May 1960

Mirrors and Masks: The Search for Identity.

Author Affiliations

By Anselm Strauss. Price, $4.00. Pp. 186. The Free Press of Glencoe, Chicago, 1959.

AMA Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1960;2(5):589. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1960.03590110113018

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Who am I, and how do I know? I am different in talking to different people; I adapt my mask to the expectations I see mirrored in them. Do they change, too?

Doctors, no less than others, need to be reminded that the word person, the implications of which we consider so essential to modern medical practice, is derived from a word meaning a mask, such as players wore. The author of this stimulating book goes beyond this verbal derivation to a closer scrutiny of the essential connections of the many masks each of us wears. Names, appraisals, memberships, history, prestige, subtle and overt changes in character, and the constant mutual modifications incident to social intercourse are discussed. Strangely, the author omits all mention of the most typical and vivid American identity confusion—that of the “American” Indians.

Sociology, argues the author persuasively, no less than psychology, can contribute to the

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