Mary M. Gergen

Mary M. Gergen

Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women's Studies

Mary Gergen

Dr. Gergen

Image: Penn State

Professional Information

Download my Curriculum Vitae (Abridged) in Microsoft Word format.

After finishing my Ph.D. at Temple University in social psychology in 1980, I worked as a psychological consultant for AT&T on their longitudinal study of managers' lives. I began my career at Penn State, Brandywine in 1984 in Psychology and Women's Studies. My intellectual focus originates at the intersection of social psychology, feminist theory, and social constructionist ideas.   My most recent books are Retiring but not Shy: Feminist Psychologists Create their Post-Careers (edited with Ellen Cole in 2012) and Playing with Purpose: Adventures in Performative Social Science, (with K. J. Gergen published with Left Coast Press in 2012.  Other books I have produced with Kenneth   Gergen include Social Construction:Entering the Dialogue, (Taos Institute Publications, 2004) and Social Construction: A Reader . (Sage, 2003).  My feminist theory books include Feminist Reconstructions in Psychology: Narrative, Gender, & Performance (Sage, 2001), as well as an edited volume, Feminist Thought and the Structure of Knowledge, (NYU Press, 2988) and Toward a New Psychology of Gender, with Sara N. Davis, (Routledge, 1997).

Before retiring from the college in  2006, I taught a variety of subjects including Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology,  and Leadership,  as well as Feminist Theory and Women’s Studies.  In all of my classes students were required to do Action Assignments, activities that took them out into the community, where they apply “classroom knowledge” to practical situations.  I am also a great believer in open discussions, group projects and a high level of student-teacher interactions.

After finishing my career with Penn State, I have traveled internationally to give lectures and workshops, and I am often involved as a member of  examination committees for Ph.D. theses in many countries.  I am a founder of the Taos Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of social constructionist ideas within diverse practice areas, including therapy, organizational consulting, and education.  With the Tilburg University in The Netherlands, the Taos Institute offers a Ph.D., a degree with a practice orientation in the Social Sciences.  I supervise several students in the development of their dissertations for that program.  Also I serve as editor of the Tempo Series of books for our publication wing.  Our website is     With K. J. Gergen, I am also a co-creator of a website dedicated to positive aging (

Selected Publications

Teaching psychology of gender from a social constructionist standpoint.  Psychology of Women Quarterly,  2010, 34, 261-264.

Qualitative inquiry in gender studies.  (2010).  In J. Chrisler & D. McCreary (Eds.) Handbook of  Gender Research in Psychology, vol 1,. (pp. 103-131).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Social Construction and Research as Action. (2008). In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Action Research.  (pp. 159-171). Los Angeles, London: Sage.

Qualitative methods in feminist psychology.  In W. Stainton-Rogers & C. Wittig (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology. 2008.  (pp. 280-295).  London, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Narratives of the nature-human connection.  In T. Sugiman, K. Gergen, W. Wagner, & Y. Yamada  (Eds.)  Meaning in Action: Constructions, narratives, and representations. 2008, (pp. 205-221).  Japan: Springer.   

Editorial: A Conversation about Performative   Social Sciences. Forum for Qualitative Social Research, Vol 9, number 2.  (refereed electronic journal) Berlin, Germany  (with Kip Jones), May, 2008.

Positive aging: Reconstructing the Life Course.  In C. Goodheart & J. Worell (Eds.) Handbook of Women and Girls. (2005) (pp. 416-426). London, New York: Oxford University Press (with K. J. Gergen as 2nd author).

Innovative methods: Resources for research, teaching and publishing. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 1999, 23, 431-456. (with Joan C. Chrisler & Alice LoCicero)

Narratives of the gendered body in the popular autobiography. In R. Josselson & A. Lieblich (Eds.). The Narrative Study of Lives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1993, (pp. 191-218). (with K.J. Gergen).

Life stories: Pieces of a dream. In G. Rosenwald & R. Ochberg (Eds.). Storied Lives, New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992, (pp. 127-144). Reprinted in M. Gergen & S. Davis (Eds.), 1997, Toward a New Psychology of Gender, New York: Routledge.

Broken hearts or broken bonds: Love and death in historical perspective. American Psychologist 1992, 47, 1205-1212. ( With M. Stroebe, K. Gergen, & W. Stroebe).

Finished at forty: Women’s development within the patriarchy. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 1990, 14, 451-470.
From mod masculinity to post-mod macho: A feminist re-play. The Humanist Psychologist.1990, 18, 95-104.

Talking about menopause: A dialogic analysis. In L.E. Thomas (Ed.) Research on adulthood and aging: The human sciences approach . Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989. (pp. 65-87).

Towards a feminist methodology. In M. Gergen (Ed.) Feminist Thought and the Structure of Knowledge. New York: New York University Press, 1988. (pp. 87-104).

Narrative structures in social explanation. In C. Antaki (Ed.) Analysing lay explanation: A casebook of methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1988.(pp. 94-112).

Narrative and the self as relationship. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology. San Diego: Academic Press, 1988. (with K.J. Gergen). (pp.17-56).

Narrative form and the construction of psychological science. In T.R. Sarbin (Ed .) Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger, 1986, (with K.J. Gergen). (pp. 22-44).

The discourse of control and the maintenance of well-being. In M. Baltes & P. Baltes (Eds.) Aging and control. Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum, 1986 (with K.J, Gergen). (pp. 119-137).


Playing with Purpose: Adventures in Performative Social Science.  Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.  (With K. J. Gergen, 2nd author) 2012.

Retiring, but not shy: Feminist psychologists create their post-careers. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications.  (with Ellen Cole, coeditor).  (2012).

Social Constructionism: Entering the Dialogue (2004) Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications (With K. J. Gergen

Social Constructionism: A Reader.  London: Sage, (2003) (Edited with K. J. Gergen).

Feminist Reconstructions in Psychology: Narrative, Gender and Performance, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.
Toward a New Psycholgy of Gender, New York: Routledge, 1997. (Edited with Sara N. Davis).

Statistics: A Conceptual Approach. New York: Springer-Verlag. 1997. (with Gudmund Iversen, who is first author)

Psychology: A Beginning, San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1989. (M. Gergen, first author, with J. Suls, R. Rosnow, & R. Lana).

Feminist Thought and the Structure of Knowledge (Ed.).(1988). New York: NYU Press.   1993.
Historical Social Psychology . Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1984. (edited with K.J. Gergen).

Social Psychology. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1981(with K.J. Gergen, first author). 

Performative Pieces:

"All the Gold in Fort Knox," Symposium: Performative Psychology V. American Psychological Association, Boston, MA, Aug. 16-20, 1999.

"Woman as Spectacle,"  Kongress fur Klinische Psychologie. "Lust und Last," Berlin, Feb. 15-20, 1999. Also, Arts Bank Theater on South Street, Philadelphia, PA March 1998;  Penn State Faculty Forum, January 1999.

"Creating Culture: A Dialogic Demonstration," Co-presenter K.J. Gergen. Symposium: Performative Psychology III. American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, Aug. 15-19, 1997.

"Relationalia: A Hyperlogue" Co-presentation with K.J. Gergen. Presentations at:  Western Speech Communications Association Meetings, Monterey, CA Feb.15-19, 1997.

Constructionnisme Social, Resonances et Postmodernisme. Conference organized by l’Institut d’Etudes de la Famille et des Systemes Humains. Brussels, Belgium, May, 1997.

First International Convention on Family Therapy. University of Athens, Athens, Greece, July 3-7, 1996

Refiguring the Human Sciences: New Practices of Inquiry. A Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry Symposium. University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 22-24, 1995.

Understanding the Social World, Towards an integrative approach. Huddersfield University, England, July 17-19, 1995

"Corpo-(un)reality; Embodied Specie-ous",  Presentation at Performative Psychology I, Symposium at the American Psychological Association Meetings, New York City, August, 1995.

"Skipping Stone on a pond: Feminism, postmodernism and psychology" Social Construction, Culture, and the Politics of Social Identity. The New School of Social Research, Dept. of Psychology, New York City, April, 1995.

"Performative Psychology", Co-presentations with KJ Gergen.Discourse and the Construction of Knowledge Conference, Adelaide, Australia. Feb., 1996.

"Dialogic processes and the creation of selves". Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, March, 1992 (with K. J. Gergen as co-symposiast, doing original performative psychology pieces on the production of selves)

"From mod masculinity to post-mod macho: A feminist re-play." Symposium: Postmodernity and Psychology. Center for Kvalitativ Metodeudvikling, University of Arhus, Denmark, June, 1989.

Personal Information

Growing up in Minnesota,  I chose to go to the “U” where I received my B.S. in English, and Education, with a minor in speech and theatre.  My proudest moment  in college was being elected to Phi Beta Kappa.   As  a Delta Gamma, I  have fond memories of playing touch football against the Thetas, something that was later admonished by the alumni board as unlady-like, and being chosen as a Homecoming princess, complete with convertible parade through downtown Minneapolis.   I also received an M.S. in Educational Psychology, with a specialization in counseling at the University of Minnesota.  Later I moved to the Boston area and worked at Harvard University as a research assistant.  It was quite  exciting  to work in William James Hall, where the names on the office directory were the who’s who of the Social Sciences at that time.  In 1969 after a year in Rome,  my husband, Ken,  and I moved  with children, to the Swarthmore area.  In following years we spent sabbaticals (his and mine)  in Kyoto, Japan, Paris, Heidelberg,  and The Netherlands.  Summers we also traveled to many countries around the world.   When I'm not sitting at the computer, teaching or doing other intellectual work, I like to go to plays, movies, and art shows, read the newspaper, have good conversations, go out  with my husband, entertain family  and friends, and play -- both rule-bound games, especially tennis and golf, and less organized ones, including those that involve dogs and grandchildren.