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Personality: Self concept · Personality testing · Theories · Mind-body problem

Self & identity
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The self is a key construct in several schools of psychology. Usages differ between theorists and fields of study, but in general the self refers to the conscious, reflective personality of an individual. The study of the self involves significant methodological problems, especially concerning consciousness. Some of these are taken up in philosophy of mind and metaphysics.

A psychological school of thought focused on the self was originally proposed by Heinz Kohut (1913-1981).

Self constructs

Major conceptualizations within the theory of the self include:

A critique of the concept of selfhood

'Selfhood' or complete autonomy is a uniquely Western approach to psychology and models of self are employed constantly in areas such as psychotherapy and self help. Edward E. Sampson (1989) argues that the preoccupation with independence is harmful in that it creates racial, sexual and national divides and does not allow for observation of the self-in-other and other-in-self.

The very notion of selfhood is an attacked idea because it is seen as necessary for the mechanisms of advanced capitalism to function. In Inventing our selves: Psychology, power, and personhood, Nikolas Rose (1998) proposes that psychology is now employed as a technology that allows humans to buy into an invented and arguably false sense of self. Rose sees that freedom assists governments and exploitation.

It is said by some that for an individual to talk about, explain, understand or judge oneself is linguistically impossible, since it requires the self to understand its self. This is seen as philosophically invalid, being self-referential, or reification, also known as a Circular argument. Thus, if actions arise so that the self attempts self-explanation, confusion may well occur within linguistic mental pathways and processes.

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts


  • Axline, V. (1971) Dibs: In Search of Self, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Anchor.
  • Marsell,A.J., DeVos,0. and Hsu,F.L.K.(1985) (eds) Culture and Self: Asian and Western Perspectives, London: Tavistock.
  • Mead, G.H. (1934) Mind, Self and Society, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.


Bharati, A. (1985) The self in Hindu thought and action. In: A.J. Marsella, G. DeVos and F.L.K. Hsu (eds) (1985) Culture and Self: Asian and Western Perspectives, London: Tavistock. Bond, C.F. (1982) Social facilitation: a selfpresentational view, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42: 1042-50. Brim, O.G. (1965) Adolescent personality as self-other systems, Journal of Marriage and the Family 27: 156-62.

  • DeVos, G. (1985) Dimensions of the self in Japanese culture. In: A.J. Marsell, 0. DeVos and F.L.K. Hsu (eds) Culture and Self: Asian and Western Perspectives, London: Tavistock.
  • Ellemers, N.. Spears, R. and Doosje, B. (2002) Self and social identity. Annual Review of Psychology, 53. 161-86.
  • Nobles, W.W. (1976) Extended self: rethinking the so-called Negro self-concept. In: R.L. Jones (ed.) Black Psychology, New York: Harper & Row.

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