Prof. Dan P. McAdams
Northwestern University, USA
People Differ from Each Other in Three Ways – As Actors, Agents, and Authors
Personality concerns the psychological variations on human nature that make the biggest difference for adaptation to social life. Personality psychologists have traditionally conceived of these socially consequential individual differences as dispositional personality traits. As such, traits capture consistent variations in how social actors perform their roles in human groups – dispositional styles or signatures that become, in the eyes of others and the self, fundamental components of the actor’s social reputation. But human beings reveal noteworthy psychological variations in at least two other registers, as well – as motivated agents, who differ markedly from each other in terms of life goals and values; and as autobiographical authors, who construct self-defining narratives to provide their lives with some semblance of continuity and coherence in time. Put simply, stories layer over goals and values, which layer over foundational dispositional traits. The three perspectives on personality – actor, agent, and author – each follow their own respective trajectories or lines of personality development, with traits’ evolving out of infant temperament dispositions, goals and values out of the older child’s theory of mind, and life stories taking form first in adolescence, with the emergence of autobiographical reasoning. Each of the three perspectives on personality, moreover, specifies its own conceptual geography and poses its own unique challenges for measurement.
The accompanying Invited Symposium will be organized and chaired by Prof. Colin G. DeYoung, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, USA