Knowledge of Self

  • D. Bannister
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series


Definition is a social undertaking. As a community we negotiate the meaning of words. This makes ‘self’ a peculiarly difficult term to define, since much of the meaning we attach to it derives from essentially private experiences of a kind which are difficult to communicate about and agree upon. Nevertheless, we can try to abstract from our private experience of self qualities which can constitute a working definition. Such an attempt was made by Bannister and Fransella (1980) in the following terms.


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  1. Bannister, D. and Agnew, J. (1977) The Child’s Construing of Self. In A.W. Landfield (ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 1976. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bannister, D. and Fransella, F. (1980) Inquiring Man (2nd edn). Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  3. Fransella, F. (1972) Personal Change and Reconstruction. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Kelly, G.A. (1955) The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Volumes I and II. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Kelly, G.A. (1969) Clinical Psychology and Personality: The selected papers of George Kelly (ed. B.A. Maher). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Mair, J.M.M. (1970) Experimenting with individuals. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 43, 245–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mead, G.H. (1925) The genesis of the self and social control. International Journal of Ethics, 35, 251–273.Google Scholar
  8. Mischel, W. (1968) Personality and Assessment. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  9. Radley, A.R. (1974) The effect of role enactment on construct alternatives. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 47, 313–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Annotated reading

  1. Axline, Virginia M. (1971) Dibs: In search of self. Harmondsworth: Penguin. A finely written description of a withdrawn and disturbed child who in the process of psychotherapy comes vividly to life. It casts light on our early struggles to achieve the idea of being a ‘self’.Google Scholar
  2. Bannister, D. and Fransella, F. (1980) Inquiring Man: The psychology of personal constructs. Harmondsworth: Penguin. The second edition of a book which sets out the way George Kelly sees each of us as developing a complex personal view of our world. The book describes two decades of psychological research based on the theory and relates it to problems such as psychological breakdown, prejudice, child development and personal relationships.Google Scholar
  3. Bott, M. and Bowskill, D. (1980) The Do-It-Yourself Mind Book. London: Wildwood House. A lightly written but shrewd book by a psychiatrist on the ways in which we can tackle serious personal and emotional problems without recourse to formal psychiatry.Google Scholar
  4. Fransella, F. (1975) Need to Change? London: Methuen. A brief description of the formal and informal ways in which ‘self’ is explored and change attempted.Google Scholar
  5. Rogers, C.R. (1961) On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. Sets out the idea of ‘self-actualization’ and describes the ways in which we might avoid either limiting ourselves or being socially limited and come to be what Rogers calls a fully functioning person.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The British Psychological Society 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Bannister

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