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Aging and The Sense of Self

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Speculations on how the aging brain affects an elder's sense of self. ... 30 months lapsed between T-1 & T-2. 30 months, how did the sample change? A weakness? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Aging and The Sense of Self


1
Aging and The Sense of Self
  • A review of a research article
  • -Dan McKinnon

2
Review critique of
  • Troll, L. E. McKean M. (1997). Perceived
    continuity of self in very old age. Psychology
    and Aging, Vol. 12, No. 1, 162-169.
  • Who am I now? Speculations on how the aging
    brain affects an elders sense of self.

3
But first, a thought experiment
  • The Ship of Theseus
  • Imagine this.
  • Thinking about What is self ? Its a perennially
    persistent problem.....

4
Purpose rationale of the study
  • Implement a novel approach to investigating
    change in self vs. continuity of self in late
    life.
  • How? Interviewed very old individuals (85yrs.).
  • Not personality traits, but a descriptive
    approach.
  • Asked, how have you changed or stayed the same?

5
The Literature Review
  • What is Self?
  • Too brief, too sketchy
  • Most writers focus on the self-concept,
    self-esteem, or the self in a reflective,
    subjective manner.
  • OR, personality traits.
  • Missed noting the deficiencies in those
    approaches.
  • Needed a critical evaluation of recent
    psychological conceptions of self, For instance..

6
Three recent notions of self,
  • Labouvie-Vief (1995) the self is not unitary,
    conscious-rational and integrated, BUT,
  • a set of processes, multiple and situated.
  • Gergen (1991) there is no self-knowledge at
    all, just a collage of socially conditioned
    interpretations.
  • Nesser (1988) there are five kinds of
    self-knowledge and they are 12.3.45.

7
Troll Skaffs definition of self is
  • Derived from William James and George Herbert
    Mead.
  • And it is a duplex notion of self
  • with the I, the self as observer, AND
  • with the me, the self as the observations of
    that observer.

8
Sound familiar?
  • They didnt admit it, but they borrowed a very
    famous dictum of self from...

9
Rene Descartes (1641/1960)
  • You remember?
  • I think, therefore I am.
  • Its dualism from here on.

10
BUT, operationally defining, What is self?,
thats tough to do.
  • They deserve credit for focusing on
  • the self as a self-perceived continuity in the
    sameness of the person, The I, OR
  • the self-perceived continuity in the persons
    self attributes, The me.

11
In their study Troll Skaff also relate self
perceptions to
  • Recent upsetting events,
  • current social resources,
  • physical mental well-being,
  • and mortality
  • Although they do not state it as such..

12
..Troll Skaffs implicit null hypothesis is
  • There is little empirical evidence for either
    continuity or change in identity in very late
    life.

13
Method
  • So how did they do it?

14
They drew a random sample of
  • 150 caucasian men (25) and women (75) over the
    age of 85
  • All participants lived in the community and50 of
    them lived alone
  • Interviewed as to their.
  • willingness to participate and if they were
  • competent enough to respond

15
The Interviews
  • 6 interviews in total over a 7 year period
  • In-depth, focused interview format
  • Only interviews at Time 1 Time 3 dealt with
    perceptions of self-continuity
  • 30 months lapsed between T-1 T-2

16
30 months, how did the sample change? A weakness?
  • 19 died, 9 became too impaired and 11 declined
    to participate or moved
  • Dropout 150 to 90 participants
  • Did the sample remain representative of the
    population?
  • Troll Skaff claimed that their were no major
    differences

17
Another concern or weakness that Troll Skaff
overlooked was
  • No attempt was made to control for any possible
    research participant effects
  • A participants need for positive
    self-presentation can distort things

18
The Questions
  • Questions about either.
  • The persons sense of being the same essential
    person (I)
  • and The persons observations of particular
    aspects of his/her being (me)
  • Questions about.
  • Recent, disruptive and upsettting events in the
    last year
  • Current social resources
  • Physical and mental well-being
  • Thoughts of mortality

19
Scoring the responses ?
  • 3no change, 2some change
  • 1slight change, 0ambiguous answer
  • Both authors scored the responses independently
    and then discussed them until a consensus was
    reached.
  • Discrepancies between ratings were consistently
    within 1 point.
  • Overall the questions ratings seemed
    appropriate and well done.

20
Results
  • Reported in a systematic and detailed manner
  • Good use of tables/charts to display their results

21
Results, continued...
  • Time 1
  • 74 of participants perceived a clear continuity
    of self on the subjective feeling of self or the
    I dimension
  • Consistent with the literature
  • Time 3
  • 92 of participants perceived a clear continuity
    of self on the I dimension.

22
Results continued.
  • Time 1
  • 77 of the participants pereived themselves as
    QUITE DIFFERENT on the content of self or the
    me dimension
  • Time 3
  • 60 perceived themselves as QUITE DIFFERENT on
    the me dimension
  • Using t-tests for paired differences these
    results are stat.sig (p lt.001)

23
Results continued...
  • None of the other potential correlates
  • ... not recent upsetting events, not current
    social resources, not physical or mental
    well-being, not thoughts of mortality
  • ... displayed a stat.sig. relationship with
    perceived continuity of self.

24
Discussion
  • Their discussion of the findings was informative
    and well integrated with the literature review.

25
Key points in the discussion
  • Elders (85 yr.) retain a coherent sense of self
    ( The I dimension) over time.
  • 80 of these elders felt that some of their
    self-attributes (The me dimension) did indeed
    change.
  • Elders are able to readily assimilate these
    changes into their core self, the I or observer
    self.

26
Key points continued.
  • Intriguing that disruptive events did not affect
    their continuous sense of self.
  • Elders have an aura of survivorship
  • The I - me distinction is a useful way to
    understand how elders can describe themselves as
    essentially the same.

27
Conclusion
  • Even among the oldest old, then, there seems to
    be a sense that although the mirror might tell a
    different story, the person inside is still the
    same.

28
Some alternate explanations?
  • Sense of self as overlapping memories.
  • Sense of self as a bundle of perceptions.
  • Sense of self as a narrative structure and story.
  • THOUGHT EXPERIMENT 2
  • The Heap Problem
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