The history of the self studies continuities and changes in ideas about and experiences of the individual mind through time, attending to questions of individuality, identity, stability, self-possession, and interiority. Traditionally, this subject has often been approached as an intellectual history, analyzing philosophers’ explicit writings about the self. Through the work of people such as René Descartes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, scholars have traced a growing sense of individuality and self-possession since the 16th century, and an increasing feeling of inner depth since the 18th century. The focus on intellectual sources of the self has been criticized, however, by scholars who stress the importance of practices and of social differences. They have broadened the scope of the field by looking at cultural sources, such as autobiographical writing, literature, art, rituals, and festivities. Still other historians have criticized the absence of power in many accounts of the history of the self and stress the institutional and political sources of the self, including religious institutions, schools, and legal systems. Throughout these different approaches, debates continue about whether a “modern self” can be traced, and when such a modern self can be situated. While many recent scholars stress the need to examine different cultures of the self at any given time in their own right, others argue that it remains important to trace grand shifts in this history.
Ananiev’s approach shares the Activity Theory (AT) paradigm, dominant in Soviet psychology. Ananiev builds on the main fundamentals of the AT paradigm, considering psyche as a special procreation of the matter, engendered by the active interaction of the individual with the environment. The unique feature of his approach to AT is that he turned it “toward the inside,” focusing on the relation of the human individual to his own physicality, to his own bodily substrate. Ananiev sought by his intention to keep a holistic vision of a human being, considering the latter in the context of his real life, that is, the bodily substrate in its biological specificity in context of the concrete sociohistorical life course of the personality. Like no other psychologist, Ananiev did not limit his research to the sphere of narrowly defined mental phenomena. He conducted a special kind of research, labeled as “complex,” in the course of which characteristics of the same subjects: sociological, socio-psychological, mental, physiological, and psychophysiological indicators—life events of the subjects—were monitored for many years. He focused on ontogenetic development in adulthood, which he, ahead of his time, considered as a period of dynamic changes and differentiated development of functions. The focus of his attention was on individual differences in the ontogenetic development of mental and psycho-physiological functions, especially those deviations from general regularities that resulted from the impact of the life course of the individual. Individualization, the increase of individual singularity, is the main effect of human development and its measure for Ananiev. Ananiev developed a number of theoretical models and concepts. The best-known of Ananiev’s heritage is his theoretical model of human development, often named the “individuality concept.” According to this model, humans do not have any preassigned “structure of personality” or “initial harmony.” The starting point of human development is a combination of potentials—resources and reserves, biological and social. The human creates himself in the process of interaction with the world. Specialization, individually specific development of functions, appears here not as a distortion of the pre-set harmony of the whole but as the way of self-determining progressive human development. The most important practical task of psychology he viewed as psychological support and provision in the process of developing a harmonious individuality, based on the individual potentials.
Raymond E. Fancher
Gordon W. Allport was a prominent Harvard University psychologist during the mid-20th century, notable both for his early and effective promotion of “personality” as an important psychological subdiscipline, and in his later career as a social psychologist for works on several issues of major social importance. In 1921 he and his older brother Floyd Allport jointly proposed the study and measurement of traits as the foundation of a new subdiscipline of personality psychology, with Gordon’s Harvard doctoral research a pilot study demonstrating the feasibility of the approach. On a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship in Germany Allport became impressed by William Stern’s “personalistic” psychology, which held that a person’s “individuality” could be defined in two ways: relational individuality, comprised of the particular combination of numerous measurable traits manifested by a subject in studies such as Allport’s thesis; and real individuality, a Gestalt-like conception of a personality that is more than just the sum of its parts, and discoverable only through a qualitative analysis of the traits’ role in an overall life history. These ideas inspired in Allport a conception of personality as a broad and independent psychological field that would incorporate both the “nomothetic,” experimental methods of the natural sciences in measuring and studying personality traits, and the non-experimental “idiographic” methods utilized in the historical and humanistic fields for providing conceptions of wholly integrated, unique personalities. Noting that Anglo-American psychology was heavily dominated by the former approach, he became an outspoken advocate of the latter as a necessary complement to it. Allport taught undergraduate seminars promoting this conception at Harvard and Dartmouth between 1924 and 1930, before returning permanently to Harvard in 1930. There, both independently and in collaborations with others, he conducted and promoted seminal personality research employing both nomothetic and idiographic methods. His comprehensive and authoritative 1937 textbook, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, was a landmark in establishing personality as a major psychological discipline. With enhanced reputation, Allport became a leading institutional figure in American psychology. For the rest of his career he continued to advocate an inclusive, “eclectic” approach to personality psychology, while also turning attention to important social issues such as wartime morale and propaganda, the influence of radio as a mass medium, the role of religion in personality and society, and with particular impact the nature of prejudice.