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  • Cited by 14
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

16 - Self-narrative in schizophrenia

from Part III - Disturbances of the self: the case of schizophrenia



Proper structures of self-narrative depend on at least four capacities in the narrator: (1) a capacity for temporal integration of information; (2) a capacity for minimal self-reference; (3) a capacity for encoding and retrieving autobiographical memories; (4) a capacity for engaging in reflective metacognition. This chapter explicates the cognitive, phenomenological, narratological and neurological details of these four capacities and their dysfunction in schizophrenia, as evidenced by schizophrenic self-narrative.


The concept of the narrative self involves a diachronic and complex structure that depends on reflective experience and on factors that are conceptual, emotional and socially embedded. According to a narrative approach, persons constitute their own identity by formulating autobiographical narratives – life stories (Schechtman, 1996). In this chapter I want to explore issues pertaining to the generation and structure of the narrative self in schizophrenia. Normal generation of a narrative self depends on the proper functioning of a variety of cognitive capacities, including capacities for short-term temporal processing (working memory), self-awareness, episodic memory and reflective metacognition. Neuropsychological research suggests that in schizophrenia the mechanisms responsible for each of these elements are frequently disrupted. It should not be surprising that, as a result, schizophrenic narratives, and the self that is constituted through them, are problematic, both in structure and content. (Problems with narrative self-identity begin at the prodromal stage for preschizophrenic subjects at school age (Hartmann et al., 1984).

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