You are here

Understanding the Self

Understanding the Self

Edited by:

384 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
A stimulating textbook, Understanding the Self introduces a broad range of theoretical perspectives that treat the self as a central concern of social psychology and gives students an insight into contemporary debates about the self. The opening chapter draws out the key features of "being a person" and introduces the idea of a multiple-perspective approach. Subsequent chapters clearly explain biological, cognitive-experimental, experiential (including humanistic, phenomenological, and existential), social constructionist, and psychodynamic approaches. After thorough and thought-provoking discussion, the book concludes with an examination of the dilemmas of self and identity in modern society. Understanding the Self is the perfect overview of theoretical perspectives for use in undergraduate as well as introductory graduate courses in social psychology as well as sociology.
Richard Stevens
Making Sense of the Person in a Social World

Frederick Toates
The Embodied Self
A Biological Perspective

Mansur Lalljee
The Interpreting Self
An Experimentalist Perspective

Richard Stevens
The Reflexive Self
An Experiential Perspective

Margaret Wetherell and Janet Maybin
The Distributed Self
A Social Constructionist Perspective

Kerry Thomas
The Defensive Self
A Psychodynamic Perspective

Richard Stevens and Margaret Wetherell
The Self in the Modern World
Drawing Together the Threads


`The clarity of the book is exemplary, ideal for students and newcomers to the subject alike. Each chapter introduces where it is going, goes there, summarizes where it has been and suggests sources for further reading. Clinical, literary, anecdotal and experimental findings to intrigue readers are scattered throughout the text and there are many little thought experiments (about the nature of one's own self), making it easy to relate the theory and experiments to one's own experience. Perhaps my highest accolade is to confess that I am adopting this book, intended for social psychology students, for my "Theoretical Issues in Psychology" course' - Scientific and Medical Network Journal

`[This] volume reflects what I consider to be the hallmark of Open University social psychology coverage - the denial that there is a single "legitimate" approach to the subject, coupled with a strenuous effort to consider alternative approaches (the "metaperspective")... I judge this book to be something of a triumph. It provides many valuable insights into how social psychologists work within different paradigms and with quite different assumptions... Throughout, the writing is clear, central issues are constantly re-examined, and sight is never lost of the whole "task" of the book... it addresses central issues both adventurously and provocatively. Students who use it are lucky to have such a feast provided, and they are bound to find the material both challenging and stimulating... there is much more about self issues in this text than in any comparable social psychology text. And that, in itself, is a major achievement' - Self & Society

`Richard Stevens' excellent book asks the reader to consider the nature of self from five different perspectives: biological, experimental, experiential, social constructivist and psychodynamic. An ambitious attempt is made throughout to compare and contrast these disparate perspectives, culminating in an impressive integration of ideas in the final chapter that examines the nature of self in the postmodern world. Stevens and his contributors should be applauded for their efforts; rarely has there been an attempt to synthesize approaches to the study of self that so clearly differ in terms of their methodological and theoretical perspectives... the fostering of what Bruner terms "openmindedness" is in keeping with the spirit of this book, as well as the other books that are part of The Open University series. Several times in each chapter, the reader is asked to engage in thinking activities designed to enhance understanding of themselves, as well as the nature of self in general... The summary effect of these exercises is a feeling that one has taken a "journey around the self", having explored and introspected about the nature of self from a myriad of angles and perspectives... With the aid of a sensitive instructor, Understanding the Self should promote spirited in-class discussion, as well as thoughtful introspection and self-discovery' - Contemporary Psychology

`An absolutely terrific book - very innovative and in some ways really revolutionary: a wonderfully thoughtful volume... designed to teach people not just about social psychology, but how to think social psychology' - Jerome Bruner, New York University

`This is the most forward looking text I have ever encountered. Where most textbooks are composed of dry summaries of past accomplishments, the present volume draws students into dialogue on cutting-edge issues. Both teachers and students will be enriched' - Kenneth Gergen, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania

A lovely book, well written. I enjoyed the way the author transceneded a variety of theoretical approached. Unfortunately not what is required for the course I am teaching

Mr Mark Timoney
Humanities , Sligo Institute of Technology
May 28, 2012

This is a dated text and subsequently is devoid of the more contemporary postmodern/ post structuralist perspectives on identity and self

Dr William Evans
Dept of Nursing, Tralee Institute of Technology
June 18, 2010

Richard Stevens