|The effects upon an individual's identity as a result of his or her
changing meaning systems. William James's studies of the psychology of religious
experience, and specifically of the conversion process, represent an early exploration of
this concept. Drawing upon Alfred Schutz's phenomenology, Peter L. Berger coined this term
to describe the near total transformation of identity resulting from the internalization
of a different meaning system. The conversion process, religious or secular, is one
example. The radical changes in an individual's biography and self-concept that typify
this experience are usually accompanied by a shift from one social world to another.
Alternation may be more commonplace in modern, pluralistic societies where individuals are
exposed to a broader range of meaning systems through communication technology or because
of social and geographic mobility.
P. L. Berger, The Precarious Vision (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961)
P. L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963)
P. L. Berger and T. Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966)
W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: New American Library, 1958 ).
|return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents|