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Understanding the Self
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Understanding the Self

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December 1995 | 384 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
`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

`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

This accessible, broad-based and authoritative textbook explores theories and research relating to the self for students of personality and social psychology. A feature of the book is that it is designed to provoke reflection in readers, both on their own experience and on the nature of social psychological understanding.

It engages with contemporary debates about the nature of self by contrasting original and leading-edge treatments from five perspectives: biological; cognitive-experimental; experiential; social constructionist; and psychodynamic. The concluding chapter explores how these perspectives interrelate, through a discussion of the dilemmas of self and identity in modern society.

Understanding the Self is one of three books which form the core of the Open University's course Social Psychology: Personal Lives, Social Worlds.

Richard Stevens
Introduction
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

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