What is our identity? Where does it come from? Psychologists have attempted to answer these questions from different perspectives, even though identity is a thing that cannot be easily described or empirically defined as such. In recent years the Social Constructionist’s (SC) have proposed the perspective that identities are something that is constructed through language and social relations. This essay will discuss the evidence that supports the SC view and highlight some of its limitations by presenting the key assertions of the psychosocial approach to identity.
The SC theory does not have a first proponent as this would contradict the core belief that ideas are nurtured within the context of social relationships and therefore can’t be developed by one person. For SC’s humans actively construct their identities through social interactions and the discourses that are at hand (language) that they engage in everyday. Therefore identities are temporary, always changing, never static and determined by our evolving cultural and historical influences. Identity is not necessarily singular because different identities can be constructed around the same individual. Potter and Weatherall (1987) show that we can have multiple identities, by giving the example of Nelson Mandela as being described as a terrorist and a freedom fighter depending what social group you belong to (Phoenix, 2007).
Gergen, a social constructionist, provides evidence of this by describing his own personal construction of his own identity through his social relations. He explains through an autobiographical discourse how his parents and university staff nurtured his identify as a writer by pen. His own positive views of his parents and their status in society meant that he was active in constructing himself as a writer by pen. Other significant social connections like the university staff who typed Gergen’s written work for him also played an active part in him constructing his...