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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Jekyll and Hyde and me : age-graded and cultural variations in conceptions of self-unity Proulx, Travis


This program of research presents evidence concerning young people’s efforts to maintain a sense of personal self-unity in the face of morally conflicted behaviours demonstrated in different social contexts. The work addresses the changing ways in which young people of different ages and different cultures differently warrant the conviction that, notwithstanding evidence of good and bad behaviours, selves can be understood as unified across the various roles and contexts that they occupy. Despite the historically agreed upon importance of such matters, very little is known about how persons —especially young persons— think about their own and others’ self-unity in the face of morally conflicted behaviours. Do they actually do work to maintain a synchronically unified conception of self in the face of morally conflicted evidence to the contrary? How do their efforts to solve this classic paradox vary as a function of age or culture of origin? Finally, why might it be that young people adopt one conception of self-unity over another? Canadian and Mauritian adolescents, as well as Canadian and Japanese young adults were asked to explain the apparent disunity of self implied by the good and bad behaviours manifested by the fictional character Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, as well as their own good and bad behaviours and the behaviours of familiar others. Responses were coded into one of four self-unity categories representing increasingly singular and context-independent conceptions of selthood. Age-graded variations were observed, with both culturally mainstream Canadian and Mauritian youth describing themselves as increasingly multi-voiced and context dependent as they grew older. Further evidence suggests that this developmental trajectory represents something akin to what Fromm characterized as a “flight from freedom” — an emerging desire to imagine one's good behaviours as internally motivated, and bad behaviours as externally provoked. Canadian young adults predominantly viewed themselves as mutiplicitous, while Japanese young adults imagined themselves as multiplicitous and singular with equal frequency.

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