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To What Extent Can We Blame Advertising For An Anxious Ð''Social Self' Which Constantly Scrutinises Its Own Appearance And Behaviour And That Of Others?

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Consuming Behaviour

"To what extent can we blame advertising for an anxious Ð''social self' which constantly scrutinises its own appearance and behaviour and that of others?"

Introduction:

The question posed opens up three main avenues which must be explored in order to deal with the topic in an appropriate manner. These areas are self-concept in particular the social self, consumption and advertising. In the first part of this essay I will discuss these three main areas and their relationships with each other. Having done this I will then hopefully come to a clear and concise conclusion as to the effects advertising has on the social self.

Self-Concept and the social self:

Self Ð'- concept can be broadly defined as the view we have of ourselves. There are many sub-categories of the self-concept (e.g. the actual self, ideal self) one of these being the social self which is the primary concern of this assignment.

There has been a considerable amount of research carried out around the idea of the social self emanating from about 1960's onwards, this research has mainly been in the search for a better understanding on the subject of consumer behaviour and hence consumption. It is clear that the two areas have a coupled existence in that "the available knowledge strongly supports the role of the self-concept as a partial determinant of human behaviour" (Grubb, 1967). This human behaviour which derives from the social self expresses itself through consumption.

Rosenberg (1979) cited in Sirgy (1980) describes how "self concept denotes the totality of the individuals thoughts and feelings having reference to himself as an object". It would seem then, that the social self has not got much to do with how we feel about ourselves but mainly how we consider others feel about us, in a sense just an inner view of the perceived (by others) outer self. Mowen would seem to agree with this as he describes the social self as "how a person thinks others perceive him or her". This point is further enhanced by Slater(1997) in the following "society comes to dominate the individual, not least through the material world of objects and interests, which are now essential not merely for meeting needs but for being or finding a self" .The most critical verdict however is outlined again by Slater who states "we choose a self-identity from the shop-window of the pluralized and social world; actions, experiences and objects are all reflexively encountered as part of the need to construct and maintain self identity"

In consideration of the above the most important aspects of self-concept and the social self as outlined by Onkvisit and Shaw 1987 are the following:

Ð'* Self concept is not innate it has to be learned

Ð'* Self concept is stable and consistent

Ð'* Self concept is purposeful

Ð'* Self concept is unique

These key aspects are the foundation of the self concept and hence the social self, and it is how these are developed that leads the social self being prone to the outside world that shapes it. It is clear from the above the social self is not shaped by any genetic material but is in fact shaped by society - "the self develops not as a personal, individual process, but it evolves through the process of social experience. From the reactions of others, man develops his self-perception." (Grubb) It is because of this and the fact that tied in with this "the basic purpose of all human activity is the protection, the maintenance and the enhancement, not of the self, but the self concept, or symbolic self" (Onkvisit 1987) which makes the social self a target. After all "the Ð''self-image' is the key to human personality and human behaviour. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behaviour". (Dr. Maxwell Maltz).

Advertising and Consumption:

Goldman and Papson (1996) describe advertising as the following;

"Stripped of its glamour, advertising is a kind of cultural mechanics for constructing commodity signs. Advertisements are structured to boost the value of commodity brand names by attaching them to images that possess social and cultural values".

In the world of today advertising is everywhere "consumers are confronted with substantial daily does of advertising in multi media" (Pollay 1993). The number of advertisements in various forms of media we are exposed to is vast compared with yesteryears; and there is no doubt that the advertising industry is flourishing. "In the early 1970s, the daily number of ads targeted at the average American was 560; by 1999, this number jumped to 3,000" (Fox 2001).

The original purpose of advertising was to convey the benefits of using a particular product to the consumer with the hope of enticing this consumer to buy the product. This however is not the main aim of advertising in the ever changing consumption market of today, today "the value of things in contemporary consumer societies is related not so much to their use value, as embodied in what they do, although a minimum quality is usually demanded, nor even so much to their exchange value, but to their sign value, to what they signify to us, about us, or to others (Desmond, 2000). Dusenberry highlights this through the following "the idea that the act of consumption as symbolic behaviour may be more important to the individual than the benefits provided by the functioning of the product purchased".

Advertising and consumption go hand in hand; advertising is in effect a way to influence consumer's consumption. Fox describes how "consumption--and the advertising that drives it--is our most powerful cultural force, shaping our attitudes, beliefs, values, and lifestyles. Pervasive and powerful, advertising's effects largely go unseen, because we think about advertising like fish think about water--we don't (Fox 2001). It is the sheer abundance of advertisements that we encounter that let them go in a sense unoticed, i.e. the more you see something the more you take it for granted, only realising its significance when it is not there. It is because of the fact that they are an integral piece of the social jigsaw coupled with the fact that the social self is hugely dependent on this social society that gives advertising

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