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50 Signs of Mental IllnessA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Bright Red ScreamA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Corner Of The UniverseA Lethal InheritanceA Mood ApartA Research Agenda for DSM-VA Slant of SunA War of NervesAbnormal Psychology in ContextADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeAddiction Recovery ToolsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAl-JununAlmost a PsychopathAlterations of ConsciousnessAm I Okay?American ManiaAmerican Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical NeurosciencesAn American ObsessionAngelheadAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnthology of a Crazy LadyApproaching NeverlandAs Nature Made HimAsylumAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderBeing Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory Betrayal TraumaBetrayed as BoysBetter Than ProzacBetter Than WellBeyond AppearanceBeyond ReasonBinge No MoreBiological UnhappinessBipolar 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ChildrenEmotions and LifeEmpowering People with Severe Mental IllnessEssential PsychopharmacologyEssentials of Cas AssessmentEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in Psychiatric ResearchEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEverything In Its PlaceFamily Experiences With Mental IllnessFatigue as a Window to the BrainFear of IntimacyFinding Iris ChangFinding Meaning in the Experience of DementiaFlorid StatesFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItForensic Nursing and Multidisciplinary Care of the Mentally Disordered OffenderFountain HouseFrom Madness to Mental HealthFrom Trauma to TransformationGandhi's WayGender and Its Effects on PsychopathologyGender and Mental HealthGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGetting Your Life BackGracefully InsaneGrieving Mental IllnessHandbook of AttachmentHandbook of DepressionHandbook of Self and IdentityHealing the SplitHerbs for the MindHidden SelvesHigh RiskHope and DespairHow Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow to Become a SchizophrenicHow We Think About DementiaHughes' Outline of Modern PsychiatryHumanizing MadnessHysterical MenHystoriesI Hate You-Don't Leave MeI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Thought I Could FlyI'm CrazyImagining RobertImpulse Control DisordersIn Others' EyesIn Two MindsInsanityIntegrated Behavioral Health CareIntegrative MedicineIntegrative Mental Health CareIntuitionJust CheckingKarl JaspersKissing DoorknobsKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersLaw and the BrainLaw, Liberty, and PsychiatryLegal and Ethical Aspects of HealthcareLiberatory PsychiatryLife at the BottomLife at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997Life Is Not a Game of PerfectLithium for MedeaLiving Outside Mental IllnessLiving with AnxietyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLiving Without Depression and Manic DepressionLost in the MirrorLove's ExecutionerLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderMad in AmericaMad TravelersMad, Bad and 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EmperorRelational Mental HealthRemembering TraumaRepressed SpacesResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsRestricted AccessRethinking the DSMReviving OpheliaRewarding Specialties for Mental Health CliniciansSaints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural IrelandSchizophreniaSchizophrenia RevealedSchizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion?Self-Determination Theory in the ClinicShunnedShynessSigns of SafetySilencing the VoicesSlackjawSocial Cognition and SchizophreniaSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSoul Murder RevisitedSounds from the Bell JarSpeaking Our MindsSpontaneous HealingStop PretendingStraight Talk about Psychological Testing for KidsStranger Than FictionStreet CrazyStudy Guide to the DSM-IV-TRSurviving Manic DepressionSurviving SchizophreniaSurviving SchizophreniaTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaking the Fear Out of ChangingTalking Back to PsychiatryTarnationTeen LoveTelling Is Risky BusinessTelling SecretsThe Age of InsanityThe American Psychiatric Press Textbook of PsychiatryThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anger WorkbookThe Anorexic SelfThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar ChildThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Borderline Personality Disorder Survival GuideThe Broken MirrorThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Medical Ethics WorkbookThe Case for Pragmatic PsychologyThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chemical Dependence Treatment Documentation SourcebookThe Chemical Dependence Treatment PlannerThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Condition of MadnessThe Construction of Power and Authority in PsychiatryThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Criminal BrainThe Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and MedicineThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Depression WorkbookThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Early Stages of SchizophreniaThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe Employee Assistance Treatment PlannerThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality DisorderThe Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical WayThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Explosive ChildThe Fall Of An IconThe Fasting GirlThe Forensic Documentation SourcebookThe Forgotten MournersThe Gift of Adult ADDThe Good EaterThe Green ParrotThe Healing Power of PetsThe Heart of AddictionThe Heroic ClientThe Insanity OffenseThe Invisible PlagueThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Limits of Autobiography The LobotomistThe Madness of Our LivesThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of AddictionThe Meaning of MindThe Medical AdvisorThe Mind/Mood Pill BookThe Most Solitary of AfflictionsThe Mozart EffectThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe OutsiderThe 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Related Topics
Handbook of Self and IdentityReview - Handbook of Self and Identity
by Mark R. Leary and June Price Tangney
Guilford Press, 2002
Review by William A. Buchanan, Ph.D.
Mar 21st 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 12)

From the editors' preface:  "One of the most notable things about human beings that distinguishes them from all other animals is their ability to self-reflect, to form images and ideas of what they are like, to ponder important questions about themselves, to seek outcomes that are congenial to their sense of self, to exert deliberate control over themselves, and to engage on other acts of selfhood.  Although our understanding of these processes will undoubtedly advance in the coming years, researchers and theorists have made enormous strides in illuminating these quintessential human processes related to the self.  This volume represents an attempt to integrate and summarize state-of-the-art knowledge about self and identity in a simple, comprehensive volume."

The book is no lightweight -- 703 pages, 32 chapters covering seven parts, with 5 overlapping domains/sections, and includes author and subject indexes.  Fifty-four authors were invited to provide the content.  The editors sought to capture the full flavor and excitement about 'self research and theory' that has emerged over the last 30 years, but more than a century since William James' classic 1890 text, Principles of Psychology, and his chapter therein -- the 'consciousness of self.'  They point out that there now exists a thriving international, interdisciplinary society for scholars who study the self and identity as well as a new journal called Self and Identity that started publication in 2002.

Part I.  (2 introductory chapters)

1)                  The Self as an Organizing Construct in the Behavioral and Social Sciences.

2)                  The Self as a Psychosocial Dynamic Processing System:  a meta-perspective on a century of the self in psychology.

Part II.  (6 chapters)  Content, Structure, and Organization of the Self

Examines the content, structure and organization of the self.  "A great deal of theory and research has been devoted to cognitive aspects of the self -- not only the content of people's thoughts about themselves but how the self-relevant information is organized, stored, and retrieved.  The six chapters herein cover topics such as identity, self-concept, self-memory, self-organization, the implicit self, and the stability of self-thought."

Part III.  (5 chapters)  Agency, Regulation, & Control

These five chapters focus on the processes by which people regulate themselves -- processes involving self-awareness, self-control, the use of self-standards, and self-efficacy.  "Although researchers still do not understand precisely how people turn self-generated intentions into deliberate self-directed behavior, the chapters in this section show how far our understanding has progressed in the past 20 years.

Part IV.  (7 chapters)  Evaluation, Motivation, & Emotion

"The topics covered in Parts II and III involve largely "cold" self processes, focusing on how people develop, process, store, and use information about themselves.  The chapters in Part IV, in contrast, deal with "hot" processes that involve motivation and emotion.  A great deal of research has studied self-motives such as self-enhancement and self-verification, as well as how self-thought and self-evaluation are related to emotions such as pride, shame, and guilt.  The chapters in Part III share a common focus on self-processes involving evaluation, motivation, and emotion."

Part V.  (7 chapters)  Interpersonal Aspects of the Self

"One criticism that has been leveled at some research on self and identity is that it has treated the self in a disembodied, decontextualized manner, thereby losing much of its inherently interpersonal nature.  The seven chapters in Part V redress this complaint as they focus on interpersonal aspects of the self.  Clearly much of what happens when people interact -- in relationships, groups, or casual interactions -- is influenced by how the individuals construe themselves.  In turn, these self-construals are greatly affected by interpersonal and cultural factors."

Part VI.  (4 chapters)  Phylogenetic and Ontological Development.

This section deals with the 'development of the self', among non-human animals, over evolutionary time, and during childhood and adolescence.  The editors comment that "Most psychologists would agree that newborn babies, like most non-human animals, have at most a rudimentary bodily or ecological self but no capacity for true self-awareness or self-relevant thought."  This section addresses many interesting questions about the selves of other animals, how the human self evolved from presumably self-less hominids, ways in which self-thoughts and self-evaluations change with age, and why the development of the self sometimes goes awry, resulting in emotional and behavioral problems.

Part VII.  Epilogue

The last section provides a single chapter where the editors reflect on common themes that have emerged across the five areas of self-functioning (Parts II-VI above) and speculate on what the future holds for the next generation of research on the self.  They point out that the "first generation" of empirical research on the self emerged in the middle of the 20th century and focused primarily on self-esteem, which was conceptualized as a fairly stable attribute and was seen largely in the province of personality psychology.  The "second generation" of self research, in turn, is seen as starting in the 1980's, where researchers conceptualizations of the self became markedly more rich and differentiated, as a range of subdisciplines began to investigate properties and mechanisms of the self.  Examples given are social psychology, developmental psychology, and sociology.

Four continuing themes of this volume are seen by the editors to still dominate most of the ongoing research, and hence future of self research. These are--evolutionary processes, self esteem, development of self, and culture-self relationships.  The editors provide a fairly rich discussion as to what questions researchers will ask in each of these areas.  They conclude this section, and the book, with the expectation that rapid growth and progress in the self-research and theory field will occur as integration of current 'midlevel theories', presented in this volume, gets raised to the next theoretical level.  As this occurs, they feel this marks the third generation of research on the self.

Reviewer's Comments:  I recommend this very fine volume to anyone needing core reference material on the latest research and theory on self and identity.  It will surely remain as the technical standard in the field probably for the next five years.  Three areas I would have liked to have seen more of are work/occupational aspects of self, the role of religious belief in identity, and the cognitive neuroscience of self.  But all of these do have their individual research sources for consideration.  The Annual Review of Psychology for 2003 has a fine chapter on the religion-self issue, and the Annual Review of Neuroscience probably considers self factors, as well.  I confess that despite my own research on self and work, I cannot readily point to a reference work in that area.


© 2003 William A. Buchanan


William A. Buchanan, PhD, is an experimental psychologist practicing in Palo Alto, California. He is the founder and president of WABA, Inc., an industrial-organizational consulting firm established in 1980.  See his work on the web at


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