Development and Structure of the Body Image - Vol. 1

By Seymour Fisher | Go to book overview

Preface

More than a decade has passed since my last book, Body Experience in Fantasy and Behavior, in which I analyzed what had been learned about body image and body perception in the preceding decade. Many new studies and observations have accumulated. They need to be reviewed and assimilated. I have tried to put them into a theoretical frame that will energize their significance. We are slowly and laboriously beginning to understand how people make psychological sense of their unbelievably complex body experiences. It has been interesting to watch the expansion of interest in body experience. Starting out as a relatively parochial scholarly focus for a few neurologists and psychiatrists, body perception has increasingly recruited investigators concerned with such diverse phenomena as development of identity, adaptation to body illness and injury, obesity, sex role, territoriality, response to drugs, sexual behavior, and self awareness. Congruent with the prediction Cleveland and I made in 1958 ( Fisher & Cleveland, 1958), body image constructs have proven to have considerable potency in explaining behavior. I marvel that, nevertheless, important segments of the scholarly community continue to regard people as disembodied. They give lip service to the fact that each human being is a biological object but refuse to factor into their behavioral equations the powerful impact of the immediate experience of one's own body in every situation. I firmly believe we will eventually find that measures of body perception are among our most versatile predictors of how people will interpret and react to life situations.

As research information has accumulated, it has become obvious that many of our previous notions about body perception are too simplistic. It no longer makes sense to talk about a simple unitary Body Image or Body Schema. The organization of body experience is multidimensional. At any given moment an individual may be simultaneously monitoring such different aspects of his body as its position in space, the integrity of its boundaries, its relative prominence in the total perceptual field, changes in its apparent size, and so forth. Each of these aspects may or may not be relatively independent of the others. To complicate matters further, we know that modes of body perception may shift markedly at certain developmental points and may also be quite different, even polar opposites, in males as compared to females. Consider, too, that some aspects of body experience are immediately observable and accessible by way of direct questioning of the individual, but others are either so automatized or obscured at unconscious levels that they can be

-xiii-

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