According to Feenstra, how do we perceive ourselves and our interactions with others?  Please explain.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Feenstra makes the argument that the way we perceive ourselves and our interactions with other is a combination of outside forces and internal subjectivity.  Being able to filter through both realities is where the ability to perceive ourselves and others lie.  Like many other social psychologists, Feenstra is able to probe the nature by which individual actions are influenced by other people's thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.  The balance between understanding one's own subjectivity and how the external force of "the other" influences the individual is of vital importance to how we perceive ourselves and our interactions with others.

Feenstra suggests that navigating this balance between the self and this external other is of vital importance to individual identity. Feenstra understands this dynamic as governing the subjective's construction: "Our sense of self is affected by what we know about the self and by the people around us. The self is a powerful force. The self affects how we feel, what we think we can do, and what we in fact do."  For Feenstra, this perception of others and how this filters into our own sense of self is essential.  There are different elements that help to define individual identity.  They arise from the means by which individuals perceive themselves and the world around them, including other people.  It is for this reason that Feenstra argues that the self is “the collection of things you know about yourself.”  This means that individual identity and interactions with others are of vital importance to defining one's psychological constitution.  The manner in which we perceive ourselves and our interactions with others form what Feenstra calls "self- concept."  Feenstra argues that "our idea about who we are and how we behave like opinions and attitudes that we show other people is what we call our self- concept and this includes our beliefs and personal behaviors."  Feenstra suggests that such an idea is critical in underscoring how the individual perceives themselves and the forces that govern interactions with others.

Feenstra argues that the construction of identity is predicated upon both public and private explorations of the self.  Both play a critical role in how we perceive ourselves and how individuals understand their interactions with others: 

Self awareness involves being aware of particular aspects of one’s self- concept. There are two types:  Private self- awareness is awareness of one’s internal states such as thoughts, feelings, or desires.  Public self- awareness is awareness of how one appears to others.

Both private and public self- awareness are essential to understanding how the individual understands themselves and the world around them.  Being able to assess the role that "the other" plays on identity formation is essential in Feenstra's explanation of the external and internal dynamic to psychological constitution.  This becomes the basic element of social psychology that Feenstra suggests drives the field's exploration:

Social psychologists investigate how people view themselves and others, how they interact with and influence others, and how people act when part of a group. Given the amount of time spent thinking about and interacting with other  people, it follows that much of our lives are spent with the subject matter of social psychology.

It is in seeking to understand the dynamic in which individuals "interact with and influence others" and how this impacts one's sense of self that Feenstra believes lies at the heart of how we perceive ourselves and our interactions with others.