Mark Turner Mathew D. McCubbins

Selves and choices

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Choosing requires a person to perform: the person must construct selves, one for each moment of deciding. We see our everyday lives as involving several simultaneous stories. Moments of choosing occur throughout all these stories. Imaginative mental operations are used at these moments of decision to create various ideas: of oneself as having a characteristic identity; of others as having characteristic identities, emotions, goals, and beliefs; of the self as having relationships to the minds of others; of others as having relationships to the minds of oneself; and of both self and others as inhabiting past and future stories (Turner 2008). These sparse ideas of selves and choices are remarkably useful in decision-making. In contrast, the dominant theories of choice in the social sciences offer a view of selves and choices that is radically different from this picture. This article presents ways in which those dominant theories are empirically disconfirmed. We view people as engaged in wayfinding - using imagination to construct selves and stories, for the purpose of navigating into the future. During wayfinding, there is remarkable flexibility in our ideas of self and others. The concluding section of the article considers some recent cognitive neuroscience that might support flexibility theory.


  • Game Theory
  • Blending
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Equilibrium
  • Personal Identity
  • Other Minds


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