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How Stories Make Sense of Personal Experiences: Motives that Shape Autobiographical Narratives

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How Stories Make Sense of Personal Experiences: Motives that Shape Autobiographical Narratives

Abstract

People's efforts to understand their experiences often take the form of constructing narratives (stories) out of them, and this article offers framework for the motivations that may guide the construction of stories. Evidence about the nature, importance, and pervasiveness of narrative thinking is reviewed. Next, motivations are considered that may guide narrative thought, both in terms of interpersonal manipulation and in terms of wanting to make sense of experiences. Regarding the latter, four needs for meaning are proposed as guiding narrative thought. First, people interpret experiences relative to purposes, which may be either objective goals or subjective fulfillment states. Second, people seek value and justification by constructing stories that depict their actions and intentions as right and good. Third, people seek a sense of efficacy by making stories that contain information about how to exert control. Fourth, people seek a sense of self-worth by making stories that portray themselves as attractive and competent. Within this framework, narratives are effective means of making sense of experiences.
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Personality and Social Psychology
http://psp.sagepub.com/content/20/6/676
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0146167294206006
1994 20: 676Pers Soc Psychol Bull
Roy F. Baumeister and Leonard S. Newman
How Stories Make Sense of Personal Experiences: Motives that Shape Autobiographical Narratives
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