By Dan P. McAdams
The Social Actor
The Motivated Agent
The Autobiographical Author
- Web: The website for the Foley Center for the Study of Lives, at Northwestern University. The site contains research materials, interview protocols, and coding manuals for conducting studies of narrative identity.
- Autobiographical reasoning
- The ability, typically developed in adolescence, to derive substantive conclusions about the self from analyzing one’s own personal experiences.
- Big Five
- A broad taxonomy of personality trait domains repeatedly derived from studies of trait ratings in adulthood and encompassing the categories of (1) extraversion vs. introversion, (2) neuroticism vs. emotional stability, (3) agreeable vs. disagreeableness, (4) conscientiousness vs. nonconscientiousness, and (5) openness to experience vs. conventionality. By late childhood and early adolescence, people’s self-attributions of personality traits, as well as the trait attributions made about them by others, show patterns of intercorrelations that confirm with the five-factor structure obtained in studies of adults.
- Sigmund Freud’s conception of an executive self in the personality. Akin to this module’s notion of “the I,” Freud imagined the ego as observing outside reality, engaging in rational though, and coping with the competing demands of inner desires and moral standards.
- Sometimes used synonymously with the term “self,” identity means many different things in psychological science and in other fields (e.g., sociology). In this module, I adopt Erik Erikson’s conception of identity as a developmental task for late adolescence and young adulthood. Forming an identity in adolescence and young adulthood involves exploring alternative roles, values, goals, and relationships and eventually committing to a realistic agenda for life that productively situates a person in the adult world of work and love. In addition, identity formation entails commitments to new social roles and reevaluation of old traits, and importantly, it brings with it a sense of temporal continuity in life, achieved though the construction of an integrative life story.
- Narrative identity
- An internalized and evolving story of the self designed to provide life with some measure of temporal unity and purpose. Beginning in late adolescence, people craft self-defining stories that reconstruct the past and imagine the future to explain how the person came to be the person that he or she is becoming.
- Redemptive narratives
- Life stories that affirm the transformation from suffering to an enhanced status or state. In American culture, redemptive life stories are highly prized as models for the good self, as in classic narratives of atonement, upward mobility, liberation, and recovery.
- The idea that the self reflects back upon itself; that the I (the knower, the subject) encounters the Me (the known, the object). Reflexivity is a fundamental property of human selfhood.
- Self as autobiographical author
- The sense of the self as a storyteller who reconstructs the past and imagines the future in order to articulate an integrative narrative that provides life with some measure of temporal continuity and purpose.
- Self as motivated agent
- The sense of the self as an intentional force that strives to achieve goals, plans, values, projects, and the like.
- Self as social actor
- The sense of the self as an embodied actor whose social performances may be construed in terms of more or less consistent self-ascribed traits and social roles.
- The extent to which a person feels that he or she is worthy and good. The success or failure that the motivated agent experiences in pursuit of valued goals is a strong determinant of self-esteem.
- Social reputation
- The traits and social roles that others attribute to an actor. Actors also have their own conceptions of what they imagine their respective social reputations indeed are in the eyes of others.
- The Age 5-to-7 Shift
- Cognitive and social changes that occur in the early elementary school years that result in the child’s developing a more purposeful, planful, and goal-directed approach to life, setting the stage for the emergence of the self as a motivated agent.
- The “I”
- The self as knower, the sense of the self as a subject who encounters (knows, works on) itself (the Me).
- The “Me”
- The self as known, the sense of the self as the object or target of the I’s knowledge and work.
- Theory of mind
- Emerging around the age of 4, the child’s understanding that other people have minds in which are located desires and beliefs, and that desires and beliefs, thereby, motivate behavior.