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.
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.