Michael Mascolo, Girishwar Misra & Tiffany Clement
Merrimack College, USA

E-mail:michael_mascolo@yahoo.com

 

THE DIALOGICAL CONSTRUCTION OF SELVES IN THE US AND URBAN INDIA

 

The concept of the dialogical self maintains that the production, experience and representation of self are constructed in dialogical exchanges with others. From this view, the self is not a fixed or static form that exists within individual persons. Instead, within face-to-face social interaction, one's sense of self is co-regulated between an individual and others within sign-mediated social exchanges. Persons adjust their actions, thoughts, feelings and reflected representations of themselves to the ongoing and anticipated actions of the other. From this view, a person may construct different experiences of self in face-to-face interactions with different interlocutors. From dialogical view, a person's private constructions of self proceed as a series of internalized dialogical exchanges with a series of different imagined interlocutors. The private representation of self does not take the form of a fixed, monolithic or static concept or mental image. Persons construct and reconstruct their representations of self within particular contexts in real time. In so doing, one's construction of self can take different forms as a person imagines dialogical exchanges with different interlocutors in different social contexts. We have developed an imaginary dialogue methodology to assess the structure and content of dialogical selves. Using this method, a person is asked to verbalize a series of imagined conversations with different role figures in their life (e.g., parent, peer, superior, subordinate, romantic partner, 'the real me'). In their conversation, the participant is asked to discuss something about themselves with their interlocutor. In so doing, the participant is asked to play both roles in the dialogue. That is, the participant not only verbalizes his/her own part of the conversation, but that of her interlocutor as well. The participant has complete freedom about what to talk about with each interlocutor, as long as she talks about something about the self. This method is relatively simple to use and can produce extremely rich and emotionally-charged imagined dialogues. The dialogues allow analysis not only of the ways in which the participant represents their self to different interlocutors, but also how the participant represents different interlocutors in relation to their selves. How an individual represents how others relate to the self reveals at least as much about their self-representations as the way they represent their selves in relation to others. On the basis of detailed and fine-grained analyses of a series of imaginary dialogues, we have devised a system for classifying the structure and content of a series of different self-indicators within dialogical exchanges. These self-indicators include representations of agency (representations of an individual's powers and modes of acting), identity (that which an individual considers 'me' or 'mine'), motives (goals, needs, and wants), actions (goal-directed attempts), evaluations (statements of positive or negative valence), emotional qualia (positive, negative and self-evaluative emotions), legitimacy appraisals (characterizations of what ought to be), and relational orientations (different ways in which self-indicators are defined in relation to others). In this presentation, we will present the results of a study comparing dialogical representations of self produced by young adults from the US and from urban India.