Nowhere is our account–making more evident that at times of acute personal stress. In divorce and separation, death of a spouse, redundancy or retirement, for example, we deal best with loss when we have worked through its meaning to close, empathic others. It is in the process of account–making that people look to create meaning out of loss.
So fundamental an activity as account–making must, the authors believe, have evolutionary origins. Drawing on the work of Jaynes, they consider the process in relation to the origin of human consciousness and the beginnings of story–telling as a human activity.
In arguing for the centrality of accounts to our psychology, the authors are careful to distinguish them from other processes of attribution and narratization. Nevertheless, the theories developed here will have a far–reaching impact on the development of social psychology and beyond the confines of the descipline too.
Ann L. Weber is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She is author of chapters in Accounting for Relationships, edited by Burnett, McGhee and Clarke (Methuen, 1987), The State of Social Psychology, edited by M. Leary (Sage, 1989), and Intimacy, edited by R. Burnett (Salem House, 1990).
Terri L. Orbuch is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan. She recently completed a post–doctoral fellowship in the department of psychology at the University of Iowa. She is editor of Close Relationship Loss: Theoretical Approaches, forthcoming from Springer–Verlag Publishing Co.