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Personality, Culture, and Science: Contexts for Understanding the Self Author(s): Drew Westen Source: Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1992), pp. 74-81 Published by: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (Taylor & Francis Group) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1448805 Accessed: 23/01/2009 17:48 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=lebtaylorfrancis. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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PsychologicalInquiry 1992, Vol. 3, No. 1, 74-81
AUTHOR'S RESPONSE Personality,Culture, and Science:Contextsfor Understandingthe Self Drew Westen Departmentof Psychiatry Harvard University and Departmentof Psychiatry CambridgeHospital After readingthroughthe 20 commentarieson my article, we may havean empiricalanswerto the questionraisedin the title, "Can we put our selves together?"The answer, predicted accuratelyby severalcommentators-notably Tesser, Ogilvie, andJeffersonSinger-is thatthereis moreto such a marriagethan a union of ideas: There are families to bring together (large numbers of psychologists working within theirsingle paradigmwho havelittle or no familiaritywith or interestin the other),a mutualhome to establish(some organizationalstructurethatwould supportintegrativeeffortsthat cut across paradigmsas well as across clinical and experimental social psychology), and a large dowry to be paid (psychological "entrepreneurs" giving up claims to uniqueness of microparadigms).Althoughtherearecertainlyseveral in the weddingpartywho bless this union, notablythose of us (Strauman, Epstein, Jerome Singer, Horowitz and the University of California-San Franciscogroup [Fridhandler & Tunis], and a handfulof others)who come in contactboth with patients and with subjects and who work at the interstices of the two approaches,psychoanalysisand social cognition may well be star-crossedlovers. At this historicaljuncture,the psychoanalyticMontagues seem more willing to entertaina union than the social-cognitive Capulets.1 Psychoanalysiscertainly has its anti-empiricists, some championingthe cause of hermeneuticsas an alternativeto empiricism, and others who simply see the couch as the only really importantsource of data about humanpsychology; nevertheless,most in the psychoanalytic community are now calling for an expanded empiricism (e.g., Wallerstein,1988), empiricalresearchis being funded by the American PsychoanalyticAssociation, and psychoanalystsarebusy digesting the infancyliteratureandconsidering its relevance to their theories (e.g., Ster, 1985). On the social-cognitiveside, severalof the commentatorson the target article seem equally interested in considering what psychoanalysisand clinical observationmight have to offer the understandingof issues of self. Others,however,appear convinced thatwith business as usual, Kuhnianpuzzle-solving will resolve any anomalies, and whatevertruthsthe ana'The remarksof one of the more stridentCapuletshave, however, been toned down since the version to which I respondedhere. My apologies if some of my remarksmay thus seem intemperatein response.
lysts may have happenedupon in their unsystematic,unscientific musings will be demonstratedempirically and broughtinto the body of scientificknowledge. This probably reflects both the philosophy of science that underlies research in social cognition, to which I return,as well as the currentvibrancyandpointin the "life cycle" of social cognition as a paradigmor school of thought.2 The more sanguine of the social cognitivists do, indeed, have cause to argue that many of the limitations of their perspective adumbratedin my article are beginning to be addressed. Major theorists and researcherssuch as Tesser, Markus, and Higgins and his colleagues have indeed been injectingimportantaffective and motivationalelements into what was once a cold cognitive endeavor.Markusand her colleagues have begun taking culture seriously and doing cross-culturalwork, which has been sorely needed. Bargh, Lewicki, Kihlstrom,andothershavebegunexploringunconscious social-cognitive processes empirically, and Bargh (1989) in particularhas lucidly distinguisheda variety of unconsciouscognitiveprocesses. Segal, Guidano,Mahoney, and othersarenow exploringissues of self fromthe perspective of cognitive therapythat go far beyond prior conceptualizationsin the cognitive therapyliterature. So why does this WestencrankthinkHazel Markusshould read the InternationalJournal of Psycho-Analysis?Let me give two brief examples, each of state-of-the-artcompilations of the latest in social-cognitive thinkingand research, applied to unconscious processes and clinical psychology, respectively. Both represent the latest in social-cognitive thinking and research, and both have serious deficiencies. The first is a book cited by more than one commentator here, a fascinating compilation of articles on unconscious 2Itremainsto be seen to whatextent social cognitioncan avoidthe fate of other social psychological "paradigms"(such as cognitive dissonance)that is, researchersbecome bored with the questions, which all seem eventually to yield ambiguousanswers and obligatorycalls for furtherresearch, fundersbegin to allocate their resourceselsewhere, and adherents begin askingquestionssuch as: How does the conceptof schema,whichnow includesaffect, differfrom the conceptof attitudein the attitudesliterature? How do discrepancytheoriesdifferfrom cognitive dissonance?Whatdoes informationprocessing theory add to concepts such as the flow of consciousness, self as object of thought, or possible selves as William James developed them?
processes edited by Uleman and Bargh (1989) called UnintendedThought.At the outset, a curiousthingaboutthe book is its title, which implies apparentlywithoutmuch consideration that intentionalityand consciousness are coextensive. In one of the most importantchapters,Barghcarefullydelineates differentkindsof unconsciousprocesses, calling attention to the distinction between automaticity and unconsciousness that was blurred in earlier cognitive models. Bargh, like most of the contributorsto the book, accepts a series of propositionsthat were once controversial(even a decade ago) and peculiar to psychoanalysis-namely, that thought can proceed without consciousness, that unconscious thoughtmay be complex andnonautomatic,thatcomponents of conscious thoughts are synthesized unconsciously, that these unconscious processes may influence thought and behavior before attaining consciousness, and that unconscious processes can even be initiated by conscious goals or motives. Whatis left out of this account,however,is as importantas what is now acceptedor empiricallydemonstrated:None of this is extended to motives or to the conscious goals that readersare told can initiateunconsciousthoughtprocesses. Where do conscious goals come from? Surely they do not sproutde novo from the (conscious) head of Zeus. Indeed, because many motives or goals include cognitive componentssuch as representationsof desiredandactualstates, one would similarly expect them to be synthesized outside of awareness,to be primedat times withoutconsciousness, and to influence thought and behavior before being fully constituted(if at all) in consciousness. The vast majorityof contributorsto Uleman and Bargh's book presupposesome versionof a parallelprocessingmodel of cognitive processes, but they assumethe serialprocessing of goals, which must come into consciousnessone at a time to direct behavior. Aside from this being illogical-why would thoughtsbe processedwith a parallelarchitectureand motives with a serial one?-it is evolutionarilyunlikely:An organismthat could respondto multiplemotive systems simultaneouslywould be at a tremendousadaptiveadvantage relativeto an organismthatcould only wantandbe attunedto one thingat a time. It is also contradictedby availableexperimental(not to mentionclinical) data. McClelland,Koestner, and Weinberger(1989) marshaledquite compelling data to suggest that when people are consciously focusing on their motives, then conscious motives seem to directtheirbehavior, whereas in the normalstreamof behavior,unconscious motives assessed projectivelyarea betterpredictorof behavior than are self-reports. Anyone who doubts this should reflect on the differences between the behavior of liberal academic husbands when they are focusing on their egalitarianvalues ("I shouldbe doing half the childrearing") and when they are behaving un-self-consciously ("Honey, shouldn't you go pick up the kids now?"). A second example is a book edited by Lyn Abramson (1988) called Social Cognition and Clinical Psychology: A Synthesis. This,book shares two features with the Uleman and Bargh (1989) book: (a) It includes some very exciting work, and (b) it displaysa failureto grapplewith-reflected in a failureto cite-a centuryof psychoanalyticthinkingof obvious relevance of which most of the authorsseem unaware. For example, in a book for clinicians, it was perplexing that Newman and Langer could write a chapter on
"mindlessness"withoutexplicitlydiscussingthe relationbetween this concept and psychoanalyticideas aboutthe relative contributionsof conscious and unconscious processes and the implicationsof routinizedpatternsof thought, feeling, and affect-regulationfor the understandingand treatment of psychopathology.In anotherchapter,the readeris informedthatextremestyles of attributingevents to internal versus externalcauses may explain deviantpersonalities, a term with no immediately obvious clinical or empirical referent. Althoughthe book's title suggestsbreadthandintegration, it contained nothing about schemas of self and others and attributionalprocesses in personalitydisorders,anxiety disorders,conductdisorders,schizophrenia,dissociativedisorders, or eating disorders. Despite 50 years of clinical and theoreticalwritingand 20 years of empiricalwork informed by psychoanalyticthinkingon personalitydisorders,for example, the book made no mention of the social-cognitive processes involved when a borderlinepatientcan offer only one-sided views of significant others, a patient with a narcissistic personalitydisordercan flip-flopbetweengrandiose and totally deflated schemas of self, or an anorexiccan see herself as fat while her weight drops to 65 pounds or may fight to the deathto stave off representingherself as a sexually maturewoman. When clinicians are exhortedto help "depressives" stop making internal attributions,without specifying what kind of depressionis involved and the personality context within which the depression may have arisen, none of the subtletiesof commonplaceclinical observation are acknowledged:Sociopathscan certainlyget very depressed, but they attributenegative events to everything but themselves, which is partof their pathology;and many depressedpatientswith personalitydisorderscreatemuchof their misery by repeatedlyrecreatingproblematicinterpersonal situations, so that helping them attributenegative events externallysimply leads them away from seeing, and hence potentiallychanging, their contributionsto their distress. These are relatively obvious phenomena known to beginning clinical interns, and should not have been missed in a state-of-the-artvolume. The reader acquaintedwith these two books can judge whetherI am being unfairor misrepresentingthem. Whatis dismaying to me, as someone who has learned from both literatures,is thatwe need not simultaneouslytaketwo steps forwardand two steps back. Forexample, had early investigatorsof social-cognitiveprocesses, includingthose related to self, simply read the summaryof the person-perception literaturepublished by Bruner and Taguiri (1954) in the Handbook of Social Psychology (which, incidentally,explicitly noted the relevanceof object relationstheoryin psychoanalysisto researchin personperception),they wouldnot have ignoredissues of affect and motivationfor 10 yearsand would not be strugglingnow to fit them in. Undoubtedly,some cherishedself-representationof mine must have been threatenedto provokethis orneryrejoinder, butI feel betternow, andreturnto the issue of self. Toaddress all the specifics of the commentarieswould be both impossible and tedious, so to save the readereye strain(and myself the embarrassmentof admitting the numerous places in which commentatorscorrectlypointedout faulty logic, ambiguity, and lack of empirical support), I instead address three issues that underlie much of the commentary:(a) the
place of self-theoryin personalitytheory,(b) issues of self in the contextof culture,and(c) self theoryin the contextof the philosophy of science.
ers), and self-representationsare importantparts of the picture,but they arenothinglike the whole story.Personality theory is much more than self theory.
Self Theory and Personality Theory
Culture, Self, and Technological Development
Theories of self are not theories of personality,and the extent to which they are taken as such, or taken to be the cornerstoneof such theories, reflects preciselythe linguistic confusionsto which my articletriedto call attention.If a self theory is a personalitytheory, then we should jettison one termor the otherbecause they areredundant.A comprehensive theory of personalitymust be a schema or theoretical lens throughwhich we can view the entiretyof psychological functioning.As such, it mustincludethe following elements: 1. A theoryof motivationthataddressesbiologically and socially derived motives, conflicting and competingas well as concordantmotivations, values and ideals, self-esteem motivation, and level of consciousness of motivation. 2. A theoryof emotionthatexplainsthe functionalrole of emotions in personality, particularlyin mediating motive systems, and describesthe way emotions are regulatedcognitively and behaviorally,consciously and unconsciously. 3. A theoryof cognitionthatdescribesnot only the architecture of cognition but also the prominentschemas of the self, the interpersonalworld, and physical reality to which Epstein in particularcalls attention. 4. A theoryof the interactionof motivation,affect, cognition, andbehaviorthatmakesevolutionarysense, thatis, that shows how human beings deal with fundamentalissues of survival, adaptation,and reproduction. Such a broadconceptionof personalityspecifies relevant dimensionsof assessmentboth for researchersand for clinicians. With respectto motivation,one would want to assess an individual's dominantmotives, many of them interpersonal, the conditionsunderwhich they areactivated,andthe extent to which they conflict or can be comfortablysatisfied simultaneously.With respect to affect, a thoroughassessment, for eitherresearchor clinicalpurposes,wouldexamine issues such as intensityof affectiveexperience,pronenessof the person to experience pleasurableversus unpleasurable affects as well as specific emotions such as sadness or anxiety, comfort with conscious experienceof affect, capacity for consciously acknowledging ambivalent feelings, and dominantpatternsof conscious and unconsciousaffect regulation. Cognitive assessment would assess structuralfeatures of cognition, such as whether thought processes are disordered or essentially logical and accurate, various qualities of attributionalprocesses, and the nature of the person's assumptions and representationsof the self (Are representationscomplex?Are they affectivelymorepositive than negative? Can the person consciously integratea coherent self-concept? Does the person have a sense of selfefficacy?), others, and the world. Finally, the researcheror clinicianwould wantto assess the interactionof thesevarious processes and the adaptivenessof the person'sbehavior. In consideringthis view of what a personalitytheorymust do and the avenues it suggests for assessment, it should be clear that motives regardingself (such as self-esteem), affects attached to self-representations(involved in discrepancy-reductionprocesses as describedby Higgins and oth-
A second issue addressedbriefly in the targetarticleand expandedon by severalcommentatorsis the role of culturein self-representation.3The renaissanceof interestin this issue in both the psychoanalytic (Roland) and social-cognitive (Markus& Kitayama)literaturesis indeed welcome. Nevertheless, an importantdistinctionis consistentlyblurred;this blurringis apparentin Kitayama'scommentary,for example, which repeatedlyrefers to the "modern,Western"self, or uses moder and Westerninterchangeably.Such usage is highly problematicbecause all "modern,"technologically developed societies now are no longer Western(Japanbeing a case in point, with many more to follow over the next century),andWesternsociety was not alwaysmodern. "Modernity"fromthis perspectiveis neverdefined, andcontemporarytheoristsinterestedin self and culturehave not specified the aspects of modernitythat influence self-structure. As Baumeister(1987) and I (1985) have both documented using a variety of materials-historical, philosophical, and anthropological-the Westernconceptionof self andof individuality600 yearsago was farmorelike the "non-Western" than the "modernWestern"conceptionof self describedby Kitayama. Many of the characteristicsascribed by Kitayama and other contributorsto this literatureas contrasts between Westernand non-Westernare in fact probably differences relatedto technologicaldevelopment.4For this reason, it is importantnot only to specify whatone meansby modern,but also to clarify the alternativeto Western:Is it Eastern?Third World(muchof which is southern)?or ruralWestern(such as rural Italy or Greece, which Triandis, Bontempo, & Villareal, 1988, foundresemblesless the individualisticthanthe sociocentricpatternoften ascribedto the "East")? Ten thousandyears ago, before the adventof agriculture, humanslived in bandsocieties thatwerenot altogetherdifferent frombandsocieties discoveredin this centuryandthe last in technologicallyless developedareas.These societies were characterizedby several featuresrelevantto the presentdiscussion, manifest in myth, ritual, and everydaysocial practice. These include a value system dominatedby collective ratherthan individual interests; minimal differentiationin collective cognitive constructsamonggroup,nature,and individual;and a belief in the special potency of the groupand its often magicalproceduresto producedesired,andwardoff undesired,ends. Concomitantwith this formof sociocultural organizationare two featuresof personality:First, a sense of individual selfhood, typically not encoded in language, is attenuated;and second, moral values held by individuals
3My apologies to those researcherswhose relevantwork on this topic I may not have cited in my article. I supposewhatgoes aroundcomes around: Kitayamaapparentlydid not know when commendingme for "some encouragingsigns of interestin interpersonalissues of self" thatI publisheda book on culture, technologicaldevelopment, and the self in 1985. 4Theevidence for this argument,to be summarized,is describedin Westen (1985); see also Westen(1991).
focus on groupinterests.5The conceptof individualselfhood separate from social relatedness, and the valuing of individual phenomenology, personal development, personal needs, andintrospectionto understandone's personalhistory and dynamics, are very recent phenomenafrom a historical perspective. With the rise of agriculture, accumulation of surplus goods, and some rigidificationof class structurecame a beginningchange in the natureandvaluationof self: The moral ends valued by society continuedto centeron collectivities, but a sense of individualpersonhoodbegan to arise. Agriculturalsocieties, unlike band and tribal societies, tend to distinguishmore clearly between the individualand various collectivities of which he or she is a part,andthis distinction is made explicit in moralvalue systems thatvilify or attempt to restrainindividualdesire (as in the classical religions). As one anthropologistnoted in a classic article, "Individual progress is seen as-and in the context of the traditional society in fact is-the supreme threat to community stability" (Foster, 1965, p. 310); peasant societies, like wealthier tribal societies, develop elaborate redistribution rituals and mechanisms for reinforcementof group solidarity.Individualityin the "modem"sense, however,is typically not observed in these societies, and is certainly not modal, as both individualidentityandpersonalintereststend to remainless differentiatedfrom particulargroupidentities and interests, especially extendedfamily. With the advent of industrializationthe natureof selfexperience has changed dramatically.The "goodness of a man" in Homerictimes wasjudged by the extentto which he dischargedhis social obligations(MacIntyre,1965), muchas in the preliteratesocieties studied by anthropologists.Although the relationbetween individualand collectivity had alreadybeen isolated as a philosophicalconcern by the 5th century B.C., Aristotle explicitly conceived of humans as social creatureswho could only be understoodwithin the context of state and society. By the 16th and 17thcenturies, however, conceptions of the individualand the good were beginning to be stood on their heads: Hobbes derived the state and society from the individual,ratherthanvice versa, and ultimatelythe existentialistsextractedthe individualentirely from social relationswhich could be perceivedas encumbering.Similarchanges in the natureof selfhood can be observedin the changingnatureof characterdevelopmentin literatureduring and after the IndustrialRevolution, in anthropological accounts, and in psychological researchthat uniformly finds industrial development to be related to changing modes of childrearingthat foster competitionand individualismand alterationsin personalitysuch as heightened Machiavellianism. Vis-a-vis the commentariesof Baumeister,Roland, and Kitayama,my point is that, althoughhistoricallythis process began in the West, that is probablyof far less consequence thanare severalprocesses inherentin technologicaldevelop5These two aspects are often difficult to separate,as in an example provided by Rappaport(1979), who studiedthe Maringof New Guinea. Rappaportnoted thatthe concept of min, meaningsoul or life stuff, is as collective as it is individual,andcites "a standardphrasein the speechof heroesin accounts of how brave men have faced death. 'It does not matterif I die. Thereare moreMerkai(or Kamungagai,or Kwigigai, etc.) to hold the land and fatherthe children'" (p. 109). How many of us, if sent to war, would respond similarly, "Don't worry, there are plenty more from Massachusetts"?
mentor "modernization"thatalterboth cognitionabout,and moral valuation of, the self. Literacy and educationfoster personalizedcompetenciesthatareno longerexperiencedas collective knowledge, may be learned in the isolation of individualstudy, and may not be tied so directlyto a mentor perceived as an embodimentof the collectivity. Changing work conditions, such as wage labor and work that is not performedcommunallywith kin or clan, leads to a sense of individualcompetenceas well as, quiteconcretely,a rangeof experience during the majorityof waking hours that separates ratherthan unites membersof a local community.In technologically developed societies, much of identity is achieved ratherthan ascribed, and a person may function occupationallyin ways very differentfromhis or herparents and extendedfamily. This may have a deeperimpacton selfstructurethanwould be initiallyapparent;for example,when a man is no longer a hunteror farmerlike his father, his representationsof self and father will probablybe far less similar, particularlybecause he is no longer likely through the life cycle to step into the same social positionin the same communityas his fatherand grandfatherdid before him. As Baumeister(1987) pointedout, roles and theircurrentoccupants are distinguisheddifferentlyin a technologically advanced society, where roles may not outlastthe people currentlyin them, and theremay be morelatitudein the way the role is performed.Further,as Triandiset al. (1988) observed, universalistic versus personalisticexchange (money rather thanservices), andthe presenceof numerousin-groupsfrom which to choose in morecomplex societies, may also lead to heightened individualism. Materialwealthprobablyhas a significantimpacton individualism, particularlyon its moralvaluation.The focus on satisfactionof one's own needs andthe developmentof individual potential that has been elevated to moral status in contemporaryindustrializedsocieties such as our own was unthinkablein a world without substantialsurplus.As both Baumeister and I have argued, when life is long and less precarious,a person can develop a sense of meaningin life on the basis of personalsatisfactionfor long periodsof time, althoughthis becomes a precariousbasis for meaningin the face of mortality.Geographicalmobility probablyplays a critical role in fostering individualism, as it likely has in preindustrialsocieties (such as empires) which permitted mobility for certainsegments of the population:The mobile person may live far away from, ratherthan underthe same roof or in the same geographicalarea with, others whose interests and identities would once have been interlocked with his or her own. Sustaining an "interpersonalself" is much more difficult when the cast of charactersis everchanging. Familial experiences may also affect individualism.Parentalexpectationsof the likelihoodthatany given child will live may play a role, because parentsof childrenin cultures with low infantmortalitymay havedifferentattitudestoward the importanceof a specific child or the way one invests in each child. Factorssuch as family size and whetherchildren have their own rooms probablyhave a subtle influence as well. Because the requisitesof a given mode of production influence parentingpractices and values embodied in childrearing(see LeVine, 1982), parentingpractices fostering competition, individual achievement, and entrepreneurial success tend to be much more prevalentin technologically developedor rapidlydevelopingsocieties. Patternsof identi-
ficationarealso affectedby technologicaldevelopment.Particularlyin rapidlychanging times, the values and skills of parentsand grandparentsmay seem anachronisticand hence become rejectedor devaluedover time, leading to disidentificationand hence greaterdifferentiationof representations of self and earlier figures of identification. As collective meaning structuresbreak down and religious and secular authority become distinct, rites of passage that normally structureidentityalso become less frequent,leadingidentity to be a personalissue to be workedout over a courseof years ratherthan to be socially bestowed and defined. None of this is to say thatculturaldifferencesdo not exist in the experience of self independentof universalizingprocesses such as technologicaldevelopmentandits sociocultural sequelae and concomitants. Just as people experience emotions or form concepts somewhatdifferentlyin different cultures,they undoubtedlyrepresentthe self in ways one best understandsthrougha knowledgeof the local culture.Nonetheless, a thoroughunderstandingof "the self" requiresa greater understandingof historical, economic, and social processes than is typically found in eitherpsychoanalyticor cognitive writings. How Can We Know the Self? An Issue of Philosophy of Science A final issue thatbecame quite salient from severalof the commentariesis one of philosophy of science. As this is a journalfor psychologists, it is not surprisingthatnone of the commentatorstook the pointof view thatpsychoanalysisis a science but thatexperimentalworkis irrelevantto the knowledge obtained in psychoanalytic hours-which is just as well. A more importantpoint of view, arguedeloquentlyby many in the psychoanalyticcommunity,such as Spence, is that psychoanalysisis really less interestedin being an empiricaldisciplinethana hermeneuticone; thatis, thatthe aim of psychoanalysisor more broadlyof any field purportingto have knowledge of psychological experience is to help understandand interpretthe meaningof humanmentalactions and utterances. Thus, one might argue, the proof of the puddingof psychoanalysisversus social cognition (as fields alleging to know somethingaboutthe way people understand themselves and others and make sense of social experience) would be to let their adherentsexamine an action or utterance-let us take, for example, the commentarieswritten here and my response to them-and understandwhy they were writtenthe way they were. Why did variouscommentaries assume the tones they did? For example, does Baumeister,who is a friend of mine as well as a colleague with whom I share considerableinterests and sympathies, enjoy a good joust, and does he know me well enough to know thatI do as well? Or did he-or Andersen,perhapseat something noxious just before puttingpen to commentary?And am I kidding aroundnow? Alternatively,were all the commentators(except Singer and I, who have admitted some of the sordidpsychological processes influencingour comments)simply respondingas cold, cognitive, well-oiled informationprocessing machines? I use this example because the data are in frontof every reader,and most readers ask questionsof this sortwhen they readbetweenthe lines of commentaries,particularlythose thatseem eithersycophantic (which I hope to receive in another decade or two-
youngerreaderswill please makenote of this) or particularly trenchant. The alternativephilosophicalpointof view, representedin some of the commentariesby social-cognitiveresearchers,is that the developmentof psychological knowledge rests exclusively on empiricismof a particularsort, best exemplified in the experimentalsituation.Fromthis point of view, it was better to hold in abeyance for a hundredyears the psychoanalytic hypothesis that much of mental life is unconscious until the right methodologies emerged to test it, and we shouldsimilarlyhold in abeyancenotionsof defensivetransformationsof schemas or defensive affect-regulatoryefforts that keep certain cognitive concepts from attaining consciousness. From this perspective, if psychoanalystsever wantto reallyknow anythingaboutpeople, they shouldbone up on their statistics because this "I-had-a-patient-once" stuff simply will not do. The reader will probably not be surprisedto find that someone who is busy finding links between psychoanalysis and cognitive science is aboutto take the position thatboth the hermeneutsandthe empiricistsare in a sense correct,but that each alone has some limitations. With respect to the hermeneuticperspective,Grunebaum(1984) andothershave offered solid critiques, which are not reiteratedhere. It is worth noting that psychoanalysisis filled with causal statements-unempathic early parentingcan produceseverepersonality disorders, childhood oedipal fantasiescan have an impact on adult sexual and social functioning, unpleasant feelings can lead to efforts to defend againstthem, and the like-that are intended as statementsabout reality, not as stories, and must be subjectedto empirical scrutinyas hypotheses like any otherempiricalstatementsin science. Apropos of Spence's commentary,I have trouble seeing how Wittgenstein'sviews on private language help us out very muchon this score, becauseWittgensteinwas farmoreguilty than any philosopherwho ever precededhim of speakingin an inaccessible, aphoristicprivate language that has taken hundredsof interpretersto try to make intelligible. (In this regardI read Wittgenstein'swork as autobiography.6) The empiricistview representedin severalof the commentaries, on the other hand, is the dominant ideology-or rather, the only ideology-represented in psychological journals, and hence is worth subjectingto more thoroughgoing critique.The versionof empiricismprevalentin American psychology runssomethingas follows: The aim of careful hypothesis testing is to discriminategood hypotheses from bad ones, which is essential for the developmentof psychologicalknowledge. We aremost carefulto avoidfalse confirmationof hypotheses(TypeI errors)becauseprudence dictatesthatwe arebetteroff not believing a hypothesisuntil adequateevidence can be adducedfor it (or againstit), rather thanprematurelyto accept a false notion. If knowledgeis to be built on a scaffolding of tested hypotheses, then acceptance of false hypotheses would underminethe foundations of our knowledge. Hence, one is better to be cautious in accepting as evidence anythingshort of findings at accept-
6Spence's point in reanalyzing my tennis example, however, is well taken-namely, thata psychologicallanguagedescribingstructureandprocess will neverfully evoke or accountfor the phenomenologyof psychological experience. (I have, however, asked Guillermo to send him a letter confirmingmy accountof our set-I think it was 7-5.)
able levels of statisticalsignificancethathave been garnered throughsystematicand methodologicallysoundprocedures. This is the philosophyof science underlyingthe commentary by Andersen, for example, who did a wonderfuljob of summarizingwhere the points I made in my articledid and did not have adequateexperimentalsupportand described some very importantand ingenious studies related to the cognitive aspectsof transference(thoughnot the wishful and defensive aspects). Her response also essentially reiterated Karl Popper's position that the context of justification in science (the process of testing hypotheses)is where the real action of science goes on, and the context of discovery (where new phenomena are observed and hypotheses are framed, such as in the clinical situation)is essentiallyirrelevantto the scientific enterprisebecauseit is not subjectto the same rigors of conjectureand refutation,replicability,reliable measurement,and the like. This philosophy of science, however, is highly problematic. It tends to favorminitheoriesthat accountfor very little over broadtheoriesthathelp integrateknowledgefrom several quartersbut that will no doubtlead to some specific hypothesesthatarelaterfalsified. In psychology, whatis not explainedor tested may be as critical in evaluatingthe truth value of a theory as what is tested, particularlybecause of limits to assessing complex idiographicevents in ways that can be abstractedacross individualsand subjectedto statistical analyses. I doubtthatit was trulysensiblefor the field to ignore the mental representationsnow seen as obvious to both psychoanalysts and social cognitivists during a long behavioristera, when a more liberal philosophy of science would have drawnattentionto these phenomenaeven while currenttechnologiescould not easily assess them. I similarly doubt the virtue of pretendingthat unconsciousrepresentations of self do not exist, even when we observe their manifestations clinically and in daily life, simply because we have not yet figured out a way to get at them for large-N research.The preferencefor waitingfor irrefutableempirical confirmationon such mattersis, I suspect, a matterof temperamentor personalityandnot somethingdictatedby scientific method. The empiricist focus on hypothesis testing places exclusive emphasison only one aspectof the scientificprocess, and does so in a way that prevents sophisticateddevelopments in other aspects or contexts. The theoretical superstructuresor paradigmsfrom which specific hypothesesare derivedarenot, themselves, strictlyspeaking,empirical,yet they are the wellspringof the questions that scientists even thinkto ask andthe hypothesesthey test. Paradigms(or more broadly,"perspectives,"in fields such as psychology,which are still preparadigmaticin the Kuhniansense) are intricate intellectual garments or tapestries, woven with a delicate blend of conjecture,inference, anddata. The paradoxis that prudenceat the microlevel of hypothesis testing inevitably leads to imprudenceat the macrolevelbecause the demand for quasi-certaintyand purityof method at the level of hypotheses leads to an inadequatedata base for the weaving together of paradigms. In some respects the way psychologists have for years treated psychodynamic processes is analogous to a physician, confronted with a patient complainingof prostatesymptoms,who looks down the patient's throat and concludes that he sees no evidence of prostate enlargement. The problem is that we may be looking for personalityin all the wrongplaces. To put it anotherway, by
restrictingthe notion of knowledge to the results of methodologically impeccable experiments(or to extremelycautious inferences from them), we create a collective "availabilityheuristic"which leads us to understatethe importance of processes andvariablesthat, for ethical, practical,or technological reasons, are relatively inaccessible to the consciousness of the scientific community. If I may transposeKuhn into Popperianterms, I would submit that between the context of discovery, in which the scientist is playfully observingand forminghypotheses, and the context of justification, in which he or she is submitting these to empiricaltest, is a contextof committedbelief, that is, a schematic structure,partiallycollective and partially idiosyncratic,that the scientistuses to understandreality,to generate hypotheses, and to evaluate rival hypotheses and research.When Andersenrefuses to acceptthe analysts'observationsaboutunconsciousmotivationalprocesses, she is not simply "assumingnothing"until furtherempiricalwork suggests otherwise. She seems committedto the view that there are no such things, which influences her empirical work, and otherwise would be working psychoanalytically with her patients. Social-cognition researchersare not agnostic aboutdefensive processes:To the extentthatthey use self-reportmeasures,they areassumingtheirnonexistence.I would dispute that the New Look was killed off by methodological inadequacies;it was killed off, rather,by psychologists who were deeply committed to finding flaws in the logic of any study that could be used as proof of something psychoanalytic.There are no null hypotheses:The implication of null findings in any importantstudy is likely to be supportiveof someone else's theory. An alternativeto viewing progress in psychology as the progressive accumulation of probably-truefacts-as if scientific knowledge is constructedbrick by brick without preconceptionsor cognitive mortarto hold the bricks together-is viewing the aim of psychologicalinvestigationas the constructionof a theoreticalunderstandingof, or schematic structureabout, human mental life and behavior.In this view, predictionandcontrolbecome meansof testingthe adequacyof theory,not the primaryaim of psychology. Experimentationremainsthe most definitiveformof hypothesis testing with respect to any specific hypothesis, and to the extent that the weight of methodologicallysound evidence weighs for or againsta series of propositionsfrom a broader theory, experimentationmay be decisive between theories. Nevertheless, other forms of evidence can and should be used in constructingtheory.The notion thatpeople's behavior is influencedby fearsandfantasiesaboutwhatthey might become was no truerafter Markusand her colleagues employed a possible-selves questionnairethanwhen my grandmothersaid to me, "Justimagine what you want to be, and you can attainit," or my analystpointedout the way a feared self-representationwas underlying a repetitive behavioral pattern.It was simply betterdocumentedand gave us more scientific evidence for the existence of such representations. Similarly, if Markusand Kitayama(1991) are comfortable drawing on ethnographicdata (which I presume they are, althoughtheir review article was not in printat the time of this writing), why would they not equally enter into their theoreticalconstructionsthe observationsof skilled observers who have examined individual patients, rather than cultures,in depth?Unfortunately,thereareno definitiveproceduresfor choosing between overarchingtheoreticalorien-
tations; as is clear from the exchange in this journal, that inevitablyrelies on a subjectivesense of "fit" with the overall patternof data. I agree with the suggestion of several commentatorsthat we can profitably focus on testing theories of the middle rangeratherthangrandtheories, andthatfine-grainedanalyses of psychotherapyhours, thoughtsampling, and various forms of coding and analyzingnarrativedataareparticularly promisingavenuesfor studyingself-representations.By and large, any theorythatis reallygrandincludessuch a complex networkof propositionsthat it cannotbe tested in toto. The notion, however, that there is no need for the overarching theory-as argued by Palfai and Salovey, that we should hold many minitheoriesin our mind and use them as they seem useful-seems to me a very questionablestrategy,and part of what led the "self" field into its currentmess. Researcherswho study "the self" shouldfirsthave a very clear idea of the broad range of phenomenathat have been describedas "self," shouldunderstandwhich componentsthey are studying, and should have a clear sense of the way their researchfits in with thatof othersandintothe generalscheme of things. It is difficultto see why holding many incomplete and misleading theories-one that ignores complex unconscious processes, and one that understatesthe role of conscious ideation, for example-is preferableto developing theory that is richer and integrative. The dangers of theoretical pluralismor agnosticismof this sort can be readily seen in clinical work:It is not a matterof indifferencewhen a sexual abuse victim is treatedby a biological psychiatrist who tells her thather problemis in herneurotransmitters and hence encouragesher not to explorewhathappened,when a psychoanalystfails to address substanceabuse in a patient whom he treatsunsuccessfullyon the couch for 6 years, or when a cognitive-behavioraltherapistwho does not understand the dynamics of borderlinepersonalitydisordertreats such a patient with relaxationtechniquesthat are promptly forgottenthe next time the patientbecomes acutelysuicidal. Withrespectto experimentalevidencethatmaximizescertainty of particularpropositionswithin a larger theoretical edifice, thereis little doubtthatsocial-cognitionresearchhas far more supportthanpsychoanalysis(althoughthe common belief that psychoanalysisis without any empiricalgrounding is not well informed;see Westen, 1990, for a review of the empiricalresearchon basic psychoanalyticpropositions aboutthe role of childhoodexperiencein shapingadultsocial behavior,the natureof unconscious and parallelprocesses, etc.; object relations theory is in fact one of the best empirically documented areas of psychoanalytictheory). Hypothesis testing is not, however, the only test of a good psychologicaltheory.Toreturnto the exampleof the motives and emotions involved as the commentatorsand I constructedour responses, I question how many of the socialcognitive studiespublishedin the Journalof Personalityand Social Psychology would add substantiallyto readers'intuitive ability to make inferences about these psychological processes in this concrete situation;the same cannotbe said of psychoanalysis. Interpretiveunderstandingof the meaning of a psychologicalevent such as thisrequiresa set of rules of transformation,based on theory,that explain the way an underlyingmeaningor motivehas been expressedin a particular form. Isolated social psychological studies on self-presentation, for example, may offer some useful ideas about possible motives (thoughprobablynot muchthata lay person
would not have observed), but to understandmost psychological events, such as the response of a commentator,requires an understandingof the way multiple motives are synthesized (efforts at self-presentationas both decent and intelligent, protection of professional identity and valued beliefs, expression of aggression related to petty rivalries, etc.), consciously andunconsciously,to producea response. This requiresfarmoreattentionto the interpretation of meaning thanexists in the social-cognitiveliterature,even though social cognition should be all about the way people make these inferences.Such a level of discourseis not likely to take place in social-cognitivepublicationsbecauseof the philosophy of science that militates againstit. What I am essentially arguingis that in psychology there are two contextsof justification:(a) a hypothetico-deductive context, in which hypotheses are put, optimally,to experimental test, and (b) a hermeneuticor interpretivecontextof justification, in which the test of a good theoryis whetherit can help a psychologistunderstandpsychologicaleventsbetter than a layperson or better than a psychologist using a competing theory. Psychoanalysis is weak in the former, whereas social cognition is weak in the latter. I have attemptedin this response to place the self in the context of cultureand the philosophy of science. Perhapsa fitting conclusion would be to place the philosophy of science that informs our views of the self in the context of cultureas well. The prevailingempiricalethos in psychology, like prevalentconceptualizationsof the self both in the wider cultureand in psychology, is equally a productof our unique culturalcircumstances.The breakdownof tradition thataccompaniedmodernizationin the West(andis similarly confronting contemporarysocieties in the throes of rapid technological development) created the need for ways of adjudicatingcompeting claims for knowledge as tradition and authoritylost their privileged epistemologicalposition. In the West, "science" steppedin to fill the void createdby the challenge to religious authority. When psychology emergedfromphilosophyas an empiricaldiscipline, the use of scientific methodsfromthe naturalsciences gave psychologists a claim to a particularlymoder form of credibility. The social-cognitionliteratureis now willing to entertain the notion that "the self" as we conceptualizeit is only one way of seeing it, and that a fuller understandingwould take into considerationother cultures' versions of selfhood. It shouldbe equally willing to situatethe idiosyncraticview of scientificexperimentationas the only legitimateway of gaining psychological knowledge in its culturalcontext as well. There may be many paths to selfhood, and equally many paths to psychological understanding. Note Drew Westen,Departmentof Psychiatry,CambridgeHospital, 1493 CambridgeStreet, Cambridge,MA 02139. References Abramson, L. (Ed.). (1988). Social cognition and clinical psychology:A synthesis. New York:Guilford. Bargh, J. A. (1989). Conditionalautomaticity:Varietiesof automaticinfluence in social perceptionand cognition. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintendedthought(pp. 3-51). New York:Guilford. Baumeister,R. (1987). How the self became a problem:A psychological review of historicalresearch.Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology, 52, 163-176.
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Ster, D. (1985). The interpersonalworld of the infant:A viewfrom psychoanalysis and developmentalpsychology. New York:Basic. Triandis, H., Bontempo, R., & Villareal, M. J. (1988). Individualism and collectivism: Cross-cultural perspectives on self-ingroup relationships.Journalof Personalityand Social Psychology, 54, 323338. Uleman, J. S., & Bargh, J. A. (Eds.). (1989). Unintendedthought. New York:Guilford. Wallerstein, R. S. (1988). One psychoanalysis or many? International Journal of Psycho-Analysis,69, 5-22. Westen, D. (1985). Self and society: Narcissism, collectivism, and the developmentof morals. New York:CambridgeUniversityPress. Westen, D. (1990). Psychoanalyticapproachesto personality.In L. A. Pervin(Ed.), Handbookof personality:Theoryand research(pp. 2165). New York:Guilford. Westen, D. (1991). Cultural,emotional, and unconsciousaspects of self. In R. Curtis (Ed.), The relational self. Theoretical convergences in psychoanalysis and social psychology (pp. 181-210). New York: Guilford.
Published on Mar 4, 2009
Personality, Culture, and Science: Contexts for Understanding the Self Author(s): Drew Westen Source: Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (...