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Temporal reticence of the self: who can know my self?

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Abstract

In this study, I will elaborate and extend the theoretical framework of the presentational self (Komatsu, Human Development 53:208–228, 2010) that finds the self in two aspects of our interaction with others or objects. From this perspective, the self is not an internal entity, a representation that can be revealed voluntarily when directly queried by researchers (e.g., through items of a questionnaire or an interview), but is what emerges from constantly relating with the immediate environment. The process structure of being in the environment that emerges in this relationship is the presentational self, which both an external observer and the person him/herself can detect but not necessarily describe in words. For further elaboration, first, I clarify that the triangular relationship between a study participant, others or objects, and observing researchers, which is essential in the presentational self, is also common in the methodological presuppositions of existing psychological studies on the self. Second, I apply the framework to a daily activity of oral storytelling in a Japanese elementary school, where the emergence of children’s self is observable through sequences of organized interactions with others. From these discussions, I demonstrate both the theoretical and practical importance of considering the self to refer to the relationships that we constantly create in our daily life.

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Notes

  1. In Japan, there are two types of institutions for young children before elementary school—hoikusho (generally called hoikuen) and yochien. Based on the family background and the policies of local governments, majority of children are enrolled in either of these institutions. Although the basic aims of these two types of institutions are different, there are many common features in their curricula for children over 3 years old.

  2. The term presentational self comes from “die Vorstellung” in the German language that is used by von Ehrenfels (1988), signifying presentation.

  3. For all excerpts appearing in this study, original recordings and transcripts are in Japanese. Translations of excerpts into English were made by the author.

  4. In the original utterance in Japanese, the mother says “it may because he had a consciousness that the yochien is mine.” The translation shown in Excerpt 1 was determined with the help of native English speakers, to keep the nuance of what the mother was intending.

  5. They insisted that “there is no objective viewpoint” (p. 231) and the viewpoints of the mother and her child are missing in the analysis of Komatsu (2010).

  6. The academic year in Japan begins in April and ends in March.

  7. Here, I must admit that this is my personal impression. As the standard for evaluating oral stories varies, this point must be discussed further.

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Acknowledgement

I thank Sawako Nakajo, Mako Yanagihara and Konno Chieri for their help with my research about the presentational self and activities in elementary schools. The discussion in this study was elaborated through discussion with members of the “Kitchen Seminar” at Clark University (www.kitchenseminar.org). This research was funded by a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No. 23730613).

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Correspondence to Koji Komatsu.

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Komatsu, K. Temporal reticence of the self: who can know my self?. Integr. psych. behav. 46, 357–372 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-012-9199-6

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