Sociology | Advanced Topics
S660 | 20378 | Stryker

Topic:  Social Psychology of Self

This course explores the concept of self and related concepts (e.g.,
identity, social identity, self-esteem) as used in social
psychological theory and research.  While the major contributors to
the topics of the course have been and are both psychologists and
sociologists, the course will focus mainly on the work of
sociologists, paying some but lesser attention to the work of
psychologists.  The course begins with an overview and history of the
use of self and related concepts in social psychology.  It then deals
with various contemporary perspectives on self, moving on to
alternative theoretical usages and empirical research, focusing in
particular on self-esteem theory and research, what is termed
“Identity Theory” and related research, and theories of self and
identity deriving from cognitive social psychology.  The last of the
class sessions of the course will consider a number of current issues
in work on self and identity.  While there are lectures, the classroom
segment of the course will basically proceed as a seminar: students
will prepare one or two brief papers to be presented in class, and
time will be set aside for discussion of what I may say in lectures,
the readings that are assigned, and the class presentations.  However,
precisely how we will proceed – the “formality” of the lectures; the
mix among lectures, discussion and presentation of papers, etc. – will
not be determined until the size, composition, and background of the
class becomes clearer than they are at this writing.

Social psychology is by definition an interdisciplinary field to which
the work of (particularly) sociologists and psychologists but also
representatives of other disciplines is relevant.  This course seeks
to introduce graduate students to theories and research on an
important concern of social psychology, one that is integral to both
sociological and psychological social psychology, namely the concern
with the determinants and the interpersonal consequences of self and
the closely related concept of identity.  It does so primarily
although not exclusively as this complex concern is viewed by persons
whose disciplinary background and identification is in sociology.  It
is organized, first, to acquaint the student with the range of
theoretical frameworks or perspectives that have been and are used to
theorize about self and identity and to conduct research based on this
theorization.  It is organized, second, to illustrate the relevance of
sociology per se for social psychology more generally, as well as the
relevance of social psychology for sociology per se.  Third, it is
organized to have to do with the social psychology of self and
identity and to encourage students to visualize interesting research
possibilities that can be developed from one or another of these
theoretical issues.  Lastly, but not incidentally, the course is
organized so ideally, the student will develop a good sense of the
social psychological domain of self and identity, a critical but
constructive sense of the theoretical and methodological issues in
that domain, and a strong sense of the relevance of this domain of
social psychology for his/her interests in sociology or related fields.