“Stranger in the Mirror: The Scientific Search for the Self,” a new book by social psychologist Dr. Robert V. Levine, will challenge assumptions about who we are and the entity we call our self. The book is published by The Press at California State University, Fresno.
“Filled with fascinating case studies and scientific discoveries presented in an entertaining, conversational style, this book lures us into realizing that there isn’t just one self but many, and these selves can, in fact, be developed and improved over the course of a lifetime,” said Honora Chapman, the associate dean for the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State and co-director of The Press. “Robert has written a funny, optimistic book that not only educates us about 21st-century cognitive and biological science as well as intercultural differences, but also gives us hope about what kind of human beings we all can still become.”
A professor emeritus from the Department of Psychology at Fresno State, Levine has won national and international awards for his research, teaching and writing. He served as a visiting professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Niteroi, Brazil; Sapporo Medical University in Japan; Stockholm University in Sweden; and, most recently, as a fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University in the United Kingdom.
He is the outgoing president of the Western Psychological Association and a fellow in the American Psychological Association. He has earned a number of awards for his teaching and research including one of Fresno State’s top honors, the Excellence in Teaching Award, in 2007.
“We tell ourselves that we — our ‘selves’ — are coherent entities. We imagine a thing that we can neatly label and point to as if it were a sculpture sitting on a shelf,” Levine writes in the book’s introduction. “But it is just a story we write — or, more precisely, are constantly rewriting. The image we have of the person we are is, in fact, a never-ending narrative in which we do our best to connect all the iterations of ourselves — bodies, minds and personae — to who we feel like at that particular moment.”
Levine will give a lecture titled “The Voices in our Heads” as part of the spring programming for Fresno State’s Center for Creativity and the Arts. The lecture is scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at the Alice Peters Auditorium.
The book includes a dedication to Mike McGarvin — known as “Papa Mike” — the founder of the Poverello House homeless shelter in downtown Fresno. McGarvin died on July 1. Levine expands on McGarvin’s story of transformation, from “precocious and innovative criminal” in his younger life to the well-known humanitarian he was for almost 25 years, in Chapter 15, “Finding the Schindler Button.”
Levine is also the author of “A Geography of Time” (1998) and “The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold” (2006). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, American Scientist and Discover, and he has appeared on “ABC Prime Time” and WNYC’s “RadioLab.”
“In this fascinating exploration of the human self, Robert Levine — one of psychology’s great writers – blends mind-bending case stories (à la Oliver Sacks) with the insights of psychological science,” said David G. Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College and co-author of “Psychology,” 11th Edition. “Read this and prepare to have your self-understanding challenged and expanded.”
“Stranger in the Mirror” is $16 and can be purchased on The Press website and on Amazon.