More on Image

Many of the elements relevant to image are already in place. The concept of a hierarchy of positions with regard to image, from highly credited to highly discredited, have been described, as have the rules for attacking, defending, and enhancing image. Similarly, the order of values, which is what gives image its significance and valence, has been described.

It remains, here, to fill in some gaps. Image, like power, is a social "location" in the complicated network of society. One has a positive image to the degree that others see it as so; one also has a positive or negative self-image to the extent one perceives oneself that way, as a result of the way one's interactions in society manifest in the mind.

We know and project an "image," rather than "reality" because we can't know things or communicate our identity directly. It is from the flux of experience and the multiplicity of sensation that we construct the ideas and perceptions, identifying patterns, about the world and other people that can evoke emotional reactions. Even in the case of our perception of ourselves, we take the flux of experience - thoughts, emotions, momentary experiences, input from other people - and create a pattern of ideas about ourselves, a master schema, that we identify as ourselves – "I am the kind of person who ... likes sports, hates Democrats, is kind to animals, and so on."

But image is also based on the fact that we seek to manipulate these impressions and we make implicit and explicit claims about ourselves and other people and things. Since impressions exist, we manipulate them and take advantage of the indirectness of experience. Most everyone tries to project a positive image of themselves to others, manipulating information, settings and other appearances, accentuating one thing over another, while downplaying or hiding or disguising less flattering aspects of themselves. "Accentuate the positive" isn't merely a saying; it is a basic urge of human nature. One might put it this way: the reality of our lives is that we know reality primarily through patterns of ideas and, given that fact, most people try to manipulate some of those patterns, to their advantage.

The degree to which we manipulate image varies greatly, of course, as does the degree to which it conforms to some underlying reality and the degree to which what we do is conscious. And not everyone tries to create a positive image or a positive image of every aspect of themselves. People deliberately, consciously and unconsciously, try to create a negative impression for all kinds of reasons and there are people who focus far less attention than others on creating an impression, among them some people who are very psychologically healthy and whole, and feel less of a need to hide, and some people who are very disturbed and can’t get it together to hide what others would hide.


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As noted earlier, image usually involves claims that A makes about himself and others, to B, in an effort to influence how B perceives A and others. Thus, the issue becomes not merely is person A good or bad, smart or stupid, talented or talentless. It is also is A good, smart and talented in the way he claims. The perception of image involves both what we think of someone's attributes and what we think of the claims they make for themselves, this then becoming another attribute that affects our overall perception. In other words, we look at the image others project of themselves and compare it to the image we or others have of them, in making our judgments.

Also as noted, a player need not always claim that he or she is good, talented, et al. He or she may make claims to being sick, incompetent, even evil, for various reasons. We may, in turn, disagree with these assessments and have a more positive image of the subject that differs from the image presented. Thus, someone may claim to be the most prolific mass murderer in history, seeking to go further to the left on the scale of importance by going further to the right on the scale of evil. But we may decide their claims are unfounded, in the claims we make to ourselves about what we are perceiving. Someone may claim their artistic abilities are just average, but we may decide they are something more than that. Thus, we have to distinguish between the image people project from the image we and others have of them.

When we factor in the fact that people make all kinds of claims about themselves, through all kinds of information channels, with varying degrees of consciousness, and that these may contradict each other, it becomes clear that this process is far more complex than the term "image" would suggest. Images, whether projected or perceived, are complex patterns of information, synthesized by senders and receivers. While overall patterns are created in sending and receiving, that never accounts for all the information we have. And much of the pattern is outside of conscious awareness.


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As these descriptions make clear, image can involve all kinds of cognitive operations that involve perceiving, comparing and speculating, although much of our reaction is spontaneous and at a basic emotional level. All of these operations can be described systematically. For example, image construction, in both sending and receiving can involve the following:

THE IMAGE A HAS OF A.

THE IMAGE A PROJECTS TO B.

THE IMAGE A HAS OF THE IMAGE A PROJECTS TO B

THE IMAGE A HAS OF B.

THE IMAGE OF B THAT A PROJECTS TO B

THE IMAGE A HAS OF THE IMAGE OF B A IS PROJECTING TO B

THE IMAGE A HAS OF THE IMAGE B HAS OF A.

THE IMAGE A HAS OF THE IMAGE B HAS OF B.

These can be spun out into fairly involved schematic description, made more complicated by descriptions of what conscious and unconscious; what is avowed and denied; what is implicitly and explicitly communicated, on various channels.

While all this may seem both obvious and overly detailed, we, in fact, use these basic ideas in our conscious and unconscious computations, as a guide for how we relate to people and how we will act in regard to image. One can here variations on these formulas in everyday conversation: "She knows I think she's attractive... I wonder what she thinks of me" - She (A) has an accurate image of the image B has of A. But what image does A have of B? or "I have a terrible self-image - I always think I'm not as good as the others in my family; then I am surprised to discover they don't think of me that way at all" - A has a certain kind of image of the image he has of himself and of the image others have of him, which, he discovers isn't accurate.


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