Several independent lines of thought come together in this book. The first of these is an ecological/cognitive analysis of the self that was initially proposed by one of us (Ulric Neisser) in 1988. Five different sources of self-relevant information were identified in that analysis and described in terms of the different “selves” that they establish. The “ecological” and “interpersonal” selves, based on perception, have been considered in a preceding volume called The Perceived Self. The “private” and “conceptual” selves will be the subject of a volume currently in preparation. Here we are concerned with what was initially called the “temporally extended” self-that is, with memory and the self-narrative.
The second group of ideas that animates this book comes from recent studies of memory development. The research of the last few years, including our own (Robyn Fivush), has made it obvious that remembering does not just happen. Instead it is a skill that must be learned, a socially motivated activity with a specific developmental history in early childhood. This means that the remembering self has a course of development too, one that is explored in several of these chapters.
Our third theme is one of the more prominent currents in late 20th-century intellectual life. The concept of narrative has recently become important across a surprisingly wide range of disciplines. The seven fields listed on the contributor information page of the Journal of Narrative and Life History – anthropology, education, folklore studies, linguistics, literary criticism, psychology, and sociology – are just the tip of the iceberg; history, philosophy, and theology are among many that could be added.