If I offered you a $20 bill for free, would you take it? I think I know your answer. What about if I crumpled it up into a ball and tossed it to you. Would you still accept it? What if I crumpled it, threw it on the floor, stomped on it, picked it up and gave it to you. Would you still accept it? Most of you are thinking yes. Why? Because that $20 bill never decreased in value, no matter what I did do it. No matter what that twenty had been through, it is still worth twenty dollars. A lot of the time the human race is beaten down, crumpled, and thrown around by life’s hardships.
However, not a lot of people realize that even though that stuff happens, there is no decrease in the value of that individual. Life is an expert at giving second chances. This is why it is so important to know and believe in yourself as you go on your life journey. But how can you know yourself? This seems like a silly question, but you’d be surprised. Do you know yourself? If you can answer these questions I would say you have figured it out. How do you know that you are you? When you look in the mirror, how can you be certain that your reflection is you?
The important key terms when studying self-concept throughout the years include the definition of the mnemonic self, ontogeny and phylogeny. The mnemonic self is known as assisting, or intending to assist the memory. Ontogeny is the development or developmental history of an individual organism. This covers not only mental, but physical and emotional development of an organism to better understand the process of the self. Phylogeny is known as the evolutionary history of a group of organisms, especially as depicted in a family tree. This is emphasizing the importance of the environment that a human being is in, and how that affects their self-concept and development. To even begin studying self concept, it is important to understand these key terms.
In the beginning, infancy, one has to ask the question, when do humans begin to recognize themselves in the mirror as “me”? Infants use auditory and visual sense to understand what is going on in the world around them. This is why infants tend to recognize their mother’s voice and the way that she looks. They don’t understand what she is saying, but they hear the language and recognize the tone. As they move on to preschool age, they tend to, like adults, show a mnemonic advantage for material that has been physically linked with the self through performance of a depicted action. This usually related to touch, feeling and that sensation. They are now used to and gravitate towards physical play and physical identity. This is why in preschool classrooms there are things like blocks, easy puzzles and sensory tables for the child to start learning articulation in their hands and body. As they get older, they take this and turn it into a big need for attention.
At about age seven, children have established a lot. They know who they are, they know their family and what is familiar to them, so they start using this to get attention. At this age their understanding of self-concept means the world surrounds them and only them. There is a need for attention or to impress so they can get a reaction out of the people they are around. This can come off as very self absorbed and selfish, however this is all they know at this time in their life. It does change, parents, don’t worry. As life goes on, there are many vital changes that everyone goes through such as mental health issues, moving out or moving on, some kind of mid-life crisis, or divorce/marriage.
Obviously, for anyone, this forces the individual to reevaluate themselves and how they know themselves. It has become more complicated than just looking in a mirror. This can be seen quite clearly in teenagers going through puberty or experiencing anxiety and depression. It tends to happen when the child is moving out to start their adult life as well. It doesn’t stop there though, and this is why there is the known stereotype of what is called the mid-life crisis. When adults get so caught up in a regular life routine, sometimes they get in a slump, thinking they need something exciting to happen to them, or a new interesting change. They start to question who they are and their understanding of self-concept because of these feelings.
As adults start to get passed this point, the mnemonic self and how they tend to identify comes back into play. Adults now have the life experience to understand how they identify as them, and what kind of senses they use to know who they are. A big sense is feeling, and the kinesthetic movement of their body through space. This can mean physical activity like exercise, or it can mean their daily routine. They start to understand their routine and understand when they need to break from their routine and change things to keep their inner self alive.
It is clear that self-concept, self-efficacy and mnemonic devices are all important and must be researched for they explain the reason human beings know what they know. Mnemonic devices help specifically with memory in humans and how we know what we know. There have been studies in children like PhD Josephine Ross’s studies of the development of self-awareness through cognitive, social, comparative, and cross-cultural psychology. Ross also conducts studies for people with anxiety and depression, old age and research arguing that one method can work for all ages and all people no matter where they are in life. On the other hand, Tim Dalgleish, a
clinical psychologist, studies the experimental investigation of cognitive-emotion relationships, depression, post-traumatic stress and affective disorders. Dalgleish says, “Depression impairs the ability to retrieve positive, self-affirming autobiographical memories. To counteract this difficulty, we trained individuals with depression, either in episode or remission, to construct an accessible mental repository for a preselected set of positive, self-affirming memories using an ancient mnemonic technique-the method-of-loci.” Dalgleish believes that using the method-of-loci (MoL) technique as a tool to facilitate access to self-affirming memories in those with depression is a successful way to determine that there are no significant performance differences between those currently in episode and those in remission of depression. Because of his findings, he either is using the wrong method, or the MoL successfully can work on anyone as long as they have experienced or experiencing depression. Dalgleish proves that the study of self concept can significantly help or at least bring awareness to the development and nature of mental illness through his experiments.
In Dr. Josephine Ross’s mind, the development of self-awareness through cognitive, social, comparative and psychology is the way one should pursue studying the mnemonic self. Ross makes clear that episodic memory, the self-reference effect and subject-performed tasks (SPT) are understood in the process of her research. However, Ross specializes in pediatrics. There is a limitation to the amount of information she can be relied on for adult mnemonic research. Research on the self has an unintentional bias attached to it because of the way humans themselves are raised and how they know that they are them. Sometimes, self identity can be difficult when there are mental blockades like mental diseases or disorders. Humans tend to change and go through a period when they certainly recognize themselves in the mirror, however, sometimes they don’t like what they see.
Tim Dalgleish is a clinical psychologist working in the Emotion Group. He leads the Cognition, Emotion and Mental Health Programme at Cambridge as well as the direction of the Cambridge Centre for Affective Disorders. Dalgleish studies the experimental investigation of cognitive-emotion relationships, depression, Post-Traumatic stress and a transdiagnostic approach to affective disorders. Tim and many of his colleagues believe strongly in using the method-of-loci, a method of memory enhancement which uses visualizations with the use of spatial memory, familiar information about one’s environment, to quickly and efficiently recall information.
The method of loci is also known as the memory journey, memory palace, or mind palace technique. Using the MoL technique as a tool to facilitate access to self-affirming memories in those with depression is a successful way to determine that there were no significant performance differences between those currently in episode and those in remission of depression. Tobi Lubinsky takes an approach similar to Tim Dalgleish in that he focuses on the mental health and how that relates to self-generation. He studies errorless learning and elaborative self-generation in healthy older adults compared to individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment.
“Mnemonic devices are learning strategies which often enhance the learning and later recall of information. Even though the use of mnemonic devices often results in remarkable levels of recall performance, mnemonic devices operate by the use of cognitive structures that, somewhat disturbingly, have little or no relation to the conceptual content of the material being learned.” Belleza applies general-processing-tree models to explaining the functioning of the human memory. He uses mathematical techniques to analyze complex behavior into basic cognitive mechanisms retrieval of information from memory and decision making.
His data shows a good fit of the multinomial model with younger adults, and the proposal extends these findings to older adults. Francis Belleza has his Ph.D. in social judgement and behavioral decision making at the University of Minnesota and believes strongly that research on mnemonic devices should be performed. He says,“Through the use of special mnemonic devices some spectacular results in recall performance have been obtained. However, systematic research on mnemonic devices is only now starting to be done.”Because recall with mnemonic devices is mediated by the cognitive cuing structures created by the user, properties are described which these cognitive cuing structures must have to be effective in Belleza’s work.
Dr. West’s research takes both a theoretical path, devoted to testing constructs related to memory self-evaluation and social cognition, and an applied path, focused on intervention methodologies for training older adults to improve their practical memory skills. Self-regulatory beliefs, such as self-efficacy, have the power to influence performance over and above the impact of ability. In recent years, there is also growing recognition of the importance of self-efficacy for regulating cognitive success for older adults. Memory interventions typically address common everyday memory activities such as remembering names or numbers. Programs that raise self-efficacy along with performance are more likely to be successful. Out of all of the courses analyzed, Dr. Robin West has the best example of well rounded research of the mnemonic self and memory in all areas. Yes, West mostly focuses on the experimental ways to analyze it, but with that she covers age and many other limitations.
Paul Verhaeghen takes a different approach to the mnemonic self than West. Rather than a theoretical path, Verhaeghen focuses on actually improving memory through mnemonic training. He specializes in adults, however his studies could possibly work for everyone. Verhaeghen uses what is called a meta-analytic study in his work. This means he’s using a quantitative statistical analysis of several separate but similar experiments or studies in order to test the pooled data for statistical significance. When studying Verhaeghen’s research one can easily see that he has done numerous experiences with the elder to compile his theory and conclusion. In his results, he mentions that “it can be seen that the elderly benefited more from mnemonic training that from either control or placebo treatments. There was significant nonhomogeneity between the three classes, and analysis of pairwise contrasts showed that the effect size for memory-training groups was significantly different from that of control and placebo groups, which did not differ from each other.
A self reflection manifesto was written by poet Lucy Ives. She writes; “I am only one. I have a face and a front of my face. I have two shoulders and two hips. I’m living. I live. How do I tell my eyes to see? How do I tell my thighs it does not matter what they do? They are the tops of my legs. They will fall apart. How do I tell my feet to stand here? How do I tell my eyes to see? How do I tell the voice under my voice to keep on speaking? How to I tell my mouth to speak?” (Ives). This is a very interesting and lyrical approach to the concept of the self. It physically picks apart the body and the senses, questioning how they work. Everyone understands wanting to fit in. Everyone understands that they want to belong. Self concept and mnemonic self can create a living, breathing human being that can know themselves in a certain way, however the perceptions of every single person are seen through other eyes. Those eyes could be their own, a friend’s, a relative’s, or even a complete stranger’s. Regardless, the study of the self through mnemonic concepts is crucial to the human development and ultimately, the human race.