We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


Exploring the Complexities of Human Action

Catherine Raeff

Publication Date - 02 June 2020

ISBN: 9780190050436

456 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Offers a bold theoretical framework for thinking systematically and integratively about what people do as they go about their lives.


Exploring the Complexities of Human Action offers a bold theoretical framework for thinking systematically and integratively about what people do as they go about their lives. Raeff sets the stage for conceptualizing human action by first constructively questioning some conventional practices and assumptions in psychology, such as fragmenting, aggregating, and objectifying. She then articulates an alternative systems conceptualization of action that emphasizes multiple and interrelated processes, and characterizes human action in terms of the complexities of holism, dynamics, variability, and multi-causality.

The book also applies this theoretical framework to varied human issues, including mind-body connections, art, diversity, extremism, and freedom. This approach provides a vision of humanity that promotes complex and empathic understanding of human beings that can bring people together to pursue common goals.


  • Offers a new and integrative theoretical framework for thinking about varied complexities of human action
  • Constructively questions conventional assumptions in psychology about human functioning
  • Provides accessible empirical and everyday examples of conceptual claims

About the Author(s)

Catherine Raeff is Professor of Psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her publications include the books Always Separate, Always Connected: Independence and Interdependence in Cultural Contexts of Development and Exploring the Dynamics of Human Development: An Integrative Approach.


"Human action is famously anything but simple, a situation made abundantly clear by Raeff in this ambitious, scholarly, and introspective work... Worth remarking are two chapters in part 3 delivering, arguably, the core of Raeff's message: "Evidence and Research Implications" (chapter 11), and "Complex and Empathic Understanding" (the final chapter, 13). These chapters alone should entice the philosophically inclined to explore this interesting work, a must-read for scholars of action theory and research." -- R. E. Osborne, CHOICE

"In this book, Catherine Raeff extends recent attention to human action by offering a conceptualization of action based on systems theory. This book is a substantial addition to the field of action theory and research in psychology. Raeff engages readers in a dialogue between the complexity of human functioning, traditional theory in psychology, and the applications of action theory. This book holds considerable promise for future work in this field and in psychology generally by pushing the boundaries of theory and accommodating for the intricacies and complications of human life." -- Richard Young, Myrne B. Nevison Professorship in Counseling Psychology, the University of British Columbia

"This book is a masterpiece of insight and erudition. It makes an invaluable and unique contribution to the literature of developmental science, and it will rapidly be regarded as a classic contribution." -- Richard Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science, and Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tufts University

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Some Complexities

    Part I. Setting the Stage
    Chapter 1. Introducing Psychology
    Chapter 2. Taking a Theoretical Turn
    Chapter 3. Questioning Convention

    Part II. Conceptualizing Action
    Chapter 4. Systems Theory and Introducing Action
    Chapter 5. Constitutive Processes
    Chapter 6. Psychological Processes
    Chapter 7. Developmental Processes

    Part III. Implications and Applications
    Chapter 8. Implications for Understanding Human Functioning Integratively and Actively
    Chapter 9. Implications for Thinking about Individuality and Variability
    Chapter 10. Implications for Pondering Some Complexities of Causality and Meaning
    Chapter 11. Evidence and Research Implications
    Chapter 12. Casting a Wide Net
    Chapter 13. Complex and Empathic Understanding