The self as a complex dynamic system

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Sarah Mercer


This article explores the potential offered by complexity theories for understanding language learners’ sense of self and attempts to show how the self might usefully be conceived of as a complex dynamic system. Rather than presenting empirical findings, the article discusses existent research on the self and aims at outlining a conceptual perspective that may inform future studies into the self and possibly other individual learner differences. The article concludes by critically considering the merits of a complexity perspective but also reflecting on the challenges it poses for research.


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Mercer, S. (2011). The self as a complex dynamic system. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 57-82.
Author Biography

Sarah Mercer, Institut für Anglistik, University of Graz

Sarah Mercer teaches English at the University of Graz, Austria where she has been working for over ten years. Her PhD completed at the University of Lancaster investigated the self-concept of tertiary-level EFL learners. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is particularly interested in learner beliefs, self-concept, motivation, attributions and mindsets.


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