Professor of Psychology, Connecticut
College. Areas of interest include clinical and personality psychology.
Jefferson Singer completed
a double major in English and psychology as an undergraduate
at Amherst College. Subsequently, at Yale University he obtained
both an M.S. (1983) and M.Phil (1984) in psychology and, after
a predoctoral internship (1986-87) at the UCSF School of Medicine,
a Ph.D. (1987) in clinical psychology. He returned to UCSF as
a postdoctoral fellow for a year (1987-88) and then joined the
faculty of Connecticut College in 1988. In addition to his ongoing
teaching and extensive research program at Connecticut, Singer
has served both as Director of the Holleran Center for Community
Action and Public Policy and as Chair of its Psychology Department.
Licensed as a clinical psychologist, Singer has worked both in
an agency setting (he was staff psychologist for the Southeastern
(CT) Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence during 1989-1997)
and in private practice. In the Fall, 2003, he traveled to the
United Kingdom as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar to conduct
research on autobiographical memory and personality at the University
of Durham with Dr.
Martin Conway and others.
His 1987 dissertation, Affective
Responses to Autobiographical Memories and Their Relationship
to Life Goals, focused upon a topic which he has continued
to explore in subsequent research: the relationship between memory,
autobiography, and emotion. Singer's work has led him to posit
a particular kind of autobiographical memory -- one which he
terms "self-defining" -- that is crucial in the development
of personal identity. These self-defining autobiographical memories
(SDMs) have five distinguishing characteristics: they are "vivid,
affectively intense, repetitively recalled, linked to other similar
memories, and focused on an enduring concern or unresolved conflict
of the personality" (Singer & Blagov, 2003). SDMs arise
within an individual's working self-system and are integratively
linked to the schemas of a person's life story/stories.
Singer's clinical experience
has also shaped his understanding of narrative and its role in
the evolution and treatment of disorders. His 1997 book, Message
in a Bottle, reported in narrative form the results of
focused life history interviews (2-3 hours) with men whose alcoholism
and other addictions had generally defied successful treatment
by traditional 12-Step approaches. Singer suggests that the prototypical
scripts associated with AA-type explanations for alcoholism are
simply too narrow to apply to some chronic adicts. Their alienation
and disrupted identity are too profound for the traditional "disease"
concept of alcoholism to serve as the basis of effective recovery.
His 1997 volume and other work (Singer, 2001) have advanced clinical
case methodology by an explicit attention to the explanatory
potential of the life story of individuals to clarify clinical
diagnostic and therapeutic dilemmas. Singer has been strongly
influenced in his work by the general life story theory of adult
development of Dan McAdams
whose methods of interview research he had adapted and extended.
Singer's father, Jerome, is
the well-known Yale psychologist and theorist of consciousness
and emotions. His mother, Dorothy Singer, is a Senior Research
Scientist in the Yale Department of Psychology and Co-Director
of the Yale University Family Television Research and Consultation
Center. Her research has focused on early childhood development,
the effects of television on development, and parent-child interactions.
Bibliography: Jefferson A. Singer
Blagov, P. A., & Singer,
J. A. (2004). Four dimensions of self-defining memories (specificity,
meaning, content, and affect) and their relationships to self-restraint,
distress, and repressive defensiveness. Journal of Personality,
Singer, J. A. (1995). Seeing
oneself: A framework for the study of autobiographical memory
in personality. Journal of Personality, 63, 429-457.
Singer, J. A. (1997). Message
in a bottle: Stories of men and addiction. New York: Free
Singer, J. A. (2001). Living
in the amber cloud: A life story analysis of a heroin addict.
In D. P. McAdams, R. Josselson, & A. Lieblich (Eds.), Turns
in the road: Narrative studies of lives in transition (pp.
253-277). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Singer, J. A. (2004). A love
story: Self-defining memories in couples therapy. In A. Lieblich,
D. P. McAdams, & R. Josselson (Eds), Healing plots: The
narrative basis of psychotherapy (pp. 189-208). Washington,
DC: American Psychological Association. (a)
Singer, J. A. (2004). Narrative
identity and meaning making across the adult lifespan: An introduction.
Journal of Personality, 72(3), 437-459.
Singer, J. A., & Blagov, P. (2003, August). Self-defining
memories: The link between memory and meaning in psychotherapy.
In L. E. Angus (Chair), Narrative experession and psychotherapeutic
change. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the
American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.
Singer, J. A., & Bluck,
S. (2001). New perspectives on autobiographical memory: The integration
of narrative processing and autobiographical reasoning. Review
of General Psychology, 5(2), 91-99.
Singer, J.A., & Salovey,
P. (1993). The remembered self: Emotion, memory, and personality.
New York: Free Press.