Article

The method of psychobiography: presenting a step-wise approach

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Psychobiography as a qualitative research method in psychology has witnessed prolific growth in the last few decades. This growth has been accompanied by concerns regarding the veracity, rigour, quality and trustworthiness of psychobiographical research. Current research has gone a long way towards addressing these concerns through the publication of excellent best practice guidelines as well as criteria for evaluating the quality of psychobiographical research. However, a gap remains regarding guidelines detailing the steps involved in conducting psychobiographical research. This paper addresses this gap by relying on existing psychobiographical guidelines as well as general qualitative research strategies to advance a step-wise approach to the conducting of a psychobiography. The aim is to provide simple and clear guidelines that can be followed when undertaking psychobiographical research. Through so doing, this paper contributes to the continuous growth and improvement of the field of psychobiographical research.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... In addition, comprehensive works such as the recently published book New Trends in Psychobiography (Mayer & Kőváry, 2019) prove that the discipline is currently flourishing with new developments. Psychobiography as a field has experienced a burgeoning of researchers who advocate its value (e.g., Carlson, 1988;Elms, 1994;Fouché & Van Niekerk, 2010;McAdams, 1988McAdams, , 1994Ponterotto, 2013aPonterotto, , 2014Runyan, 1984;Schultz, 2001aSchultz, , 2005a, sequenced approaches (Cara, 2007;Du Plessis, 2017;Ponterotto, 2017;Ponterotto & Moncayo, 2018;Runyan, 1988a), best practices (Ponterotto, 2014) and data analysis tools (Alexander, 1988(Alexander, , 1990Schultz, 2005b) that give the method a more structured and powerful appearance. In addition, Ponterotto's (2014) valuable contributions to psychobiography promoted the value of psychobiography as a topic for doctoral dissertations and theses and research approach in psychology. ...
... His claim is substantiated by Barenbaum and Winter (2013) who noted a current rebirth in the study of individual lives (Ponterotto, 2014). Ponterotto (2017) adds that Kőváry's (2011) statement is also supported by the rapid international proliferation of psychobiographical research conducted by various mental health professionals in an array of fields (see Barenbaum and Winter 2013;Du Plessis 2017;Fouché 2015;Kasser 2017;Ponterotto 2014Ponterotto , 2015aSchultz 2005cSchultz , 2014. Furthermore, any kind of systematic or formal psychological theory can be employed in contemporary psychobiography (Nel, 2013). ...
... The sorting and analysing of the data, therefore, involves an additional step in the psychobiographical approach, thus making it a more complex research endeavour overall. Various authors (Du Plessis, 2017;Ponterotto, 2013aPonterotto, , 2015aSchultz, 2005b) provide specific guidelines in relation to this process and best methodological practices. The chosen method of analysis has an impact on the nature of the interpretation. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
This psychobiographical study focused on South African poet, writer and ethologist Eugéne Nielen (1871–1936). His poetry and short stories have secured him a place as one of South Africa’s most renowned writers, while his ethological books and naturalistic studies have secured him international recognition. Marais was selected as subject through purposive sampling, with the aim of providing a psychological exploration and description of aspects of his life, against the backdrop of his socio-historical context. Adler’s theory of individual psychology was applied to the publicly available biographical and historical data collected on Marais. The study’s primary aim was to explore and describe Marais’s individual psychological development throughout his life. The exploratory-descriptive nature of this study, meant that the objective falls within the inductive research approach. Specific methodological guidelines were used in the extraction and analysis of the data. Particularly, Alexander’s nine indicators of psychological saliency, which was used to assist in organising and selecting Marais's most relevant biographical data. Specific questions were also posed to the data, which enabled the extraction of relevant units of analysis that focused on the study objectives. A psycho-historical matrix was also incorporated to facilitate the data analysis, which assisted in the systematic categorisation and consistent analysis of the collected biographical data on Marais, according to the constructs of his individual psychological development, and in terms of his socio-historical contexts. Findings suggested that Marais possibly had an inferiority complex as represented by his dependence on morphine throughout most of his adult life. Despite this he also seemed to have had a strong social interest towards people as well as animals. This was seen his love for animals, willingness to help not only his own people but the enemy in times of war, as well as his practice as an amateur doctor without asking compensation. This study contributed to the body of knowledge on Marais, the framework of Adler’s theory of individual psychology, and the educational objectives in psychobiography. Keywords: Psychobiography, Eugène Nielen Marais, Alfred Adler, Individual Psychology.
... Psychobiographical studies use psychological theories and frameworks to understand individual lives (du Plessis, 2017). This form of research traditionally focuses on public figures such as politicians (e.g., McAdams, 2021), artists (e.g., Harisunker & du Plessis, 2021;Panelatti, Ponterotto, & Fouché, 2021), religious leaders (e.g., Saccaggi, 2015) and/or psychologists/theorists (e.g., Bushkin, van Niekerk & Stroud, 2021). ...
... In addition to the primary data sources listed above it was also important for the psychobiography that Natasha's life be situated in context (du Plessis, 2017). This context involves both laws and practices relating to the incarceration of trans women in Australia as well as the development of support organizations such as ATSAQ. ...
Article
Full-text available
This psychobiography focuses on the advocacy work of Natasha Keating, a trans woman incarcerated in two male prisons in Australia between 2000 and 2007. Incarcerated trans women are a vulnerable group who experience high levels of victimization and discrimination. However, Natasha advocated for her rights while incarcerated and this advocacy contributed to substantial changes in the carceral system. This psychobiography uses psychological understandings of resilience as well as the Transgender Resilience Intervention Model (TRIM) to investigate the factors that enabled this advocacy. Data consisted of an archive of letters written by Natasha and interviews with individuals who knew her well. This psychobiography was guided by du Plessis’ (2017) 12‐step approach and included the identification of psychological saliencies and the construction of a Multilayered Chronological Chart. Natasha’s life is presented in four chapters, with each chapter including a discussion of resilience based on the TRIM. The TRIM suggests that during incarceration Natasha was able to access more group level resilience factors than at any other time in her life. This, combined with individual resilience factors, enabled her advocacy. This finding has implications for advocacy in general as it highlights the importance of both individual and group level factors in enabling individuals to effectively advocate for change in their environments.
... A psychobiography can be defined as a biography written on a significant individual, based on the use of psychological theory or models (Du Plessis, 2017;Fouché & Van Niekerk, 2010;Mayer & Maree, 2017;Ponterotto, 2017aPonterotto, , 2017b. It is a subdivision of psychohistory, with the researcher implementing psychological theory and socio-historical methods in order to uncover and reconstruct the life of the subject under study (Ponterotto, 2017a(Ponterotto, , 2017b. ...
... One of the initial steps in conducting a psychobiography is to select the psychobiographical subject (Du Plessis, 2017;Mayer, 2017). Frankl was chosen as the subject for this study utilising a non-probability, purposive sampling technique. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article aims to uncover the meaning of life and death across the lifespan of the extraordinary person, Viktor E. Frankl (1905–1997). Frankl was purposively sampled due to his international acclaim as an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, who later became famous as a holocaust survivor and the founder of logotherapy. Through his approach of “healing through meaning,” he became the founder of the meaning-centred school of psychotherapy and published many books on existential and humanistic psychology. The study describes the meaning of life and death through two theoretical approaches: the archetypal analysis based on C.G. Jung’s and C.S. Pearson’s work and a terror management approach based on the melancholic existentialist work of Ernest Becker. The methodology of psychobiography is used to conduct the psycho-historical analysis of the interplay of archetypes and death annihilation anxiety throughout Frankl’s lifespan. The article evaluates how archetypes and death anxiety interacts and how they built meaning in different stages of Frankl’s lifespan. The theories are discussed and illustrated in the light of Viktor E. Frankl’s life.
... The psychobiography is "usually" (du Plessis 2017: 218; McAdams 1988: 2) concerned with the extraordinariness (Cilliars and Mayer 2019; Mayer and May 2019) of accomplished individuals who have achieved historical or social recognition (Alexander 1988;Burnell et al. 2019;Carlson 1988;du Plessis 2017;Kőváry 2019;McAdams 2001;Ponterotto 2014;Runyan 1984). This can be interpreted as contradicting Schultz's (2005: 3) description of the goal of psychobiography "as simply as 'the understanding of persons" (du Plessis 2017: 217). ...
... Filling the eminent extraordinary ranks is the accomplished artist, scientist, philosopher, activist, and politician (Burnell et al. 2019;Carlson 1988;du Plessis 2017;Runyon 1988). Emerging with Freud's (1910) pathographic study of Leonardo DaVinci's childhood, subjects include Hitler (Murray 1943), Robespierre (Gallo 1971), Stalin (Tucker 1973), Turkey President, Ataturk (Volkan and Itzkowitz 1986), Bertrand Russell (Brink 1989), Margaret Thatcher (Abse 1989), Gandhi (Erikson 1993), Virginia Woolf (Bond 2000), King Herod (Kasher 2007), Napoleon (Falk 2007) and, more recently, Paulo Coehlo (Mayer 2017), Goethe (Holm-Hadulla 2018), Frederick Douglas (Gibson 2018), Charlize Theron (Prenter et al. 2019), cult leader, Jim Jones (Kelley 2019), and Thomas Jefferson (Holowchak 2020). ...
Chapter
For over a century, psychobiography has focused on the eminent individual who has achieved historical or social recognition. Ignoring the character strengths of the ‘ordinary’ individual who has reached a significant and noteworthy personal milestone is a disservice to psychology and those who might benefit from its research. Some experts claim that embracing a psychobiographic focus on the ordinary individual would pervert the process, some open the door for innovation, and others have, unwittingly, provided templates. The psychological benefits seem apparent when consideration of the character strengths and virtues of the ordinary extraordinary supplement psychobiographic research. Their motivations are no less extraordinary or worthy of consideration than those of the accomplished individual who has achieved historical or social recognition; each complement psychological research both generally and topically.
... 739). Kőváry's claim is supported by a rapid international growth of psychobiographical research conducted by mental health professionals in various specialty areas (see Barenbaum and Winter 2013;du Plessis 2017;Fouché 2015a;Kasser 2017;Ponterotto 2014aPonterotto , 2015Schultz 2005aSchultz , 2014. ...
... Psychobiography is increasingly popular among professional counsellors and psychologists in all specialty areas (du Plessis 2017;Fouché 2015a;Kőváry 2011;Ponterotto 2014b). However, psychobiography is not adequately addressed in counselling and psychology training curriculums , and there are not many journals that regularly publish psychobiographical studies. ...
Article
Full-text available
By nature of their interests and professional training, counsellors are ideally equipped to conduct psychobiographical research. This article positions the counselling field in the broad specialty area of psychobiography, highlights the preparedness of counsellors to conduct psychobiographical research, and emphasizes the benefits of this research endeavor to counsellors themselves and to the counselling profession. A ten-step guide to conducting and publishing psychobiography is presented.
... As previously stated, the use of psychological theories via which an individual as a subject of study is understood is what distinct psychobiographies from other methods. Thereupon, previous guidelines on psychobiographic studies have all emphasized on theory selection as a crucial part of any psychobiographical study (see, Ponterotto, 2015a;Du Plessis, 2017). Thus, the quality of any psychobiographical study is often determined by the theory used, and the researcher's knowledge and understanding of the theory. ...
... According to Du Plessis (2017), evaluating the researcher's relationship with the subject and its significance guides in understanding the motivations behind the study as well as in the formulation of precise questions that the researcher wishes to explore. Whereas ethical considerations assist in determining whether such a study will be harmful to the subject if they are alive or their families if they are deceased (Du Plessis, 2017). This, therefore, implies that the ability to provide coherent answers to these questions denotes the appropriateness of the psychobiographical study. ...
Article
Full-text available
The process of applying psychological theories to examine the biographical and autobiographical data of famous individuals is what is termed “psychobiography”. Since its inception in the early sixteenth century, this qualitative type of research method has had a fairly storied history in the Western world. This study provides a clear picture of psychobiographical research by defining terms and phrases that are used in relation to psychobiographical research. It also covered its historical antecedent and steps and procedures that are necessary for undertaking psychobiographical research. The steps presented here stemmed from a broad phase in qualitative research and analysis. In practice, however, psychobiographies do not always adhere to systematic formats, but some key decisions and guidelines must be followed in order to ensure the trustworthiness of the study's findings. Thus, the research mainly aims at introducing psychobiography, and life history research to the reader. Keywords: psychobiography, life history research, qualitative methods in psychology
... Ponterotto, Reynolds, Morel, and Cheung (2015) have found it surprising that psychobiography does not draw more attention as a research method, as this approach has made significant contributions to psychological theory and our understanding of human development. Psychobiography as a specialised field of practice has witnessed prolific growth (Du Plessis, 2017) and is experiencing an upswing internationally, such that it is anticipated that a growing number of students and scholars will engage in this process (Ponterotto, 2015a). This study contributes to the current knowledge base of psychobiographies, especially the growing field of academic psychobiography in South Africa. ...
Article
Full-text available
Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was not only a businessman renowned for his legacy of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. His life history indicates eras or seasons as prankster, hippie, family man, and cancer fighter. This psychobiographical case study entailed a psychosocial-historical analysis of Jobs’s development interpreted through Levinson’s theory of the human life cycle, and was undertaken against the background of Merleau-Ponty’s ontological philosophy that elucidates a human science phenomenology where the individual cannot be separated from his/her social world. The primary objective of this study was to uncover the eras and transitions within Jobs’s life cycle. The secondary objective was to illustrate and test the relevance of Levinsonian theory as applied to Jobs’s life. Jobs’s life cycle was uncovered through an analysis of published and publically available materials, which included both primary and secondary data sources. Alexander’s psychobiographical model was employed to extract salient evidence for analysis. A conceptual psychosocial-historical matrix guided the analysis. Key findings indicate that the central components of Jobs’s life and social world (e.g., his occupation, family, friendships and terminal illness) had a significant influence on his psychosocial development. In conclusion, Jobs’s development generally conformed to Levinsonian theory as well as to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological ontology and illustrated the relevance of these conceptual models for understanding the individual’s connectedness to his/her social world.
... The selection criteria for a psychobiographical subject are based primarily on the individual's historical significance (Du Plessis, 2017, Kóváry, 2011Mayer & Maree, 2017). Mercury, one of the most renowned musicians (Richards & Langthorne, 2016), was selected based on interest value-his iconic persona and significant contribution to the music industry. ...
Article
Full-text available
legend in the entertainment industry and vocalist of the band Queen, was renowned for his stage persona and expression of his sexuality. On stage he was a "great pretender", entertaining fans to compensate for his own sense of mistrust, inferiority, role confusion and need for love. This icon continues to intrigue admirers across the globe. The aim of this study is to reconstruct the Eriksonian psychosocial development of Mercury in a socio-cultural context. A psychohistorical sketch of his life was created through publicly available primary and secondary archival information. Six historical periods were identified in Mercury's lifespan , and salient developmental themes were extracted for analysis by utilizing Alexander's model of saliency and a psychosocial-historical conceptualiza-tion. Findings indicate that Mercury's sense of mistrust, inferiority, and role confusion resulted in the formation of a compensatory persona as a "great pretender."
... The proliferation of publication in psychobiography has also yielded more rigorous guidelines for conducting psychobiographical research, as well as scholarship in relation to issues such as ethics in psychobiography and ensuring the quality of psychobiographical work (see, for example, du Plessis, 2017;Ponterotto, 2014;Ponterotto & Reynolds, 2017;Schultz & Lawrence, 2017). While some authors continue to question the validity of the psychobiography endeavour (see, Young www.ipjp.org ...
... The selection criteria for a psychobiographical subject are based primarily on the individual's historical significance (Du Plessis, 2017, Kóváry, 2011Mayer & Maree, 2017). Mercury, one of the most renowned musicians (Richards & Langthorne, 2016), was selected based on interest value-his iconic persona and significant contribution to the music industry. ...
Article
Full-text available
legend in the entertainment industry and vocalist of the band Queen, was renowned for his stage persona and expression of his sexuality. On stage he was a "great pretender", entertaining fans to compensate for his own sense of mistrust, inferiority, role confusion and need for love. This icon continues to intrigue admirers across the globe. The aim of this study is to reconstruct the Eriksonian psychosocial development of Mercury in a socio-cultural context. A psychohistorical sketch of his life was created through publicly available primary and secondary archival information. Six historical periods were identified in Mercury's lifespan , and salient developmental themes were extracted for analysis by utilizing Alexander's model of saliency and a psychosocial-historical conceptualiza-tion. Findings indicate that Mercury's sense of mistrust, inferiority, and role confusion resulted in the formation of a compensatory persona as a "great pretender."
... This study used the methodological approach known as psychobiography. According to Elms (2007) and du Plessis (2017), research using psychobiography is carried out in several steps. First, one must choose the subject to be studied. ...
Article
Full-text available
Posttraumatic growth (PTG) refers to the occurrence of positive psychological changes following a traumatic event. The Holocaust was one of the most traumatic events in modern civilization, yet many Holocaust survivors have found meaning even in this painful experience, and their search for and discovery of meaning in life has been an important part of their journey toward positive change. Few studies have closely examined survivors' perspective on how the process of searching for and finding meaning in life helped them to experience PTG. In this study, we applied the method of psychobiography to analyze the autobiographies of Viktor Frankl and Elie Wiesel, using a film documentary and Internet articles for data triangulation. Theoretical conceptions of PTG and of meaning in life were used as a framework to interpret the autobiographies. The analysis determined that Frankl and Wiesel demonstrated positive development in every domain of posttraumatic growth. The process of discovering newfound meaning was central in their PTG experiences. Differences between their personal journeys may be attributable to background factors such as their age, previous exposure to Nazism, personal characteristics, and camp experiences. Clinicians could use the results of this study to foster PTG in their therapeutic work or, in broader settings, to help people in societies with histories of mass violence or genocide to cope with their trauma.
... This study used the methodological approach known as psychobiography. According to Elms (2007) and du Plessis (2017), research using psychobiography is carried out in several steps. First, one must choose the subject to be studied. ...
... This study is the first psychobiography study of Temujin . First, although psychobiographical research has exhibited consistent growth and popularity internationally (Du Plessis, 2017;Ponterotto & Reynolds, 2017), and on the Chinese mainland (Zheng, 2014) . Nonetheless, there remains a great need for psychobiographies of ethnic minority figures, contributing to the richness of the international literature . ...
Article
Full-text available
This psychobiography study of Temujin employed the Personality Adjective Evaluation Scale, the Personality Adjective Classification Survey, and the Delphi method to characterise Temujin’s personality traits and probable influences . One hundred and thirty-two participants rated Temujin’s personality on 248 evaluation words, while an expert panel (n = 4) utilised the Delphi consensus building method for convergence of the trait characterisation . Following factor analysis and multi-dimensional classification analysis, we found six personality trait categories to characterise Temujin: cruel and aggressive, forthright and chivalric, intelligent and capable, outstanding, self-reliant, and martial spirit . Findings may be explained by Temujin’s life experiences, role models, culture background, such as family upheavals, economic distress, the metaphor of the sun and the moon of wise persons, the education received from his mother Hö’elün, the achievements of the ancestors and father, and the manner of their achievements . Moreover, the harmony and separation culture, the worship of power and heroes, and the nomadic and hunting life would have been significant influences . From these findings, we concluded that personality traits are influenced by early experiences, role models, and cultural background
... To complete and offer a more detailed structured, Du Plessis [30] adapted Miles, Huberman and Saldaña´s indications [31] and proposed a twelve-step guide that may be helpful to those new to researching in particular. ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of the current article is to explain and define what a psychobiography is and distinguish it from other concepts such as life story, pathography, psychohistory or case study. We review the history of this approach from its origins to the present, showing its evolution and acceptance throughout these years. Afterwards, we explain its predictive, educative and scientific characteristics and we present the main processes to develop a psychobiography. Lastly, the article presents some common criticisms of this approach as well as responses to them.
... The present study on the life of Frankl may be described as a longitudinal life history study with a qualitative-morpho genic, idiographic-morphogenic research design (Burnell, 2013;Yin, 2013). The research design may be defined further as a longitudinal, single-case, psychobiographical study (Ferrer & Ponterotto, 2020;Fouché, 1999;Fouché & Van Niekerk, 2010;Ndoro & Van Niekerk, 2019;, which portrays an individual's life through the use of evidence, theory and interpretation (Du Plessis, 2017;Du Plessis & Du Plessis, 2018;Mayer, Van Niekerk, & Fouché, 2020;Ndoro & Van Niekerk, 2019;Schultz, 2005). Psychobiographical research is simply the construction of a subject's lived experiences through the application of psychological theory and involves the comprehensive application of biographical information with the aim of illuminating patterns in thinking, feelings and behaviours in extraordinary individuals (Du Plessis & Du Plessis, 2018;Ferrer & Ponterotto, 2020;Fouché & Van Niekerk, 2010;Mayer et al., 2020;Ponterotto, 2014Ponterotto, , 2018Van Niekerk et al., 2019). ...
Article
Full-text available
The existential psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1905–1997) lived an extraordinary life. He witnessed and experienced acts of anti-Semitism, persecution, brutality, physical abuse, malnutrition, and emotional humiliation. Ironically, through these experiences, the loss of dignity and the loss of the lives of his wife, parents and brother, his philosophy of human nature, namely, that the search for meaning is the drive behind human behaviour, was moulded. Frankl formulated the basis of his existential approach to psychological practice before World War II (WWII). However, his experiences in the concentration camps confirmed his view that it is through a search for meaning and purpose in life that individuals can endure hardship and suffering. In a sense, Frank’s theory was tested in a dramatic way by the tragedies of his life. Following WWII, Frankl shaped modern psychological thinking by lecturing at more than 200 universities, authoring 40 books published in 50 languages and receiving 29 honorary doctorates. His ideas and experiences related to the search for meaning influenced theorists, practitioners, researchers, and lay people around the world. This study focuses specifically on the period between 1942 and 1945. The aim is to explore Frankl’s search for meaning within an unpredictable, life-threatening, and chaotic context through the lens of his concept of noö-dynamics.
... Ponterotto, Reynolds, Morel, and Cheung (2015) have found it surprising that psychobiography does not draw more attention as a research method, as this approach has made significant contributions to psychological theory and our understanding of human development. Psychobiography as a specialised field of practice has witnessed prolific growth (Du Plessis, 2017) and is experiencing an upswing internationally, such that it is anticipated that a growing number of students and scholars will engage in this process (Ponterotto, 2015a). This study contributes to the current knowledge base of psychobiographies, especially the growing field of academic psychobiography in South Africa. ...
... Ponterotto, Reynolds, Morel, and Cheung (2015) have found it surprising that psychobiography does not draw more attention as a research method, as this approach has made significant contributions to psychological theory and our understanding of human development. Psychobiography as a specialised field of practice has witnessed prolific growth (Du Plessis, 2017) and is experiencing an upswing internationally, such that it is anticipated that a growing number of students and scholars will engage in this process (Ponterotto, 2015a). This study contributes to the current knowledge base of psychobiographies, especially the growing field of academic psychobiography in South Africa. ...
... The selection criteria for a psychobiographical subject are based primarily on the individual's historical significance (Du Plessis, 2017, Kóváry, 2011Mayer & Maree, 2017). Mercury, one of the most renowned musicians (Richards & Langthorne, 2016), was selected based on interest value-his iconic persona and significant contribution to the music industry. ...
Thesis
A psychobiographical study of Freddy Mercury from the band QUEEN
... Ponterotto, Reynolds, Morel, and Cheung (2015) have found it surprising that psychobiography does not draw more attention as a research method, as this approach has made significant contributions to psychological theory and our understanding of human development. Psychobiography as a specialised field of practice has witnessed prolific growth (Du Plessis, 2017) and is experiencing an upswing internationally, such that it is anticipated that a growing number of students and scholars will engage in this process (Ponterotto, 2015a). This study contributes to the current knowledge base of psychobiographies, especially the growing field of academic psychobiography in South Africa. ...
Article
ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IN LATE 2017 IN THE IPJP Levinsonian seasons in the life of Steve Jobs: A psychobiographical case study ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IN THE IPJP TO APPEAR LATER IN 2017 Paul Fouché, Ruvé du Plessis and Roelf Van Niekerk Prof. Paul Fouché & Ms. Ruvé du Plessis (Department of Psychology, Faculty of the Humanities, University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein, South-Africa). Corresponding author: Paul Fouché Prof. Roelf van Niekerk (Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Port Elizabeth, South-Africa). Abstract Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was not only a businessman renowned for his legacy of entrepreneurship. His life indicates eras or seasons as prankster, hippie, family man and cancer fighter. This psychobiographical case study entailed a psychosocialhistorical analysis of Jobs’s development interpreted through Levinson’s theory and was undertaken against the background of Merleau-Ponty’s ontological philosophy that elucidates a human science phenomenology where the individual cannot be separated from his/her social world. The primary objective was to uncover Jobs’s eras and transitions within his life cycle. The secondary objective was to illustrate and test the relevance of Levinsonian theory as applied to his life. Jobs’s life cycle was uncovered through the analysis of published and publically available materials, which included both primary and secondary data sources. Alexander’s psychobiographical model was employed to extract salient evidence for analysis. A conceptual psychosocial-historical matrix guided the analysis. Key findings indicate that the central components of Job’s life and social world (e.g., his occupation, friendships, family and illness) had a significant influence on his psychosocial development. In conclusion, Jobs’s development generally conformed to Levinsonian theory as well as Merleau-Ponty’s ontological philosophy and illustrated its relevance for understanding the individual’s connectedness to his/her social world. Keywords: Levinsonian development, psychobiography, life history case study; human science phenomenology; Steve Jobs, entrepreneur.
Chapter
Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a charismatic Roman Catholic priest, psychologist, academic, public speaker, and spiritual guide. He was one of the most prolific and influential spiritual writers of the previous century. Although he died more than 25 years ago, increasing numbers of followers continue to seek guidance through his literary legacy. There is a wealth of biographical sources that invite research into Nouwen’s life. Despite his success and exceptional talents, the data suggests that his personality, life and career were complex and troubled. Colleagues described him as temperamental, anxious, obsessive, needy, and self-centered. Nouwen was transparent about his shortcomings and strived to live his spiritual life through his personal struggles. This psychobiographical case study used a career development lens to investigate Nouwen’s attempts to establish an identity and give meaning to his existence. The findings indicate that although Nouwen tried out a range of career options, he failed to experience an optimal level of satisfaction or happiness. The study contributes to a number of areas, namely, the legacy of Nouwen, identity and meaning-making in socio-cultural contexts, the career development of extraordinary individuals, and the use of career development theory in psychobiographical research.
Article
Full-text available
ARTICLE TO APPEAR IN THE IPJP LATER IN 2017 (SPECIAL EDITION ON PSYCHOBIOGRAPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGY) The Psychosocial Life Transitions of an Anti-war Campaigner: A Levisonian Psychobiography of Emily Hobhouse Paul Fouché , Crystal Welman, Nico Nortjé and Roelf van Niekerk* Department of Psychology University of the Free State PO Box 339 BLOEMFONTEIN 9301 FOUCHEJP@UFS.AC.ZA 051-4019420 0514013556 (fax) *Roelf Van Niekerk, a co-author, is from the Department of Industrial Psychology and Human Resources Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, RSA. ABSTRACT The primary aim of this psychobiographical life history case study is to illustrate Levinson’s four eras or seasons of lifespan development as applied to the life of Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926), the British born anti-war campaigner, who exposed the British concentration camps and their appalling conditions during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. Her courage saved the lives of thousands of women and children. The secondary aim was to ascertain the significant psychosocial transitional life events that shaped Emily’s development as anti-war campaigner. Purposive sampling was used, and the data collection, categorisation and analysis were conducted through the application of Alexander’s psychobiographical model of identifying salient biographical themes, and the use of a conceptual psychological framework derived from the life cycle theory by Levinson. The findings highlight significant psychosocial events or transitions in the life of Hobhouse that shaped her development as an anti-war campaigner. Some of these transitional events included: The role of her strong willed and determined mother, with her soft side, as revealed in her care of the needy. The care of her father during his illness which took much time and energy, but skilled her to interact with the parish and community and taught her the endurance of care-taking. The death of her father which forced her to use all her skills and societal contacts to establish and actualize herself, without support from a husband or a professional career by formal education. Keywords: Psychobiography; Emily Hobhouse; anti-war campaigner, Levinson, lifespan development
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this psychobiography was to uncover, reconstruct and illustrate significant trajectories of psychosocial development and historical events over the lifespan of Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926). The British-born Hobhouse later became an anti-war campaigner and social activist who exposed the appalling conditions of the British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), as evidenced by primary and secondary historical data. Purposive sampling was used to select Hobhouse as a significant and exemplary subject. Levinson’s four eras or seasons of lifespan development served as the theoretical psychological approach. The study was undertaken against the background of Merleau-Ponty’s ontological philosophy that elucidates a human science phenomenology where the individual cannot be separated from her social world. Alexander’s model of identifying salient biographical themes was utilized and a conceptual psycho-historical framework, based on both the life cycle theory of Levinson and significant historical periods throughout Hobhouse’s life, was employed to assist with data gathering, categorisation, and analyses. The findings highlight significant psychosocial and historical events in the life of Hobhouse that shaped her development as an anti-war campaigner. These include: The role of her strong-willed and determined mother; the denial of an opportunity to study and pursue a formal education; her management of painful feelings of abandonment and grief; the care of her father during his illness and his eventual death; the abrupt ending of her failed romantic relationship; her networking capacity; and her open-mindedness and capacity for independent humanitarian thought. Against the philosophical background of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological ontology, Levinson’s theory and eras proved valuable in identifying these particular psychosocial life experiences and historical events as having shaped Emily Hobhouse into an antiwar campaigner.
Article
Full-text available
A constructivist, single-case study, psychobiography on the life of Tambo (1917-1993). This was undertaken from an African Psychology Perspective. The most essential finding is that Tambo had a profound sense of humanity, that guided and influenced his sense of being throughout life.
Article
Full-text available
Junto al alza cuantitativa de homicidios durante los últimos años, históricamente se han registrado casos cuya investigación criminal resulta particularmente compleja. De ahí que exista una constante demanda de nuevas metodologías que permitan efectivizar los resultados del trabajo de los equipos policiales investigativos. En este escenario, la Evaluación Psicológica Reconstructiva (EPR) surge como la posibilidad de realizar una evaluación psicológica indirecta y retrospectiva, en ausencia del sujeto (víctima/victimario), orientada a explicar la posible relación entre las características psíquicas y el acto criminal. En el presente artículo se indaga sobre los aportes de la EPR dentro de la investigación criminal de homicidios; en particular, se revisan los hallazgos –reportados en la literatura científica–, que resultan de utilidad para una adecuada interpretación de la evidencia recopilada a partir de este método indirecto de evaluación. Se concluye que la EPR constituye un elemento de gran utilidad dentro de la investigación criminal de alta complejidad; además, señala la necesidad de superar las actuales barreras metodológicas, para la interpretación de la evidencia, mediante el apoyo de esta en sistemas computacionales dentro de este proceso analítico.
Article
The present article introduces the topic and research area of careerography, an adaptation of psychobiography to the field of career psychology. A brief historical overview of psychobiography is provided, and the reciprocal value of linking psychobiographical research methods to theory development in career psychology is emphasized. Best practices in psychobiography are highlighted, and a six-step sequential guide to conducting careerography is presented inclusive of (1) selecting one’s historical subject, (2) ethical considerations and bracketing bias, (3) identifying initial research questions, (4) choosing anchoring career theories, (5) engaging the iterative research process, and (6) writing the careerography report.
Article
Careerography, which is the intensive examination of the work experiences and career life course of an individual of historical or present significance through a vocational theoretical lens, has several important applications for psychologists. The present article provides a brief overview of careerography in the context of the more established field of psychobiography. The utility of careerography for career counseling practice, research, and training is outlined, and specific examples of how careerography can be integrated into graduate-level curricula, research; and clinical experiences are then highlighted. Finally, careerography is introduced as a promising career education tool that increases underrepresented and marginalized youths’ access to diverse career role models.
Poster
Full-text available
This work will present the results of a 4-year research on Beethoven’s personality. This research has been carried out through the psychobiography methodology by applying a structured procedure (du Plessis, 2017) with a complementary expert panel. The psychobiography is a qualitative methodological approach focused on relevant people which goal is the efficient use of psychological theory to convert the subject’s life into a coherent and illuminating story (McAdams, 1988). The Three levels of personality model (McAdams, 1995) was selected as the theoretical frame for the analysis. Based on it, three theories (one for each level) were chosen to study specific aspects of Beethoven’s personality. These theories were the Five Factor model (Costa & McCrae, 1992), the Attachment Style theory (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2016) and the Narrative Identity theory (McAdams, 1993). The first level explains and describes the five factors Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Affability and Neuroticism and their thirty facets. The second level explains the way Beethoven used to relate to others and the factors that influenced his style in particular throughout his life. The third level explains how Beethoven understood and described his life story to himself and to others. These different aspects can see as independent dimensions of the personality or they can also be connected and integrated to give a whole picture of Beethoven. This work adds reliability to the study of Beethoven’s personality since it has only used very carefully selected primary and secondary sources, it has also followed a structured method and it is based on scientifically supported theories of personality psychology.
Chapter
Full-text available
The study forms part of an emerging trend in South African academic psychobiography in producing more research on exceptional Black persons. Therefore, this psychobiographical study aimed to identify the significant psychosocial-historical turning points in the life of Sol Plaatje (1876–1932), utilizing the lens of Erik Erikson’s theory of lifespan development. The South African Native National Congress (SANNC), later renamed the African National Congress (ANC), co-founded by Plaatje, was created against the backdrop of massive deprivation of Africans’ right to own land. As an enigmatic multilingual political activist and journalist, Plaatje encountered different cultures and demonstrated resilience under trying conditions. His legacy to South African history is widely recognised. In selecting Plaatje as subject via purposive sampling and by applying Alexander’s psychobiographical indicators of salience and a psychosocial-historical conceptualization, it was possible to identify significant biographical evidence that mainly shaped his development as human rights campaigner and novelist. The findings highlight significant psychosocial-historical events or turning points in the life of Plaatje, including: The influence of his missionary education on his linguistic skills; the lifelong preoccupation with the preservation of the Setswana language; and his devotion to the liberation of African people that generated three of his most well-known books, titled: Native Life in South Africa, The Boer War Diary: an African at Mafeking, and Mhudi. These documents were the first of its kind produced in English by a Black South African. Erikson’s psychosocial theory proved valuable for identifying significant psychosocial-historical turning points in Plaatje’s life.
Chapter
On the 3rd December 1967, Professor Christiaan Neethling Barnard performed the first human heart transplant at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. His extraordinary career as physician and cardiac surgeon included many exceptional achievements that culminated in the first human heart transplant and contributed to his international reputation as medical pioneer. Barnard was born after the end of World War I and grew up in rural South Africa. He adjusted well to school and early in his career demonstrated ability to work hard. Apart from his initial medical training, it took Barnard 21 years to prepare for the operation that revolutionised the treatment of heart diseases. Ultimately, the preparation for the first heart transplant included intensive studies, methodical goal-setting, demanding laboratory experiments and operations, the acquisition of a repertoire of surgical skills, as well as training a team to support his work, investigations into organ rejection and networking with international experts. Although it is based on an academic psychobiography (Master’s dissertation), this chapter is an attempt to formulate a non-academic psychobiography of Barnard’s career. In the academic psychobiography, the career development framework of Greenhaus, Callanan, and Godshalk was employed. Instead of formulating a theoretical interpretation of Barnard’s general career development, this chapter aims to illuminate the specific events and experiences that culminated in the first human heart transplant.
Chapter
Full-text available
Continuous development of psychobiographical methodology has culminated in the establishment of best practice guidelines aimed at the production of sound studies that meet the requirements for credibility, transferability, confirmability and dependability. This chapter aims to address the objectivity challenges arising from possible researcher bias during subject selection. The authors propose employing a suitability indicators approach to eugraphic subject selection by considering contextual factors and utilizing the psychosocial concept of generativity in its broadest sense. This would enable the objective selection of subjects from a greater pool of eminent lives than only those well known and potentially idealized. The chapter concludes with the application of these guidelines to the study of two South Africans who, despite several striking differences, had a shared socio-historical context and generative focus, namely their opposition to the apartheid system. Examples from psychobiographical works on Beyers Naudé (1915–2004) and Helen Suzman (1917–2009) illustrate the proposed approach.
Chapter
Psychobiography is a research endeavor, and as in all psychological research ethical considerations are a critical component of the research process. Traditionally, psychobiographers have devoted more attention to the psychological theories undergirding psychobiography and to the diverse methodologies employed in the research, than to ethical considerations and challenges inherent in the research process. This chapter argues that ethics should be central to the psychobiography research plan and execution. The authors introduce a best practice ethics model for psychobiographers that is infused throughout the research, writing, and publication process. Addressed are ethical considerations at each stage of the research process, including: selecting one’s psychobiographical research subject; navigating the initial proposal review and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process; considering informed consent procedures and options; having an ethical decision making model in place to address unanticipated ethical issues that emerge during the research; writing and publishing the psychobiography; and monitoring the impact of the psychobiography on those who may be impacted by the study. The authors consider ethics not as a distinct part of psychobiographical research, but as a living, evolving thread constantly intertwining in all facets of the study before, during, and after completion. The ethics guide presented will be valuable to psychobiographers at all levels of training, experience, and expertise.
Chapter
This chapter argues for the use of ‘unusual’ theories in psychobiographical research through the presentation of a case study. Historically, psychobiographical research has made use of the work of psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, and developmental theorists, while more recent psychobiographical approaches have preferred more modern, empirically based theories. However, over reliance on a few theories within psychobiographical research creates the possibility for narrow explanations of complex lives. Given the proliferation of theoretical models in psychology the current use of theory barely scratches the surface of available explanatory paradigms. This chapter argues for the value of casting the explanatory net wider, and for the inclusion of more psychological theories in psychobiographical work. Using a psychobiographical case study, the chapter illustrates how a ‘forgotten’ psychological theory (Tomkins in Personality structure in the life course. Springer, New York, pp 152–217, 1992) can serve as a useful explanatory paradigm for a complex religious figure. The case study focuses on Gordon Hinckley (b. 1910, d. 2008), the fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), who remains a prominent figure in contemporary Mormonism and played a key role in the rapid growth and increasingly positive public profile of the Religion throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Using Tomkins’ script theory in conjunction with a psychobiographical method and the analysis of data gathered from published speeches, this study explores Hinckley’s personality structure and identifies three core psychological scripts.
Research
Full-text available
Unpublished thesis, submitted for PhD
Article
Full-text available
The present article reviews the history and emerging trends in the field of psychobiography. Five historical periods are highlighted: hagiography and pre-19th century study of lives; Freud and applied psychoanalysis; psychodynamic extensions and personology; modern multi-theoretical models; and psychobiography as interdisciplinary science. The author advocates for a science of psychobiography manifested in expanded and empirically validated theoretical models anchoring research. Further, attention is drawn to the need for more rigorous historiographic research methods weighting first-person sources and incorporating mixed methods designs. Increased attention to ethical and legal issues in the conduct and reporting of psychobiographical studies is also highlighted. Finally, emerging trends in psychobiography related to research production, academic training, and organisational initiatives are presented.
Article
Full-text available
This paper outlines the theoretical reasoning and technical implementation of a particular approach to creating multi-layered chronological charts in qualitative biographical studies. The discussed method elucidates the interpretation of traditional life chronologies where the individual's "objective" life facts are reconstructed free from analysis. The novelty of multi-layered chronological charts lies in their ability to enrich the visualization of a temporal connection between personal and social contextual factors based on categories determined by the researcher. In doing so, such charts make existing interview data more accessible and processable. In-depth, thematic data analysis can be supported through the visualization of prominent life aspects or the presentation of integrative perspectives of individuals' lives. Case examples are presented to demonstrate how methodological and theoretical objectives are fulfilled through the customized use of genealogy software. Based on the underlying research problem, multi-layered biographical charts can be customized for different research purposes and connected to an array of complex linkage systems.
Article
Full-text available
This study considers the historical development of hagiographic research, including its antecedents and contemporary motivations and intentions. As a sub-approach of psychobiographical research, hagiography's defining qualities include the venerability of the subject, the aim of edifying the reader and illustrating issues of faith and morals as taught by a given religious group. Hagiography has the unique qualities to benefit research scholarship in its exploration of the psychological aspects of a positive human experience, virtue, religion and the spiritual life. Its limitations include overly positive accounts that ignore or minimise negative experiences and weaknesses of people considered to be venerable. Studies that utilise hagiography might be enhanced by researchers prioritising literature that is objective and historically accurate, relating the choice of psychological theory to the research question, and listening to critical and sympathetic voices regarding the subject. This would enable a holistic view of the human experience - with due consideration for the legacy and posthumous extrapolations that may exist regarding the subject, as well as the need to maintain a keen sense of personal awareness throughout the research.
Article
Full-text available
This study applies analytical psychobiography, particularly Freud's psychoanalytic apporoach, to the study of the psychosexual development of Roald Dahl (1916-1990), a renowned children's author, gentleman spy, connoisseur, and philanthropist of his time. Data sources for the analysis included primary and secondary sources, and only publically available and published materials on his life. Alexander's (1988, 1990) psychobiographical guidelines for saliency were used to identify and extract significant biographical themes and units for analysis. The evidence suggests Dahl to present with aggressive, indulgent and neurotic personality traits. He also used sublimation as coping mechanism to express his anxiety and emotional pain through sport and writing. In conclusion, Dahl's psychosexual development generally conformed to the developmental trajectory and stages identified by Freud.
Article
Full-text available
This psychobiographical study of Richard Trenton Chase (1950–1980), a serial murderer, has the aim to uncover the psychic mechanisms characteristic of his functioning. The study included primary and secondary data sources. All materials collected and analysed, were published and publically available. The Schahriar syndrome model served as the conceptual framework for data framing and interpretation. Findings suggest that Chase exhibited five primitive psychic mechanisms namely: omnipotence, sadistic fantasies, ritualised performance, dehumanisation and symbiotic merger. The Schahriar syndrome model has utility to explain the psychological functioning of a serial murderer.
Article
Full-text available
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.
Article
Full-text available
Psychological historians and psychobiographers advance our understanding of psychological theories through the intensive study of the lives of pioneering psychologists. In the course of their archival research, psychobiographers often uncover private information on the lives of historic psychologists that may never have been intended for public view and scrutiny. As such, psychobiographers need to balance considerations of the postmortem privacy of historic figures with the potential benefit to psychological science of revealing private information. Federal research guidelines and the ethical principles of the American Psychological Association concern themselves primarily with research on living subjects and are generally silent on best ethical practices regarding deceased historic and public figures. Using the case of William James's possible sojourn at McLean Hospital as an example, this article examines legal and ethical issues regarding the postmortem privacy protections of influential psychologists. An actuarial model is presented that recommends the postmortem time period after which private information, including mental health records, may become open to researchers. A decision-tree model on the process of requesting, securing, and reporting on such information is also presented. Finally, specific suggestions for follow-up qualitative and quantitative research on psychobiographical ethics are put forth.
Article
Full-text available
119 How are we to conceptualize relationships between psychology and history? Psychobiography and psychohistory have occupied my attention for many years, with books on Life Histories and Psychobiography (1982) and Psychology and Historical Interpretation (1988a). However, these interests in psychobiography and psychohistory were preceded by an interest in the study of individual life histories, and later evolved into interests in the history of psychology and in psychology as an historical science. These latter interests transform my conception of what science is, of what scientific psychology is, and how it is related to historical inquiry. I argue that the "two disciplines of scientific psychology," experimental and correlational psychology, need to be complemented by a third discipline of historical-interpretive psychology. With the rise of "cognitive neuroscience," the fate of human science traditions such as psychoanalysis and the study of lives need to be rethought. "Historical science," as developed by Stephen Jay Gould (1986) in relation to evolutionary biology and historical geology, is a valuable recent resource for bringing the methods and accomplishments of the human science traditions into clearer focus. This essay is, undeniably, an idiosyncratic, historically contingent, and personal look at relationships between psychology and history. It may, however, not be that different from the idiosyncratic intellectual and personal journeys pursued by others, perhaps including yourself, gentle reader. Out of such diverse and partial perspectives, we attempt to communicate with each other, and to move toward at least an incrementally more adequate understanding of the issues.
Article
Full-text available
Robert (Bobby) James Fischer (1943–2008) remains one of the most puzzling and enigmatic personalities in modern American history. In 1972, at the height of Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, Bobby Fischer defeated Soviet Boris Spassky to become the first official world chess champion from the United States. Two decades later, after playing a rematch with Spassky in war-torn Yugoslavia, Fischer became a fugitive from U.S. justice. Although always an independent, autonomous, and forthright person, Fischer’s behavior after the 1972 championship grew increasingly strange and bizarre. “Who was Bobby Fischer and what happened to him” is a lingering question that has not been adequately answered by psychologists, historians, and biographers. The present article examines the life of Bobby Fischer from three diverse psychobiographical lenses: Erikson’s (Erikson, E. H. [1950]. Childhood and society. New York, NY: Norton) psychosocial development model; the clinical diagnostic model of the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure (SWAP; Shedler, J. [2009]. Guide to SWAP-200 Interpretation. Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure: Where Science Meets Practice. www.SWAPassessment.org); and a strengths-based positive psychology model (Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. [2004]. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.). Suggestions for advancing the science of psychobiography are put forth with particular emphasis on incorporating mixed methods approaches to research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
Our aim is to highlight the past, present and future state of affairs of South African psychobiography. Particular attention is given to the trends and the challenges faced by academic psycho-biographers in South Africa. Over the past decade psychobiography has evolved into an established research genre and has become a methodology used by various academics and post-graduate research scholars at South African universities. Psychobiography entails the study of historically significant and extraordinary individuals over their entire life spans with the aim to uncover and reconstruct their lives psychologically. These longitudinal case studies include the psychological study of personalities in diverse occupational fields such as architecture, arts and literature, business and entrepreneur-ship, politics, religion and spirituality, sport, science, as well as the popular biographies of celebrities. Psycho-biographical studies in South Africa have been nurtured in the departments of psychology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University, the University of Johannesburg, and the University of the Free State. Most of these biographical studies have been completed as postgraduate r research endeavours in master's and doctoral degree programmes in psychology where academic staff have initiated and grown psychobiography as a strategic research focus area within their faculties. Psycho-biographical research has considerable logistical and administrative value for postgraduate research and the supervision process, and is also of academic benefit to the theoretical development of South African psychology. In South Africa an array of exemplary personalities constitute a ‘hall of fame’. Their legendary lives are ideal case studies which may be used to develop and/or refute aspects of psychological theory and its applicability to human development over the span of an individual's life.
Article
Full-text available
Thematic analysis is a poorly demarcated, rarely acknowledged, yet widely used qualitative analytic method within psychology. In this paper, we argue that it offers an accessible and theoretically flexible approach to analysing qualitative data. We outline what thematic analysis is, locating it in relation to other qualitative analytic methods that search for themes or patterns, and in relation to different epistemological and ontological positions. We then provide clear guidelines to those wanting to start thematic analysis, or conduct it in a more deliberate and rigorous way, and consider potential pitfalls in conducting thematic analysis. Finally, we outline the disadvantages and advantages of thematic analysis. We conclude by advocating thematic analysis as a useful and flexible method for qualitative research in and beyond psychology.
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents initial interpretive hypotheses about connections between the life and work of a number of eminent psychologists: Sigmund Freud, Karen Horney, Henry Murray, B. F. Skinner, and Paul Meehl. Each of these interpretations can be critically evaluated, revised and improved, leading to incrementally more adequate understanding of individual lives, interacting with advances in psychological theory and research. Psychobiographical studies of individual scientists are a valuable complement to experimental and correlational lines of research in the psychology of science. In the "Science Wars" of the 1990s, there was an apparent conflict between scientists and those in social studies of science. The psychology of science can contribute to this debate, exploring the ways in which scientific inquiry, social-political worlds, and personal-experiential processes construct each other over time. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
This article examines concepts of the trustworthiness, or credibility, of qualitative research. Following a "researcher-as-instrument," or self-reflective, statement, the paradigmatic underpinnings of various criteria for judging the quality of qualitative research are explored, setting the stage for a discussion of more transcendent standards (those not associated with specific paradigms) for conducting quality research: social validity, subjectivity and reflexivity, adequacy of data, and adequacy of interpretation. Finally, current guidelines for writing and publishing qualitative research are reviewed, and strategies for conducting and writing qualitative research reports are suggested. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Full-text available
This article presents a model for quality in qualitative research that is uniquely expansive, yet flexible, in that it makes distinctions among qualitative research’s means (methods and practices) and its ends. The article first provides a contextualization and rationale for the conceptualization. Then the author presents and explores eight key markers of quality in qualitative research including (a) worthy topic, (b) rich rigor, (c) sincerity, (d) credibility, (e) resonance, (f) significant contribution, (g) ethics, and (h) meaningful coherence. This eight-point conceptualization offers a useful pedagogical model and provides a common language of qualitative best practices that can be recognized as integral by a variety of audiences. While making a case for these markers of quality, the article leaves space for dialogue, imagination, growth, and improvisation.
Article
Full-text available
Psychobiography was invented by Sigmund Freud while investigating the psychological determinants of Leonardo da Vinci's artistic creativity. Following the founder of psychoanalysis there were about 300 psychobiographic analyses published until 1960. From the 1930's psychoanalysis also influenced the unfolding personality psychology trend called personology in the USA, led by G. W. Allport and Henry A. Murray, who also worked with life stories. However, the major methodological problems of classic psychobiography and the rising of nomothetic approaches in personality research effaced studying lives between the 1950's and the 1980's. The narrative turn in psychology made life story analysis accepted and popular again, and from the 90's we can talk about "a renaissance of psychobiography". The new endeavors encompass psychoanalytical and personological traditions and also integrate narrative perspectives. Contemporary psychobiography is constantly widening its focus: not only artists, but scientists, political and historical figures are also analyzed with more explicit methodology and comparative proceedings. In addition to the fact that psychobiography is a qualitative research method, it is very useful in exploring the psychology of creativity and personality itself and hence can be used as an instrument to train psychology students and prepare them for practical activities like psychotherapy or consultations. With the application of psychobiography the knowledge about human functioning and self-awareness is deepening, since it can be viewed as a practical realization of hermeneutical dialogue leading to the understanding of the human mind.
Article
Full-text available
This article reviews the current and emerging status of qualitative research in psychology. The particular value of diverse philosophical paradigms and varied inquiry approaches to the advancement of psychology generally, and multicultural psychology specifically, is emphasized. Three specific qualitative inquiry approaches anchored in diverse philosophical research paradigms are highlighted: consensual qualitative research, grounded theory, and participatory action research. The article concludes by highlighting important ethical considerations in multicultural qualitative research.
Article
The study of personality focuses on two main areas: understanding individual differences in personality traits, and understanding how the unique aspects of a person come together as a whole. By investigating individuals in personal, in‐depth detail to achieve a unique understanding of them (as is done with psychobiography, case study methods, and other qualitative methods) the idiographic approach can make unique and valuable contributions to our understanding of personality. This idiographic understanding is one of the central objectives of personality psychology. The notion was generally accepted that the history of the person is the personality. For Murray and others, the life history of the individual was the unit of study that psychologists needed to concern themselves. Psychobiographies are just one type of case study. To be exemplary, a case study must also be well defined, must analyze the data through the lens of rival explanations, and report the results in an engaging manner. An advantage with the case study and psychobiographical approaches is that it allows us to study cases and events that are rare.
Article
The study explores and describes Beyers Naude's (1915–2004) spiritual wellness across his lifespan. Naude's life history was uncovered through the systematic collection and analyses of life history materials. Data were interpreted applying the Wheel of Wellness model (WoW) by Sweeney and Witmer (1991, 1992). Findings suggest that spirituality, as the major life task of the WoW, characterised Naude's earlier years and also epitomised his later years. Underlying life-span and life-space influences included important life-forces such as the roles of the community, religion, government and politics in his life. Hope and optimism embodied Naude's belief about promoting and preserving human dignity, human rights and respect for life.
Article
Psychobiography has been a mainstay in psychology since Freud’s (1910/1957) influential psychoanalytic profile of the creative genius, Leonardo da Vinci. Recent evidence indicates that interest and momentum in psychobiographical research is on the increase across multiple psychology specialties. However, there has been little in the way of recent methodological and ethical guidelines to direct best practices in psychobiography. This article serves two primary purposes. First, it reviews briefly the history and current status of psychobiography in psychology, and highlights select challenges in conducting psychobiography, namely, reductionism, limits of single theory application, and crossing cultures and time in understanding historical subjects. Second, eight best practices for psychobiographical research centered on methodology are presented and addressed: the researcher’s horizon of understanding; accurate and balanced assessment; specifying the operating research paradigm; theoretical specificity and flexibility; embedding the study in proper socio-cultural–historical context; understanding iteration and triangulation in data collection and analysis; thick description and verisimilitude; and considering alternate explanations during interpretation. An online supplement to this article presents additional best practices in the area of ethics and preparing psychobiographies for publication in a variety of outlets. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This article addresses ethical issues relative to the conduct and reporting of psychobiographical research. The author's recent psychobiographical study of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) is used to illustrate particular ethical challenges and responses in six areas: (1) institutional review board (IRB) evaluation and informed consent; (2) balancing objective research with respect for psychobiographical subject; (3) inviting subject or next-of-kin to read and comment on working drafts of psychobiography; (4) reporting never-before-revealed sensitive information on a subject; (5) role of interdisciplinary consultation in conducting psychobiography; and (6) the value and cautions of including psychological diagnoses as part of the psychological profile. A "bill of rights and responsibilities" for the psychobiographer is introduced as a stimulus for ongoing discussion and empirical research on ethical practice in psychobiography.
Article
This article endorses the call for the study of leadership character made as part of a symposium presented in a 1990 issue of JABS. In doing so it outlines three aspects of the significance of character (synthesis, meaning, and causation) to enhance further the biographical study of leaders suggested by Kaplan and Kets de Vries in the symposium. A framework is provided to facilitate the detailed comparative biographical study of leaders ` careers both across time and across cultures. On the basis of the author's own biographical research, the article cautions against the uncritical use of various psychoanalytic theories. It is argued that psychoanalytic explanations will retain their significance in accounting for a leader `s behavior; but that increasingly these explanations must be accompanied by evidence of an organic or medical variety.
Article
This paper explains the interdisciplinary narrative research method of psychobiography, using examples from the author's psychobiographical work about Dian Fossey. Dr Fossey was the primatologist and occupational therapist famous for saving the highland mountain gorillas from extinction. She is known worldwide from her popular book, Gorillas in the Mist, and from the 1987 film of the same name. She sustained her research centre in Rwanda successfully for 18 years before her murder in 1985. Prior to her primatology career, Fossey graduated from an occupational therapy programme in the United States and worked with children for 10 years. The paper details the steps to write a psychobiography, the strategies for analysis and the markers of a good psychobiography. It is suggested that psychobiography is a method that can find a home in occupational therapy and occupational science. The reasons that psychobiography can mesh with occupational therapy are discussed. A second paper, a psychobiographical study of Dian Fossey, is in press.
Article
Over the past 25 years, narrative theories and methods have helped to revitalize the discipline of personality psychology by providing new tools and concepts for discerning the inner patterning and meaning of human lives and by helping to recontextualize personality studies in terms of culture, gender, class, ethnicity, and the social ecology of everyday life. This article (a) briefly traces recent historical developments in personality psychology as they relate to the increasing influence of narrative approaches; (b) describes a three-tiered conceptual framework for understanding personality in terms of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and life stories; and (c) illustrates one important research program on life stories in personality — studies of the redemptive self.
Article
This chapter attempts to tell a different story about psychobiography and the study of lives in relation to the discipline of psychology. It is not a traditional "rise of natural science" story, in which case studies are seen as being replaced by more rigorous quantitative and experimental methods. It is, instead, a story which respects the virtues of historical, interpretive, and narrative methods, as well as of quantitative and experimental methods. Personal life histories are, the author believes, involved in the creation and development of every tradition in psychology, including psychoanalysis, learning theory, behaviorism, humanist psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and the study of lives. The development of the study of lives is examined in this chapter in relation to the lives and careers of a number of people active in the tradition, including Henry Murray, Robert White, Gordon Allport, Alan Elms, and Jerry Wiggins. The author also includes elements of his personal experience interacting with supporters and opponents of the study of lives. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
ABSTRACT The first genuine psychobiography, Sigmund Freud's Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood (1910/1957b), presented several important guidelines for psychobiographical research Among them were the rejection both of pathography and of idealization, and the avoidance both of arguments built upon a single clue and of strong conclusions based upon inadequate data Though the guidelines are sound, Freud violated those guidelines in the very work where they first appeared Freud's methodological errors and his “obsession” with the Leonardo book are traced in part to his projective identification with Leonardo, incorporating aspects of his own sexual history and his anxieties about the future of the psychoanalytic movement
Article
ABSTRACT The purpose of this special issue of the Journal of Personality is to spotlight some of the more fruitful ways in which contemporary personality psychologists are collecting, analyzing, and discerning stories about persons' lives The issue focuses both on current approaches to psychobiography and on new uses of life narratives in social research
Article
ABSTRACT A method for the analysis of personal data is described Although primarily directed toward extracting recurring dynamic sequences, “scripts,”“themas,”“guiding messages,” the method can be utilized to assess a host of personality vanables Two major strategies are employed (a) letting the data set reveal itself, and (b) asking the data a question Rules for data extraction and data transformation are discussed Application of the method to work m psychobiography is indicated by example
Article
ABSTRACT Progress in psychobiography What is it? Has there been any? And what processes contnbute to it?The issue of progress in psychobiography is pursued from two different perspectives The first section briefly reviews the historical growth of the field, including the range of disciplines involved, the rise of associated professional organizations and publication outlets, and a quantitative analysis of the increase in books, articles, and dissertations in psychobiography The second section argues that progress in psychobiographical understanding can be analyzed into eight component processes, such as the collection of additional evidence, the formulation of fresh interpretations, critical examination of prior explanations, and the application of new theoretical advances These processes are illustrated with an examination of the course of debate about the physical and psychological disturbances of King George IIIPersonality psychology is concerned with the four basic tasks of developing general theories of personality, analyzing individual and group differences, understanding individual persons, and studying selected processes and classes of behavior In that developing a better understanding of individual persons is one of the ultimate objectives of personality psychology, progress in psychobiography is intimately related to progress in personality psychology as a whole
Article
A review of common criticisms of the case study method indicates that many of them are based on conceptual confusions. Other criticisms stem from the inappropriate application of criteria used in the evaluation of experimental designs. This paper attempts to clarify several of the underlying conceptual issues, to identify more appropriate evaluative criteria, and to suggest procedures leading to more rigorous use of the case study method.
The life of Jan Christaan Smuts: a psychobiographical study
  • J P Fouché
Psychobiography: an interdisciplinary approach between psychology and biography in the narrative reconstruction of personal lives, Paper presented at the International Society of Theoretical Psychology Congress, Cape Town
  • P Fouché
  • Van Niekerk
Personology; method and content in personality assessment
  • Ie Alexander
Uncovering lives: the uneasy alliance of biography and psychology
  • A Elms
Divide and multiply: comparative theory and methodology in multiple case psychobiography
  • K Isaacson
Psychobiography: terminable and interminable
  • N Itzkowitz
  • Volkan
Erikson and psychobiography, psychobiography and Erikson
  • I Alexander
If the glove fits: the art of theoretical choice in psychobiography
  • Elms
Psychobiography and case study methods Handbook of research methods in personality psychology
  • Elms
The only generalization is: there is no generalization Case study method: key issues, key texts
  • Ys Lincoln
  • Guba
Case study in psychobiographical ethics: Bobby Fischer, world chess champion
  • Ponterotto
Psychobiography and the psychology of science: encounters with psychology, philosophy, and statistics
  • W M Runyan
The handbook of psychobiography
  • Wt Schultz