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A Study of Self Concept Related to Adjustment and Achievement

M.J. Arul

A Synopsis
of the dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Education and Psychology, M.S. University of Baroda,
in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a

Master's degree in Psychology

Under the guidance of

Dr. R.K. Parlikar
Department of Psychology
M.S. University of Baroda

March 1972


Self concept, an ignored and neglected area in psychology and education for long, has now been recognised to play a vital role in personality development. It has been established by contemporary researches that the way an individual perceives himself goes to shape his behaviour patterns.

According to Combs and Snygg (1949) and Rogers (1951), people behave in a manner which is consistent with the way they view themselves. Festinger (1962) says the ways we react to people, tasks, ... etc. are those which seem to us most consistent with our self image.

To illustrate the influence of self concept on performance, Lowry (1961) narrates a story of The mouse and Henry Carson, in which he describes how a mouse ran into the office of the Educational Testing Service and accidentally triggered a delicate point in the apparatus just as the College Entrance Examination Board's data on one Henry Carson was being scored. Henry was an average high-school student who was unsure of himself and his abilities. Had it not been for the mouse, Henry's scores would have been average or less, but the mouse changed all that, for the scores which emerged from the computer were amazingly high. When the scores reached Henry's school, the word of his giftedness spread like wild fire. Teachers began to re-evaluate their gross underestimation of this fine lad, counsellors felt guilty of having neglected such talent, and even College Admissions Officers began to recruit Henry for their institutions.

Once Henry became aware of his potentialities and began to be treated differently by the significant people in his life, a form of self-fulfilling prophecy took place. Henry gained in confidence and began "to put his mind in the way of great things". Henry became one of the best men of his generation.

Self concept has been defined by several authors. William James(1890) holds it to be all that a person is tempted to call by the name me or mine. Murphy (1947) defines it as the individual as known to the individual. According to Symonds (1951), it is the way or manner in which the individual reacts to himself. He spells out four aspects of self: i. how a person perceives himself; ii. what he thinks of himself; iii. how he values himself; and iv. how he attempts through various actions to enhance or defend himself.

Carl Rogers (1951) views the self as a differentiated portion of the phenomenal field, consisting of a pattern of conscious perceptions and values of the "I" or "me". He spells out some of the properties of self: a) the self develops out of the organism's interaction with the environment; b) it may introject the values of other people and perceive them in a distorted fashion; c) it strives for consistency; d) the organism behaves in ways that are consistent with the self; e) experiences that are not consistent with the self-structure are perceived as threats; f) the self may change as a result of maturation and learning.

Sherif & Cantril (1947) use the term "ego" and define it as the constellation of attitudes of the type "what I think of myself, what I value, what is mine, and what I identify with." According to them, these attitudes, when activated, energise, direct and control the person's behaviour.

As self concept seems to play a significant role in the growth and development of a person, a detailed knowledge about its nature and its relation to other important factors of personality will provide an objective and encouraging basis for the educators and counsellors to work on. Torrance (1954) vouches for the practical uses of knowledge of the self concept in counselling and guidance. With such educational and counselling ends in mind, numerous studies have been undertaken on the subject in different parts of the world. Indian studies on the subject have dealt with: factors contributing to changes in self concept; implementation of self concept in occupational choices; differences in self concepts of achievers and nonachievers in school; etc.

Adjustment is a state of "harmonious relation to the environment wherein one is able to obtain satisfaction for most of one's needs and to meet fairly well the demands, physical and social, put upon one" (English & English). One could distinguish between adjustment within oneself (intrapersonal) and with others (interpersonal). Achievement refers to bringing an effort to the desired end or the end gained. Since adjustment and achievement are two cardinal dimensions of a person's behaviour and since self concept is acceptedly a significant influencer of behaviour, it was felt that a knowledge of the relationship between self concept and the other two variables would be very enriching and useful. Hence this study.

Method and measures

On the basis of the available knowledge on self concept and its role in behaviour, the following specific hypothetical issues were raised with a view to testing them out empirically:

  1. Self concept correlates positively with adjustment.
  2. Self concept correlates positively with achievement.
  3. Some areas of self concept correlate more with personal adjustment than do other areas.
  4. Some areas of self concept correlate more with social adjustment than do other areas.
  5. Some areas of self concept correlate more with achievement than do other areas.

Following a discussion with the guide, it was decided to carry out the investigation among the students of the M.S. University studying in the preparatory class. A sample of two hundred and twenty-five was selected in a stratified random style to represent the various disciplines of the students. A self concept inventory and an adjustment inventory that suited our purpose were procured and data were collected by means of these instruments. The self concept inventory measured self concepts in six areas, such as the physical appearance, intellectual ability, sociability, temperament, morality, and position in the family. Two dimensions of adjustment, namely, personal and social, were measured by the adjustment inventory. These instruments had been standardised in the relevant population. Examination marks of the students were taken to indicate their academic achievement level. Thus scores on self concept, adjustment, and achievement were obtained.

Analysis and results

Pearson's product-moment correlations were computed for the total self-concept score with overall adjustment and achievement scores. Correlations were also computed for the six subself-concept scores with personal adjustment score, social adjustment score, and achievement score. A summary of results is given in the Table below:

Correlation Coefficients:

Self Concept Variable





Self concept on physical appearance

Self concept on intellectual ability

Self concept on social relations

Self concept on temperament

Self concept on morality

Self concept on position in family

Total self concept

0.06 ns

0.12 ns

0.20 **

0.13 ns

0.16 *

0.20 **

0.24 **

0.17 *

0.29 **

0.30 **

0.26 **

0.15 *

0.14 ns

0.27 **

0.13 ns

0.25 **

0.30 **

0.24 **

0.18 *

0.19 **

0.29 **

0.03 ns

0.10 ns

-0.01 ns

-0.04 ns

-0.06 ns

0.04 ns

-0.01 ns

** = p<.01; * = p<.05; ns = not significant.

The overall self concept was found to correlate positively with personal, social and overall adjustment at p<.01 level of significance. The overall self concept as well as self concepts on sociability, temperament and morality were found to correlate negatively with achievement. These correlations were, however, statistically not significant.

All the six areal self concepts correlated positively with personal, social and overall adjustments. Many of these correlations were significant and a few of them were not: self concepts of physical appearance, intelligence and temperament did not correlate significantly with personal adjustment. Self concept on status in the family did not show a statistically significant relationship with social adjustment.

The present study corroborates the tenet that one's personal and social adjustment in life is positively related to one's overall self concept.

IntrApersonal adjustment or one's being at peace with oneself does not seem to be related to what one thinks of one's physical appearance, intelligence or temperament. IntErpersonal adjustment or being adjusted in society, however, was found to be related to these conceptions.

The study did not bear out the prediction that achievement would be related to self concept. How shall we interpret this finding? Maybe, achievement is independent of self concept and Henry Carsons are nothing more than a fairy tale! Or, could it be that examination marks are no achievement?


The instruments, though they had been standardised on the population, were verbal and direct. In personal areas like self concept and adjustment, indirect approaches would be more effective. It is also desirable to obtain multiple measures of self concept, adjustment and achievement through means of more than one instrument for each of them, so as to enhance the robustness of the measures. Gender could be introduced as a variable to examine any differences between male and female respondents.


Combs, A.W. and D. Snygg (1949). Individual Behaviour. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

English and English. A Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms.

Festinger, L. (1962). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Lowry, H.F. (1961). The Mouse and Henry Carson. Opening address on March 29, 1961, at the Conference on Outstanding Students in Liberal Arts Colleges, Buck Hill Falls, PA. Quoted by W.W. Purkey (1970) in his Self Concept and School Achievement. Prentice-Hall.

Murphy, G. (1947). A Biosocial Approach to Personality: Origins and Structure. Harper & Row Publishers.

Rogers, C.R. (1951). Client Centered Therapy. Boston: Houghton.

Sherif and Cantril (1947). The Psychology of Ego-involvements. New York.

Symonds, P.M. (1951). The Ego and the Self. New York.

Torrance, E.P. (1954). Some practical uses of knowledge of the self concept in counselling and guidance. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 14, 120-127.

William James (1890). Principles of Psychology.

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