Comparison and Contrast of Biological and Social Constructionist Approaches to Self Essay

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Comparison and Contrast of Biological and Social Constructionist Approaches to Self
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Comparison and Contrast of Biological and Social Constructionist Approaches to Self

The ‘self’ is the perceptions, thoughts, emotions, or the essential qualities that makes a person different from all others. There have been a number of approaches for defining the self with each providing distinctive aspects to the understanding of it. Richard Stevens in his book Understanding the Self indicate towards the five approaches to understanding the self which include the biological, cognitive social, phenomenological, social constructionist, psychoanalytical approaches (Stevens, 1996). Of these, the essay compares and contrasts the biological and social constructionist approach to the understanding of the self. In this regard, the main principles of both of the approaches to self are provided along with a brief overview of an exemplary theorist within each approach, the ontological and epistemological assumptions, examples of research studies in each of the approach, and comparison of the two approaches in relation to gender are included in the essay.

Main Principles of Biological and Social Constructionist Approach to Self
The edifice of both the approaches is laid on different principles. The biological approach to self is based on an understanding of the self from a biological aspect such as genetics, brain functions, traits, neurotransmitters. The main principles of the biological approach to the self include that it is the biological characteristics or capacities such as the brain structures, the genes, the hormones, etc. that define and limit the range of actions, thoughts, activities, and behaviours of a person. The primary notion is that it is the biological aspects that determine the personality and all the actions, activities, thoughts, behaviours etc. that are carried out by a person are the result of the any biological aspect. Under this approach, the view of the self is that the self is something that is internal and private and which is embodied within the person with external factors playing a negligible role.
On the other hand, the main principle in the social constructionist approach is that the self is entirely social. This means that the self is a purely social construct such that individuals develop in the environment of society and that it is not on one’s own or as endowed at birth that a person can develop but it is the acquisition of some specific socially instituted responses that an individual constructs a self. Under social constructionist, the notion of individuality is illusionary since the inside of a person emerges from the outside i.e. as a result of influences from the environmental factors. The social view to the self stands in contrast to the other theories that are focused on individual aspects and which consider selfhood to be the result of individual consciousness before a person is exposed to socialisation.

An exemplary theorist from both Approaches
Eysenck is one of the influential theorists of the biological approach to the understanding of self. He suggested, in his biological explanation, that personality has a genetic basis and is shaped by part of the mid-brain called the reticular activating system. There are two main brain systems that are identified to be central to his conceptual nervous system i.e. the reticulo-cortical and reticulo-limbic. The former is suggested to be responsible for controlling the cortical arousal when incoming stimuli generate them, while the later circuit is responsible for controlling the response to emotional stimuli. In simple terms, according to Eysenck (1967), the self is shaped by the activity and arousal of parts of the nervous system network that a person has. In his trait theory, Eysenck suggested that the self of a person was the combination of the personality