narrative self

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Narrative approaches to personality & self - culture & postmodernism: 

Narrative approaches to personality andamp; self - culture andamp; postmodernism Angela Hough Room 45 psychology

Overview1. Traditional approaches to personality/ Modern knowable self versus distributed self2. Narrative conceptions of self (Anderson – p41) 3. Postmodern conceptions of self/ pluralistic self /decentralised self/ dispersed self (Rappaport, Baumgardner & Boone- p.189& Watkins, p.220)4. Influence of culture: Mascolo, p140 &) 5. Overview & integration (Watkins, p.220): 

Overview 1. Traditional approaches to personality/ Modern knowable self versus distributed self 2. Narrative conceptions of self (Anderson – p41) 3. Postmodern conceptions of self/ pluralistic self /decentralised self/ dispersed self (Rappaport, Baumgardner andamp; Boone- p.189andamp; Watkins, p.220) 4. Influence of culture: Mascolo, p140 andamp;) 5. Overview andamp; integration (Watkins, p.220)


Questions Who are you? Describe your personality when you are with varsity friends/home/in a social world? What constituted selfhood? Where do you get messages about who to become? What influences who you are? (e.g.childhood experience, our bodies, parents, internalised familial voices, culture, media, gender, race, context, education, individuality, friends……) What are your multiple roles/characters you play? Can behaviour in working class community in Khayelitsha be understood by theoretical constructs developed from middle class America

Study of personality: 

Study of personality No THE personality theory Personality gains meaning by perspectives brought to bear on it - truth of perspective in order to select best fit perspective These lectures look at narrative and social constructionist perspectives

Aspects of being a person (the self): 

Aspects of being a person (the self) To be a person involves: embodiment - vehicle for exercising skills, communicating, relating to others, being- in-the-world, its functioning, look and capabilities Centrality of subjective experience - consciousness, sense of self identity, agency (initiate thought actions andamp; responsibility for actions) and cognition, awareness of inner thoughts andamp; world around us (multiplicity). To be intrinsically related to others,constrain and provide opportunities, medium for our existence- social practices, meanings andamp; customs, ways of thinking from social settings, ways people respond to us, moral order of our time. Unconscious feelings- not conscious of all our choices feelings etc. Interrelationship and interactions over time between these strands.

The Knowing self and personality in Traditional (Euro-American) psychology: 

The Knowing self and personality in Traditional (Euro-American) psychology Objective absolute reality which is knowable Knowledge transferred by experts Knower stripped of age, gender, values, culture, position Cartesian dualism: mind - body, self - context separate. Interior of individual is object of enquiry

Modern Knowable self:: 

Modern Knowable self: Sets of characteristics inherent in individuals andamp; make different from others. Centrality of individual, intrapsychic processes andamp; interpersonal andamp; familial structures on influencing personality Person self contained, consistent across times and situations, observable and knowable/discoverable by self andamp; others Bounded, unique, autonomous, internal integrated motivational and cognitive system, the centre of emotion, judgment andamp; awareness Self contained individualism (Hermans) independent view of self (Markus andamp; Kitayama), encapsulated self (Anderson)

An alternative perspective? : 

An alternative perspective? Little consideration of cultural andamp; psychosocial context and societal factors in influencing personality Mainstream psychological theory developed in particular socio-historical contexts and class groupings Tendency not to challenge the societal status quo Interdependence of biological, psychological andamp; social factors on aetiology of mental dis-ease (WHO, 2001), e.g. role of women Self in non-western societies self defined in terms of relationships- collectivist and interdependent Self merged - self and other, self and context Consciousness emerges in fields of meaning which are socially and culturally organised

The decentralisation of self - Hermens and Kempen: 

The decentralisation of self - Hermens and Kempen Decarte - Cogito ‘I think therefore I am' - dentralised ego in full control of own thoughts challenged as culturally biased Decentralisation of self = self as multiplicity of voices rather than unitary thought process Bakhtin - self a multiplicity of characters related in dialogical way. Mulifaceted possibilities of self Subpersonalities and imagoes as characters in self narrative


Multiple faces of madonna

Postmodern architecture: 

Postmodern architecture



What is it? : 

What is it? Multiple perspectives Flexible (materials, moral values) No grand narratives Mixes old and new Multiple possibilities No rules

Multi-faceted and possibilities of self (Hermens and Kempen): 

Multi-faceted and possibilities of self (Hermens and Kempen) Self seen as multifaceted phenomenon set of images, schemas, conceptions, theories and goals. Multiplicity of identity - personal feeling a s well as roles and status Dynamic process of possible selves (e.g. The self one would like to be and afraid of becoming are motivational forces Influences by recent conceptions of textuality = text as act of dialogue between 2 actors (author and reader) - each time tell life story differs according to context (constantly reinterpreted)

Distributed self: : 

Distributed self: Social constructionists argue for merged view of self and context (Bruner, Gergen, Shotter). Our skin encapsulated body give us sense of enclosed private self contained world in heads But strings of dialogue and self conceptions, and influences of the social world (social history, current social practices , social structures and patterning) influence construction of self Therefore relationships and dialogue become objects of study distributed self 'the sum and swarm of participations in social life' (Bruner, 1990, p107). Therefore identify multifaceted (not unitary) a number of contextual selves in different relational settings including contradictions in personality and responses in different settings Self a fluid changing history of relationships

Relational view of self: 

Relational view of self


Sharp demarcation of self and other and independent autonomous self more difficult to maintain Self jointly constructed- still affected by power relations Emergent self - constantly being formed and multiple new social identities co-exist with old social identities- different social contexts different identity possibilities e.g. Daughter, academic, teacher, friend but limited - must be [plausible in light of what gone before, not too fragmented, some self awareness of how perceived Change happens as people negotiate tensions among multiple possibilities

Culture and self: 

Culture and self Constant social incorporation which is reinforced and trains our behaviours and routines - acquire patterns of thought and monologues, self dialogues and self positioning of self in relation to others One cannot become socialised by oneself = process is relational Joint action simultaneously positions all participants Identities emerge in the interaction in the in-between spaces Determined by ecology, physical space andamp; environment, divisions of labour, institutions (e.g. Ed systems, religions) andamp; social divisions.


Biological theories argue emotions are genetically based Social constructionists say emotions are intertwined with social conventions and practice Emotions may be biological but rules which inhibit or elicit their expression are culturally determined. Our choices are grounded in social material available


American pragmatists: John Dewey; Charles Pierce; William James andamp; George Herbert Mead Decentering of subject Intersubjective transactions andamp; practices. Transactional interrelationship between subject andamp; object/context Discourse/ Language set of practices by which embodied agents established shared frameworks of activity (praxis) Discourse refers to public exchange andamp; thought- 'Thought lives, moves, and has its being in and through symbols, and therefore, depends for meaning upon context as do symbols.' Self as agent constrained and in relation to world- embedded agents Intrinsic relatedness of organism to situation Context = enveloping situation and selective interest of situated agents The subject is agent-sufferer;embodied andamp; located in the problematic situation and is susceptible to resistance from the situation andamp; capable of opposition, exertion andamp; innovation object is active French structuralists: Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Francois Lyotard Decentering of subject Impersonal structures and processes Language all a play of signifiers Self as passive construct of =social forces Move from focus on consciousness to language Fixity of ‘I’ is illusory Series of positions evoked as a response to discourse of others = who I am is determined by how I am addressed by others.referent determined on linguistic context - signified is not fixed and refers to changing contexts (eg. Tree of signifier of fertility)

Narrative Approaches to personality:ANDERSON, H (1997): 

Narrative Approaches to personality: ANDERSON, H (1997) Narratives are the discursive way we organise, account for, give meaning to and understand the events andamp; experiences of our lives and understand the world in a coherent meaningful form. Self identities constantly changing narratives, revise plat as new events added, collaboration with other’s dialogues. Narratives construct us and we construct narratives: we use narrative to understand our experience but narrative also constructs our experiences. People embedded in conversations - our life consists of talking: conversations, dialogues, arguing, monologues, exchanges of points of view our identities are discursive products- language and discourse raw materials for construction of self. Identity is contextual- located in, defined by interconnecting social activities


Narratives Narratives are created, experienced, shared dynamic, 2 way discursive. Social action Narratives form, inform and reform Narratives are always embedded in cultural, social, political and historical narratives, intertwined with other narratives. Narratives /language ‘frame’ our experiences Narratives need to be: sequential/ temporally ordered, manages departure from canonical, valued end point, event recounted relevant to end point, characters coherent identity across time, events causally linked.

Social origins of higher mental functions- Vygotsky: 

Social origins of higher mental functions- Vygotsky the material that makes social environment also composes mind. Genetic law of cultural development: Social origins of higher mental functions: interpsychological to intrapsychological - other to self regulation social practices through which psychological practices are mediated Self talk - inner dialogue Learn/make sense through active engagement in


Development from social to individual through language Language acquisition and social interaction essential for development Thought consists of internalised social dialogues Individual thought reflect outer social world Child through play try out perspectives of others role e.g. play doctor doctor of being scolded organise a number of roles Mead dialogue ‘I’ and ‘me’



The narrative self: 

The narrative self 'We are voices in a chorus that transforms lived life into narrated life' The self is formed, informed and reformed through story telling. Therefore the self is a dynamic mosaic, a cloth woven of stories told - reader andamp; writer of own lives. An on-going self andamp; other multi-faceted biography which is constructed, reconstructed through interaction andamp; relationship (a being andamp; becoming through language). Made up of multiple components: narratives, experiences andamp; relationships

Living our life through stories: 

Living our life through stories As humans we are interpretive beings. We seek to make sense of daily experiences. The stories we have about our lives are created by linking together certain events in a particular sequence across a certain time period and explain or make sense of them (plot). Many stories occur simultaneously (selves, struggles, abilities, relationships).eg good driver story Talk is action - 'I' telling self and others who we are, where we come from and where we going. I - speakign subject (assumes audience, perspective and multiple I positions  same ‘I’ moving back andamp; forth)

Discourse as social action (Potter & Wetherall, Edwards & Potter): 

Discourse as social action (Potter andamp; Wetherall, Edwards andamp; Potter) Language a practical activity- a form of social action- say things in certain way according to our purpose. (*rather than just a communicative transport medium that is value free) See Extract Utterances state and do things - each present their case in a particular way…to undermine the other Discourse has an action orientation and constitutive - creating a narrative of understanding and meaning alters with context of use (e.g. Comment on weather)- indexicality Cultural influences are mediated through language

Extract (Wetherall & Maybin, 1996,p. 241): 

Extract (Wetherall andamp; Maybin, 1996,p. 241) Sluzuki: what kinds of problems were there? Jenny: Uhm (-) again back to you know what I said originally I think you know just like this inability to communicate feelings like we were (-) living in in you know separate (-) houses and that we weren’t really (-) working as a couple, I mean we didn’t really have 9-) a relationship so to speak I mean uhm I felt that if things happened to Larry he couldn’t talk to me about them Sluzuki: he didn’t talk to you abut it? Jenny: No he’s he’s very introverted and very private, very private person….. Larry: we’re different in that way, she has a problem she likes to talk (-) about it or reiterate it (-) a number of times a large umber of times in my view…and on that issue 9-) she’s probably, if there is an objective way to look at it, I think she probably over does the talking about problems and I(-) tend to under (-) talk those


Story re self as good driver - select certain events as demonstration of this plot- as more events collected, gathers richness andamp;becomes a dominant plot. This plot becomes elevated in significance - other experiences that don’t fit are seen as insignificant. Influenced by reflections from others Dominant stories have implications for future actions (not neutral), ie. Competant /cowardly Live many stories at once (multistoried - many stories occur @ same time, andamp; many stories about same events


No story free of some ambiguity Alternative stories (event like accident) Engaged in mediation between dominant andamp; alternative stories of self- dynamic Ways we understand self influenced by broader context - influenced by stories of dominant culture, family stories - and influences future actions = powerfully shape our lives (e.g.. Depression, internalized racism) Meanings do not happen in a vacuum- context in which formed -= age gender, sexual orientation, culture Families, communities also have stories


Self in a created concept, a created narrative, self is dialogical-narrative Self as story teller Self - manifestation of action of talking about oneself - always telling stories about who we are, and always revising plot with new events- make our existence into a whole by understanding it as expression of single unfolding andamp; developing story Influences self - agency- personal perception of competency for certain actions Polyphonic- multiple voiced- many ‘I’ positions- multi-authored self Linguistic relational view of self.

Narrative self: 

Narrative self Linguistically and socially created selves: ‘I' is speaking self addressing audience (you), personal account in language

Culture & personality: 

Culture andamp; personality Common sense definitions of personality = sets of characteristics particular to individuals Euro-American psychology emphasizes individual, intrapsychic processes andamp; sometimes interpersonal andamp; family structure as influences in personality (theory developed in particular socio-historical andamp; class contexts. Neglect impact of community andamp; societal norms Can behaviour in working class community in Khayaletsha be explained using Theory developed in middle class Switzerland? Theories therefore reinforce political status quo.


E.g. women’s roles primarily caring andamp; nurturing others with limited access to resources andamp; leisure, andamp; devaluation of these roles = psychological distress WHO - interdependence of biological, psychological andamp; social factors in aetiology of mental health problems (depression) Treatment/intervention is individual (psychotherapy andamp; drug therapy) VS empowerment andamp; changing social conditions Problems of living seen as private, blames victim, don’t question oppressive social relations Concepts of personality presented as value-free


Concrete operations tasks I.e. Conservation of volume – liquid or solid (i.e. Clay ball or liquid in different sized glasses). Change from preoperational to concrete operations happens for children in Geneva between 5- 7 years, but for Aboriginal children from 11 – 13 years. However on spatial reasoning tasks (2 landscapes)- Aboriginal children preformed better. According to their sociocultural setting this makes sense - importance of direction andamp; dreamtime or walkabout- spatial reasoning develops more rapidly. However Aboriginal culture does not quantify or own things, even their language only has denominations up to five, after that it is ‘many’. - not surprising that they do not develop quantifying skills quickly. Relative rate of cognitive development in different domains reflects what is highly valued in a culture, what is needed and what is adaptive.

Mainstream approaches to personality: 

Mainstream approaches to personality Psychoanalytic: people’s UNCS contains aggregate of past experiences, conflicts andamp; drives = indiv. differences (Freud, Jung) Biological: differences due to neurophysiological processes in brain, genetic predisposition andamp; inheritance, evolutionary processes (Eysenck andamp; Buss) Behaviourists: behaviour patterns established through external conditioning and consequences to behaviour (Skinner) Trait theorists: Allport Humanistic approaches (Rogers andamp; Maslow) - personal responsibility andamp; acceptance

3 conceptions of culture: 

3 conceptions of culture Culture a veneer, as skin - beneath layers of onion is essence of person, culture outside/in environment (ethnicity) ‘set of shared constraints that limit behaviour available to members of a group’ Culture as antecedent- independent, external andamp; mediating variables of influence Culture as process- cultural andamp; psychological processes inseparable - humans perpetuate andamp; change cultural andamp; are in turn shaped by it- a dynamic distribution of meanings practices andamp; artifacts throughout linguistic community - occurs within and between people and not fixed, multiplicity of meanings andamp; dynamic

Conceptions of self: 3 categories of self-relevant experience:: 

Conceptions of self: 3 categories of self-relevant experience: Conscious self directed action on object: self regulation, intentional, constructive, goal directed action- consciousness of action andamp; outcomes but not conscious 'that I am acting' Reflexive self consciousness: Thinking about action (pride, embarrassment) aware of ‘I’ and ‘me’ who am I in relation to others? Construct identities in relation to social partners Higher order self representations; awareness and meaningful sense of selfhood over time, recollect andamp; organise representations of self in temporal andamp; narrative form, construct theories of self- systems of belief about one’s position in socio-moral order

Culture & personality: 

Culture andamp; personality Culture consists of people’s attitudes, beliefs, religion, language, ideals, values , rituals, practices (Hunter, 2004) set of rules that regulate behaviour (Shweder), dynamic Culture central to individual’s identity, social experience - cultural values andamp; norms are internalised to become part of psychological make-up Individuals andamp; culture do not operate as separate entities - psychological acts occur within the medium of culture (Cole), e.g.Wertsch People andamp; cultures function as parts of each other’s processes - make each other up Acquire identity over course of life 'who am I and where do I belong' 'self understanding, social interaction and morality are intertwined in developing psychological system that grows and changes throughout lifespan'


Individualist-collectivist continuum of culture (Matsumoto, Hofstede) e.g. American culture highly individualistic (personal goals, separate from others andamp; self contained, indiv. ability and intelligence valued) In collectivist cultures: ‘umuntu unmuntu Ngabuntu’ - a person is a person amongst others - exist andamp; function in complex andamp; interconnected way with others, empathy and interdependence valued, belonging and supportive groups NB, attend to needs of in-group rather than others. Apartheid negative impact of Black self definition - assertiveness discouraged - Black consciousness movement to counteract shame andamp; fragmented collectivity Locus of control - internal (motivation) or external (other people, access)


Sociocultural factors: Class, race, gender, country of origin Personality Individual factors:temperament,genetics

Culture & structure of personality: 

Culture andamp; structure of personality Personality as integration of an individual’s construction of meaning using cultural values, products and behaviour integrated with biological and psychological factors such as evolution and temperament Every individual is intersection of relational nuclei - mother-child dyad embedded in multiplicity of relational networks Culture inseparable - but also means differences within cultures - influence by family, relationships, experiences

Self at nexus of intersystemic activity: 

Self at nexus of intersystemic activity Self-organised around phenomenal core - sense of agency, sensorimotor action, affect andamp; being located in space and intersubjective space with others But cannot be reduced to this core - self develops with capacity to direct consciousness of self using cultural symbols andamp; culturally framed joint action - selves undergo transformation in direction of culturally values endpoints. Culture completes development of self Individuals andamp; culture are inseparable


Co-regulation- individuals adjust thoughts, feelings, actions to the ongoing andamp; anticipated actions of their social partners (e.g. In play mother andamp; child) - actions of other are part of self’s actions andamp; experiences Social partners seize meanings from broader culture to mediate joint action, then acting together create new experiences andamp; meaning (incapable of sustaining alone) Sign mediates interaction functions to direct one’s new actions, thoughts and feelings Meanings that have been transformed within local social relations can become redistributed among broader cultural systems

Postmodern self: 

Postmodern self Postmodern self: identity andamp; continuity or self hood is about maintaining coherence in the stories we tell ourselves. To make senses of chaos of life. Not a single entity ‘I’ arrived at by peeling away layers Created in interaction



Questions to self: 

Questions to self Compare pictures re knowledge How would you define your generation in comparison to 80 years ago:Role of women/men, technology/ workplace/ religion/learning





Defining self: 

Defining self Self is a delicate social interaction defined in context Self interdependent - relationships, context, language, multiple positions: Inner vs outer/ experienced vs presented self, Self-as-subject vs self-as-object self grows out of social connectedness- human enmeshment in social context and self in relation to other’ (Markus andamp; Kitayama) The technologies , language forms, values andamp; other representational systems delimiting range of meanings through which a person come to understand themselves and others are rooted in culture (Geertz)


…internal, personal attributes are best understood as they are delicately controlled and regulated in an overarching motivation to fit in with and be in harmony with members of the social network. Self schema: of physical place in time,space andamp; social network Conception of self dependent on conception of other Phylogenetic (between organisms) and ontogenetic (across time) Development occurs across lifespan - continuous unfolding,elaboration andamp; adjustment, growing self awareness, diffent stages = alteration is self (job, marriage)

Characteristics of postmodern individual: 

Characteristics of postmodern individual Globally oriented worldview- complexity andamp; uncertainty Cognitive andamp; behavioural flexibility Moral relativism Absurdist humour Distrust of govt., large corporations, medicine, religion

Therapy? Watkins: 

Therapy? Watkins Dialogue between intrapsychic interpersonal cultural, imaginal, ecological and spiritual even dreams are metabolisation of culture,economics etc, Create dialogue between these multiples Therapist as storyteller/editor/ Move to difference with tolerance, rather than oppression and silencing Reducing conflict by facilitating mutual understanding - dialogical space

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