Last updated: April 21, 2004

Narrative Psychology Search

[Narrative Psychology]

 Theorists and Key Figures

 Jerome Seymour Bruner (1915- )

 [Jerome S. Bruner]

Taken at Columbia University, May 2003
Photo: © Vincent W. Hevern

Biography & Theory | Internet Resources | Author's Works | Secondary Literature

 Biographical and Theoretical Notes

Bruner was born in New York City on October 1, 1915. He completed his undergraduate education at Duke University where he received his A.B. in 1937. Bruner studied psychology at Harvard University immediately thereafter and was awarded his A.M. in 1939 and Ph.D. in 1941 (his doctoral thesis was entitled "A Psychological Analysis of International Radio Broadcasts of Belligerent Nations"). He worked with Gordon Allport in those years as a research assistant and a member of Allport graduate seminar. Upon finishing his doctorate, Bruner entered the United States Army's Intelligence Corps where his work focused upon propoganda (the subject of his doctoral thesis) as well as public opinion in the United States. He was the editor of Public Opinion Quarterly (1943-44).

1945-1972 Harvard University. Bruner returned to teach at Harvard in 1945 and quickly rose through the ranks from lecturer to full professor (1952). He was instrumental in establishing the pathbreaking Center for Cognitive Studies in 1960 and served as its director through 1972. Bruner was elected and served as president of the American Psychological Association during 1964-1965.

1972-1980 Oxford University. In 1972, Bruner sailed across the Atlantic (his great avocation is sailing) to take up a position as Watts Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.

1991-present. New York University Law School. Bruner came to NYU as the Meyer Visiting Professor in 1991 and continues (since 1998) as University Professor as well as Research Professor of Psychology. His first work at NYU Law School involved " founding and teaching the Colloquium on the Theory of Legal Practice - an effort to study how law is practiced and how its practice can be understood by using tools developed in anthropology, psychology, linguistics, and literary theory" (Bruner biography, 2000). He has become particularly interested in the application of narrative principles to an understanding of legal processes.

Thematic Chronology. Extending the structure suggested in the helpful review of Ornaghi & Groppo (1998), Bruner's lengthy & fruitful career might be analyzed across eight general periods and themes:

General Themes & Concepts in Bruner's Work. When asked by Bradd Shore (1997) if there were "something characteristic of all the things that interest you--a kind of [Wittgensteinian] family resemblance?" Bruner said there was: "I see it as a kind of pragmatics of knowledge acquisition...That is you organize and construct knowledge on the basis of encounters with the world, for some use. When I say pragmatic, I really mean pragmatic in the deeply American tradition. Perhaps, more in the Peircean sense of pragmatic...Peirce's 'pragmaticism'." (Shore, 1997, p. 20).

Bruner and his colleagues at Harvard and Oxford describe three systems by which a developing child acquires knowledge. While some call these stages, Bruner explicitly rejects stage language and refers to them as systems or ways of organizing knowledge. He argues that, while there may be a greater proponderance of one or another system used at some point in development, the child will use all three systems as well.


This section continues under active preparation


 Internet Resources

Jerome S. Bruner

Bruner: Lecture notes by Andrew Lock (Massey University, NZ) from his course, Evolution, Learning and Culture (Spring, 2002)

Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner) [Greg Kearsley, Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory into Practice Database; U Derby, UK] A short introduction to Bruner's theories of cognition as they applies to teaching and instruction.

Bruner, Jerome S. (1915- ) (2001). Gale encyclopedia of psychology (2nd ed.). Detroit, MI: Gale Group. [Online version]. This is a short summary of Bruner's thought via FindArticles.Com

If you want to see what Jerome Bruner looks and sounds like, there is a fascinating conversation/reminiscence about Luria by Bruner and Oliver Sacks as interviewed jointly by Michael Cole in March, 2002. The video runs about 18+ minutes. Note that this QuickTime video is very, very large: 192 Megabytes!

 Bibliographical: Author's Works (Selected)

     Books & Monographs

Amsterdam, A. G., & Bruner, J. (2000). Minding the law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bornstein, M. H., & Bruner, J. S. (Eds.). (1989). Interaction in human development. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bruner, J. S. (1943). Public thinking on post-war problems. Washington, DC: National Planning Association.

Bruner, J. S. (1944). Mandate for the people. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce.

An analysis of public opinion polling in the US during the Second World War and what it says about US efforts in a post-war world both internationally and at home. This appears to be Bruner's first published book.

Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (reprinted 1977)

Bruner, J. (1962). On knowing: Essays for the left hand. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (reprinted 1979)

Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1968). Processes of cognitive growth: Infancy (Heinz Werner Lectures). Worcester, MA: Clark University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1971). The relevance of education. Oxford, UK: W. W. Norton.

Bruner, J. S. (1973). Beyond the information given: Studies in the psychology of knowing. Oxford, UK: W. W. Norton.

Bruner, J. S. (1977). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1980). Under five in Britain. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press. (Oxford Preschool Research Project, vol. 1)

Bruner, J. (1983). Child's talk: Learning to use language. New York: Norton.

Bruner, J. S. (1983). In search of mind: Essays in autobiography. New York: Harper & Row.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1991). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (2002). Making stories: Law, literature, life. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Bruner, J. S., Brunswik, E., Festinger, L., Heider, F., Meuenzinger, K. F., Osgood, C. E., & Rapaport, D. (1957). Contemporary approaches to cognition: A report of a symposium at the University of Colorado, May 12-14, 1955. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. S., Goodnow, J. J., & Austin, G. A. (1956). A study of thinking. New York: Wiley. (Reissued 1986 by Transaction Books, New Brunswick, NJ, as Citation Classic).

Bruner, J., & Haste, H. (Eds.). (1987). Making sense: The child's construction of the world. New York: Methuen.

Bruner, J. S., Jolly, A., & Sylva, K. (Eds.). (1976). Play: Its role in evolution and development. New York: Basic Books.

Bruner, J. S., & Krech, D. (Eds.). (1950). Perception and personality: A symposium (1949, Denver). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Bruner, J. S., Olver, R. R., & Greenfield, P. M. (1966). Studies in cognitive growth. New York: Wiley.

Connolly, K., & Bruner, J. (Eds.). (1974). The growth of competence. Oxford, UK: Academic Press.

Smith, M. B., Bruner, J. S., & White, R. W. (1956). Opinions and personality. New York: John Wiley.

     Book Chapters (Selected)

Bruner, J. S (1987). Prologue to the English edition. In R. W. Rieber & A. S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. Vol. 1 (pp. 1-16). New York: Plenum Publishing.

Bruner, J. S. (1993). Explaining and Interpreting: Two ways of using mind. In G. Harman (Ed.), Conceptions of the human mind: Essays in honor of George A. Miller (pp. 123-137). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bruner, J. S. (1994). Life as narrative. In A. H. Dyson & C. Genishi (Eds.), The need for story: Cultural diversity in classroom and community (pp. 28-37). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Bruner, J. S. (1994). The "remembered self." In U. Neisser & R. Fivush (Eds.), The remembering self: Construction and accuracy in the self-narrative. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1995). Meaning and self in cultural perspective. In D. Barkhurst & C. Sypnowich (Eds.), The social self (pp. 18-29). London: Sage Publications.

Bruner, J., & Feldman, C. F. (1996). Group narrative as a cultural context of autobiography. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.), Remembering our past: Studies in autobiographical memory (pp. 291-317). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bruner, J. (1996). Frames for thinking: Ways of making meaning. In D. R. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.), Modes of thought: Explorations in culture and cognition (pp. 93-105). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bruner, J. (1997). A narrative model of self-construction. In J. G. Snodgrass, & R. L. Thompson (Eds.), The self across psychology: Self-recognition, self-awareness, and the self concept (pp. 145-161). New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Bruner, J. (1998). Narrative and metanarrative in the construction of self. In M. D. Ferrari, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Self-awareness: Its nature and development (pp. 308-331). New York: The Guilford Press.

Bruner, J. (1999). Infancy and culture: A story. In S. Chaiklin, M. Hedegaard, et al., (Eds.), Activity theory and social practice (pp. 225-234). Aarhus N, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

Bruner, J. (1999). Prologue to the English edition of The Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky. In P. Lloyd, & C. Fernyhough (Eds.), Lev Vygotsky: Critical assessments: Future directions (Vol. IV; pp. 421-441). Florence, KY: Taylor & Francis/Routledge. (Also, in Rieber & Carton (Eds.), 1987).

     Journal Articles (selected)


Allport, G. W., Bruner, J. S., & Jandorf, E. M. (1941). Personality under social catastrophe: Ninety life-histories of the Nazi revolution. Character & Personality: A Quarterly for Psychodiagnostic & Allied Studies, 10, 1-22.

Bruner, J. S., & Allport, G. W. (1940). Fifty years of change in American psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 37, 757-776.

An analysis of 14 key psychology journals over the half-century prior to 1939 in terms of what they published, research methodologies, etc. This work served as the evidentiary backdrop for Allport's 1939 APA presidential sddress. The changes detailed in this period suggested to the authors that psychology would have to determine whether it would move beyond the increasingly animal- and laboratory-oriented research toward a greater concern with human issues.

Bruner, J. S. (1941). The dimensions of propaganda: German short-wave broadcasts to America. Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology, 36, 311-337.

In one of several articles flowlng from his dissertation work, Bruner compares German short-wave broadcasts with British in order to isolate important dimensions as a basis for understanding how propaganda functioned.

Bruner, J. S. (1943). OWI and the American public. Public Opinion Quarterly, 7, 125-138.

Bruner, J. S. (1944). Public opinion and America's foreign policy. American Sociological Review, 9, 50-56.

Bruner, J. S. & Goodman, C. C. (1947). Value and need as organizing factors in perception. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 42, 33-44. Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology archive.

Bruner, J. S. & Postman, L. (1947). Tension and tension-release as organizing factors in perception. Journal of Personality, 15, 300-308.

Bruner, J. S. & Postman, L. (1949). On the perception of incongruity: A paradigm. Journal of Personality, 18, 206-223. Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology archive.

Bruner, J. S., & Sayre, J. (1941). Shortwave listening in an Italian community. Public Opinion Quarterly, 5, 640-656.


Bruner, J. S. (1950). Social psychology and group processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 1, 119-150.

Bruner, J. S. (1957). Neural mechanisms in perception. Psychological Review, 64, 340-358.

Bruner, J. S. (1957). On perceptual readiness. Psychological Review, 64, 123-152.

Bruner, J. S. (1958). A colloquy on the unity of learning. Daedalus, 87, 155-165.


Bruner, J. S. (1965). The growth of mind. American Psychologist, 20, 1007-1017.


Bruner, J. S. (1975). From communciation to language: A psychological perspective. Cognition, 3, 255-287.


Bruner, J. S. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54, 1-17. (Also, in Dyson & Genishi, 1994).

Bruner, J. S. (1988). Research currents: Life as narrative. Language Arts, 65(5), 574-583.


Bruner, J. S. (1990). Culture and human development: A new look. Human Development, 33, 344-355.

Bruner, J. (1992) Another look at New Look 1. American Psychologist, 47, 780-783.

Bruner, J. (1995). The autobiographical process. Current Sociology, 43, 161-177.

Bruner, J. (1996). A narrative model of self construction. Psyke & Logos, 17(1), 154-170.

Bruner, J. (1999). Narratives of aging. Journal of Aging Studies, 13(1), 7-9.


Bruner, J. (2002). The legal and the literary. Yale Review, 90, 42-61.

 Bibliographical: Secondary Literature

Ornaghi, V., & Groppo, M. (1998). Viaggio attraverso la bibliografia di Jerome Bruner: Dagli anni delle formazione alla psicologia culturale (Journey through the bibliography of Jerome Bruner: From the formative years to cultural psychology). Archivo di Psicologia, Neurologia e Psichiatria, 59(2), 199-244.

Shore, B. (1997). Keeping the conversation going: An interview with Jerome Bruner. Ethos, 25, 7-62.

This broad ranging biographical and intellectual review with Bruner was undertaken by Bradd Shore, a foundational figure among contemporary psychological anthropologists. It is edited from interviews stretching over several days and, according to Shore, anticipates a book-length version which he hopes may eventually appear in print. Contains an extensive selected bibliography of Jerry Bruner's work.

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When citing this document, you may wish to consider this form for the reference (derived from APA Style [5th ed.])

Hevern, V. W. (2004, April). Key theorists: Jerome S. Bruner. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

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