The Psychology of Life Stories

Review of General Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.78). 05/2001; 5(2):100-122. DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.5.2.100


Recent years have witnessed an upsurge of interest among theorists and researchers in autobiographical recollections, life stories, and narrative approaches to understanding human behavior and experience. An important development in this context is D. P. McAdams's life story model of identity (1985; see also records
1993-97296-000 and
1996-06098-001), which asserts that people living in modern societies provide their lives with unity and purpose by constructing internalized and evolving narratives of the self. The idea that identity is a life story resonates with a number of important themes in developmental, cognitive, personality, and cultural psychology. This article reviews and integrates recent theory and research on life stories as manifested in investigations of self-understanding, autobiographical memory, personality structure and change, and the complex relations between individual lives and cultural modernity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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    • "To investigate individual experiences of identity diffusion across time this study turned to the narrative approach to identity development (e.g., McAdams, 2001), and more specifically qualitative investigations of change and stability in individual identity status interview narratives across time (Carlsson et al., 2015). From a narrative perspective people form their identities through elaborate narratives, which need to be reworked in relation to new experiences throughout life (e.g., McAdams & Cox, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study adds to the understanding of the dark side of identity development by investigating what it means to experience long-term identity diffusion during the late twenties. In a study of change and stability in identity status between ages 25 and 29 (N = 124; 63 women), seven participants were assigned to identity diffusion at both ages. Longitudinal analysis of interviews with these participants showed that long-term experiences of identity diffusion may be described through individuals' approach to changing life conditions, the extent to which they engage in meaning making, and how they develop their personal life direction. In questionnaires, participants reported few signs of psychological distress. Even so, qualitative analyses showed a general trend among participants to keep life on hold through decreased activity or increased haphazard activity in relation to changing life conditions, to make little new meaning, and in some cases to dissolve their personal life direction.
    Journal of Adolescence 11/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.adolescence.2015.10.023 · 2.05 Impact Factor
    • "In both studies, the most frequent reason that people rehearsed events was for the purpose of talking to others, and its reported frequency was significantly greater than any other reason. Indeed, talking of one's own experiences to a sincerely interested " other " who participates in what is told, awakens the sense of intimacy and provides the narrator with the feeling of being listened to, understood, and accepted (McAdams 2001). By reviewing knowledge about social interaction's impact in the development of autobiographical memory, some authors have also suggested the role of the closeness and similarity of the listener to the narrator. "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper aims to reflect on the relation between autobiographical memory (ME) and autobiographical narrative (NA), examining studies on the effects of narrating on the narrator and showing how studying these relations can make more comprehensible both memory's and narrating's way of working. Studies that address explicitly on ME and NA are scarce and touch this issue indirectly. Authors consider different trends of studies of ME and NA: congruency vs incongruency hypotheses on retrieving, the way of organizing memories according to gist or verbatim format and their role in organizing positive and negative emotional experiences, the social roots of ME and NA, the rules of conversation based on narrating. Analysis of investigations leads the Authors to point out three basic results of their research. Firstly, NA transforms ME because it narrativizes memories according to a narrative format. This means that memories, when are narrated, are transformed in stories (verbal language) and socialised. Secondly, the narrativization process is determined by the act of telling something within a communicative situation. Thus, relational situation of narrating act, by modifying the story, modifies also memories. The Authors propose the RE.NA.ME model (RElation, NArration, MEmory) to understand and study ME and NA. Finally, this study claims that ME and NA refer to two different types of processes having a wide area of overlapping. This is due to common social, developmental and cultural roots that make NA to include part of ME (narrative of memory) and ME to include part of NA (memory of personal events that have been narrated).
    Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 10/2015; DOI:10.1007/s12124-015-9330-6 · 1.11 Impact Factor
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    • "In recent years the first Handbook of Psychobiography (Schultz, 2005a) was published and there have been a slate of modern-day multi-theoretical psychobiographies of presidents, artists, writers, and a variety of intellectual giants written by psychologists in multiple specialty areas (e.g., Kasser, 2013; McAdams, 2011; Ponterotto, 2012; Schultz, 2011a, 2011b, 2013; Sharma, 2011). Furthermore, comprehensive reviews of psychobiographical research in the U.S., Europe, and South Africa have confirmed the increasing popularity of psychobiography internationally (Barenbaum & Winter, 2013; Fouché & van Niekerk, 2010; Howe, 1997; Kőváry, 2011; McAdams, 2001; Ponterotto, 2014a, 2014b). Presently, the Journal of Psychology in Africa is devoting a whole special issue (October, 2015) to psychobiography (Fouché, in press). "
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    ABSTRACT: Psychobiography holds an important position in the history of psychology, yet little is known about the status of psychobiographical training and dissertation research in psychology departments. This brief report identified psychobiography courses throughout North America and content analyzed a sample of 65 psychobiography dissertations to discern the theories and methods that have most commonly anchored this research. Results identified few psychology courses specifically in psychobiography, with a larger number of courses incorporating psychobiographical and/or narrative elements. With regard to psychobiography dissertations, the majority focused on artists, pioneering psychologists, and political leaders. Theories undergirding psychobiographical studies were most frequently psychoanalytic and psychodynamic. Methodologically, a majority of the dissertations were anchored in constructivist (discovery-oriented) qualitative procedures, with a minority incorporating mixed methods designs. The authors highlight the value of psychobiographical training to psychology students and present avenues and models for incorporating psychobiography into psychology curriculums.
    Europe's Journal of Psychology 08/2015; 11(3):459-475. DOI:10.5964/ejop.v11i3.938
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