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A Theory Explaining the Functional Linkage Between the Self, Identity and Cultural Models

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Abstract Self, identities and cultural models are interactive, dynamic and interdependent systems that connect the biological, psychological, social and cultural dimensions of human life. Identities are the means by which the self engages with the outside world and cultural models are the symbol complexes which the self, via an identity, relies on for generating sensible output and making sense of input. Thus, a theory of the self entails a theory of identities, which, in turn, entails a theory of cultural models. The primary function of the “self” is to bestow self-consciousness on an identity. Identities are sites of perspective – each is a self-organizing site of cultural models which provide it with dimensionality (e.g., gesture, emotional stance, logic, speech code, style, etc.). Over time a constellation of cultural models cohere to a particular identity to form a robust, but still dynamically contingent, system. When an identity is activated it automatically considers itself to be “the self”. Identities, themselves are organized into larger organization clusters, which I refer to as idniches (short for identity-niche). I argue that these higher-level, superordinate identity organizations serve the purpose of cognitive ease as they make it easier for the self to target an appropriate identity for any action. Three high-level idniches are proposed – the solitary or alone idniche, the intimate idniche, and the public idniche. This theory of self, identity and cultural models shows how each is functionally linked to the other and solves the problems of theories that deal with these three concepts independently.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, State University New York (SUNY) at New Paltz New Paltz, NY 12561-2499 USA


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