Social Cognition, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2012, pp. 396–414
I, Me, Mine Skowronski
i, Me, Mine: Variations on the theMe of selfness
John J. Skowronski Northern Illinois University
Scholars have often speculated about the nature of the self. In this article I contend that there is no such mythical beast. Instead, I argue that there are likely a number of different mental subsystems that contribute to selfrelevant behavior and to selfness. These subsystems contain different structures, reflect the operation of different processes, and may reflect different biological substrates. Accordingly, I contend that research and thinking about the self needs to be very clear about which aspect of selfness lies at their core. I suggest that such specificity is necessary for an orderly accumulation of knowledge in research that explores the topic of the self.
The song lyrics to “I Me Mine,” written by George Harrison and performed by The Beatles, were supposedly intended to echo the Bhagavad Gita. This ancient source highlights the power and ubiquitous presence of the self in everyday life, and emphasizes breaking out of the cage of my, me, and mine in search of enlightenment. In one way, the lyrics are not unusual: References to the self in popular culture are everywhere. A similar ubiquitousness characterizes the self and its status in modern scientific psychology. I typed the word self into a PsychInfo search on October 19, 2011, and got a reply indicating 368,948 hits. Even accounting for the lack of adequate specificity in my search term, the magnitude of that number suggests that references to the self in the scientific literature are everywhere. Tesser, Martin, and Cornell (1996) highlighted this ubiquitousness, and the ever-increasing range of terms used to describe it, by offering the term the self zoo. However, exactly what is this concept of “self” about which everyone is writing and that everyone is researching? Curiously, at least for now, there seems to be no...