Frames of Reference

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Psychology book series (BRIEFSPSYCHOL)


Frames of reference are meta-cognitive models through which researchers reconstruct the phenomena into intelligible explanatory narratives. These frames guide the actions of the researchers by giving them general orientation of how to look at the complex phenomena. They belong to the class of meta-codes (general assumptions) with theory building. Of the four, intra-systemic and inter-systemic reference frames are context-free. Comparisons that are made do not include any relation of the systems involved with their contexts. Yet we know that all biological, psychological, and social systems are open systems—they depend in their existence upon the exchange relation with their environment. They are profoundly context bound. Two other reference frames fit here. The individual-ecological frame entails the look at the ongoing exchange relations of the organism with the environment. The individual-socioecological frame is an extension of the individual-ecological frame as it adds to its structure the role of external guidance by goal-oriented others. The self-model of George Herbert Mead is presented as an example.


  1. Cook, G. (1993). George Herbert mead: The making of a social pragmatist. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  2. Joas, H. (1985). G.H. Mead: A contemporary re-examination of his thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Molenaar, P., Huizenga, H., & Nesselroade, J. (2003). The relationship between the structure of inter-individual and intra-individual variability. In U. Staudinger & U. Lindenberger (Eds.), Understanding human development (pp. 339–360). Dordrecht: Klüwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Valsiner, J. (1986). Between groups and individuals: Psychologists’ and laypersons’ interpretations of correlational findings. In J. Valsiner (Ed.), The individual subject and scientific psychology (pp. 113–152). New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Valsiner, J., & van der Veer, R. (2000). The social mind: Construction of the idea. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication and PsychologyAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

Personalised recommendations