Skip to main content
Log in

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

  • Regular Article
  • Published:
Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Similar content being viewed by others


  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.


  • Fivush, R., & Waters, T. E. A. (2010). Re-presenting the presentational self. Human Development, 53, 229–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fivush, R., Haden, C. A., & Reese, E. (2006). Elaborating on elaborations: role of maternal reminiscing style in cognitive and socioemotional development. Child Development, 77, 1568–1588.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haden, C. A., Haine, R. A., & Fivush, R. (1997). Developing narrative structure in parent–child reminiscing across the preschool years. Developmental Psychology, 33, 293–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harré, R., & van Langenhove, L. (1999). The dynamics of social episodes. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.), Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action (pp. 1–13). Malden: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • James. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Henry Holt.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Josephs, I. E., Valsiner, J., & Surgan, S. E. (1999). The process of meaning construction: Dissecting the flow of semiotic activity. In J. Brandtstädter & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Action and self-development: Theory and research through the life span (pp. 257–282). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Komatsu, K. (2010). Emergence of young children’s presentational self in daily conversation and its semiotic foundation. Human Development, 53, 208–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Komatsu, K. (in press). Why and how young child’s “presentational self” emerges in day-to-day conversation about the past? Focusing on children’s daily trip to Yochien, in Japan. In G. Marsico, K. Komatsu, & A. Iannaccone (Eds.), Crossing boundaries: Intercontextual dynamics between family and school. Charlotte: Information Age.

  • Komatsu, K., & Noguchi, T. (2001). Significance and function of mother-child conversations about children’s daily experiences at kindergarten. Memoirs of Osaka Kyoiku University (Ser. 4), 50(1), 61–78 (in Japanese with English abstract).

    Google Scholar 

  • Komatsu, K., Konno, C., & Nakajo, S. (2010). The development of children’s self and educational practices in elementary schools: discussing the activities of composition and speech from psychological perspective. Memoirs of Osaka Kyoiku University (Ser. 4), 59(1), 81–95 (in Japanese with English abstract).

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuhn, M. H., & McPartland, T. S. (1954). An empirical investigation of self-attitudes. American Sociological Review, 19, 68–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1979). Social cognition and the acquisition of self. New York: Plenum.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Metzinger, T. (2011). The no-self alternative. In S. Gallagher (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the self (pp. 279–296). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Nakajo, S. (2011). Kodomo no hyogen ni arawareru jiko to sono hennyo: Shogakko no speech katsudo ni chakumoku site (The emergence and transformation of children’s self in their presentation: Focusing on the storytelling in elementary school). Unpublished master’s thesis, Osaka Kyoiku University, Osaka, Japan. (in Japanese)

  • Namekawa, M. (1977). Nihon sakubun tsuzurikata kyoikushi (The history of Sakubun and Tsuzurikata education in Japan) Vol. 1. Meiji-hen. Tokyo: Kokudosha. (in Japanese)

  • Namekawa, M. (1983). Nihon sakubun tsuzurikata kyoikushi (The history of Sakubun and Tsuzurikata education in Japan) Vol. 3. Showa-hen I. Tokyo: Kokudosha. (in Japanese)

  • Nelson, K., & Fivush, R. (2004). The emergence of autobiographical memory: A social cultural developmental theory. Psychological Review, 111, 486–511.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pasupathi, M., & Wainryb, C. (2010). On telling the whole story: facts and interpretations in autobiographical memory narratives from childhood through midadolescence. Developmental Psychology, 46, 735–746.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Povinelli, D. J., Landau, K. R., & Perilloux, H. K. (1996). Self-recognition in young children using delayed versus live feedback: evidence of a developmental asynchrony. Child Development, 67, 1540–1554.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Reese, E., & Newcombe, R. (2007). Training mothers in elaborative reminiscing enhances children’s autobiographical memory and narrative. Child Development, 78, 1153–1170.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rogers, T. B., Kuiper, N. A., & Kirker, W. S. (1977). Self-reference and the encoding of personal information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 677–688.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suddendorf, T. (1999). Children’s understanding of the relation between delayed video representation and current reality: a test for self-awareness? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72, 157–176.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Valsiner, J. (2006). Developmental epistemology and implications for methodology. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology Vol.1. Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 166–209). Hoboken: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • von Ehrenfels, C. (1988). On ‘Gestalt qualities’. In S. Barry (Ed.), Foundations of gestalt theory (pp. 82–117). Munich: Philosophia.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


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 ( This research was funded by a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (No. 23730613).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Koji Komatsu.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Komatsu, K. Temporal reticence of the self: who can know my self?. Integr. psych. behav. 46, 357–372 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: