Daniel M. Ogilvie

Working Models of Self-With-Others

Representations of the Self

In the 1950's, John Bowlby introduced the concept of internalized working models of interpersonal relationships. He proposed that we are seekers of objects (other people) and that the relationships we have with others are stored in our minds and operate as guides in forming new relationships. Much earlier than Bowlby published his observations, William James declared that individuals have as many selves as they have people who recognize them. In the early 1990s, Richard Ashmore and I combined the notion of self as a multiplicity with aspects of object-relations theory and devised a system for creating visual representations of the structure of individuals' perceptions of their social relationships. We introduced the concept of self-with-other representations (summarized as SWOR) and, in line with James, argued that theoretically we have as many SWORs as we have relationships. However, most SWORs are organized into families of SWORs and an object (read person) can evoke a pattern of traits and feelings that are characteristic of one or more clusters of self-with-other experiences.

Our strategy for investigating this model involves having a research participant generate a list of important people in his/her live (referred to as targets) and a list of personal traits and characteristics (referred to as features). This information is entered into a computer for the purpose of conducting following rating exercise. When the name of a target appears on the screen, the subject is to construct a mental image of an interactive episode when s/he was with that person and to judge applicability of each feature to the self in that episode. Ratings are either yes (1) or no (0). For example, Dad appears on the monitor. The subject brings an image me-with-Dad to mind and rates "me" in that episode using all personal features. E.G., yes I was "happy", yes I was "interested", no, I wasn't "annoyed", no, I wasn't "confused", etc. A large matrix comprised of 0's and 1's is the end result of rating all self-with-specific people on all features The underlying structure of that targets by features matrix is recovered by an algorithm called HICLAS (for hierarchical classes) and the results can be displayed following a format that shows how targets are grouped in conjunction with groupings of features. In this way, major dimensions of the structure of the social self are revealed.

Although some interesting studies using this method have been conducted, I consider this approach for representing the social self to still be in its infancy. It is waiting to be advanced to new theoretical levels and applied to new (or old) problems in psychology.

A few publications regarding this model and related procedures are:

   Ogilvie, D.M., & Ashmore, R.D. (1991). Self-with-representations as a unit of analysis in
        self-concept research. In R. Curtis (Ed.), The relational self. Guilford Publications.
        (pp. 282-313).

   Ogilvie, D.M. (1994). The use of graphic representations of self-dynamisms in clinical treatment.
         Crisis Intervention and Time-Limited Treatment, Vol, 1, No. 2, 125-140.

   Ogilvie, D.M, Fleming, C.J., & Pennell, G.E. (1998) The representation of interpersonal self
         experiences. In D. Barone, M. Herson, & V.B. Van Hasselt (Eds.), Advanced Personality.
         NY: Plenum Press, 353-375.

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