extensive both in the early educational stages and in primary education. It has been shown that academic self-concept and performance are consolidated in a mutual way, when one progresses the other too.

On the other hand, Núñez & González-Pienda differentiate four probable causality guidelines between self-concept and academic performance:

  1. Academic performance establishes self-concept. Favorable or non -favorable school experiences significantly influence the student’s self-concept.
  2. self-concept degrees establish academic performance levels and at the same time, self-concept can intervene in the type of events to provide significant people for students, such as teachers.
  3. Self-concept and academic performance have a cause-effect relationship, one influences the other and are also determined in a mutual way.
  4. Other personal and environmental, academic or non -academic variables may also be the cause of self-concept or academic performance.


Likewise, Ashman, there are and Van-Kraayenoord, have proven the favorable effects that a good level of self-concept produces. It has been found with studies in which students are compared with a low self-concept with other high self-concept students and has been observed through teachers’ reports, that students with a high self-concept are admired by teachers for their popularity, Cooperativity, persistence in class work, for presenting lower levels of anxiety, family environment with the highest level of support and higher future success expectations.

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