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Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Interdisciplinary Studies


David Terry


Diamond, Hierarchy, Identity, Maslow, Needs, Psychology

Subject Areas

Psychology; Performing arts


This thesis is an interdisciplinary literature review that proposes a potential theory for looking at identity. Within the field of psychology, one can see two general approaches to the study of identity. Many treat identity as an object, while others treat it as a process. Perspectives based more in the social sciences often approach identity as a reified object. On one hand, this is a limitation because it can lead to the commodification of identity, the imposition of unwarranted identity labels, detrimental actions based on the misuse of cognitive-behavioral therapies, and over-dependence on psychopharmacological treatments. On the other hand, perspectives based more in the generally view identity as a process. This approach creates an opportunity to address the limitations associated with the view of identity as an object but has its own limitations: it is often vague and non empirical. I propose a collaborative solution to the issue of identity by bridging social sciences' and humanities' perspectives on identity with three tools from the interdisciplinary field of performance studies: radical empiricism, embodiment, and the aesthetics of the everyday. These tools combined with Maslow's hierarchy of needs offer an original theory of identity, called the identity diamond. This theory helps to synthesize social sciences' and humanities' approaches to identity by preserving some of their strengths and avoiding some of their weaknesses.