Dialogical Nature of Narrative Identity: A Meta Analysis


  • Aljaž Andolšek University of Ljubljana



McAdams defines narrative identity as the internalized and evolving story of the self, that people construct to make meaning out of their lives [1]. As such it is often assumed in research, that there is a single, centralised narrative frame, which organizes and integrates a person’s life story into one of unity and purpose. However, an alternative perspective advocated in dialogical self-theory, suggests that life stories are several, smaller and less integrative, instead of being as individualised, whole, and self-contained. The I here is seen as a de-centred multiplicity of positions with dialogical relationships at its core.

The concept of the dialogical self was inspired by the work of James [2], who coined the distinction between I and me. The I is equated with the self-as-knower and has three features: continuity, distinctness, and volition. On the other hand, me is equated with self-as-known and is composed of the empirical elements considered as belonging to oneself. Inspired by this distinction, Hermans, Kempen and Van Loon [3] have conceptualised the self in terms of a dynamic multiplicity of relatively autonomous I-positions. These I-positions manifest themselves in terms of voices in accordance with changes in situation and time. These shifts between these positions or voices establishes dialogical relations, that exchange information about their respective Me’s, which results in a complex, narratively structured self.

Research Goals and Results

The understanding of the narrative self is very different in various relevant research fields (such as psychology, philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience) and there is no clear understanding, how it fits and relates to cognitive science. The goal of the research will be to compare the dialogical self-theory to other contemporary theories of the narrative self and accurately identify the concept across different disciplines (if that is even possible), to outline its function and structure and possibly construct a unifying model of the narrative self, that could be integrated into the broad field of cognitive science.


The main method of research will be a systemic literature review, stemming from the dialogical self-theory and compared to relevant literature from the fields of philosophy, cognitive and developmental psychology, neuroscience and anthropology.


[1] D. Mcadams and K. McLean, “Narrative Identity,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2013, doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-7988-9_5

[2] M. Woźniak, “”I” and “Me”: The Self in the Context of Consciousness,” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01656

[3] H. J. M. Hermans, "The Dialogical Self: Toward a Theory of Personal and Cultural Positioning," Culture & Psychology, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 243–281, 2001, doi:10.1177/1354067X0173001