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A Quantification of Agentic and Communal Values in Adolescents’ Life Narratives

Poster
Authors Danilo Garcia
Henrik Anckarsäter
Oscar N. E. Kjell
Patricia Rosenberg
C. Robert Cloninger
Trevor Archer
Sverker Sikström
Published in 167th American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, New York, New York, USA.
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Psychology
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Language en
Keywords Agency; Big Five; Communion; Cooperativeness; Latent Semantic Analysis; Life story; Semantic spaces; Pronouns; Self-directedness; Temperament and Character Inventory
Subject categories Psychiatry, Psychology

Abstract

Background Life stories emphasize the narrative and self-organizing aspects of human behaviors and complement personality traits in explaining human identity. In contrast to most research on narratives in which the analysis is restricted to the researcher’s subjective evaluations and interpretations, we used computational methods to quantitatively investigate the relationship between personality and narratives events. Meta-cognitive strategies and principles that guide agentic (self-directedness; e.g., being autonomous, responsible and having self-control), communal (cooperativeness; e.g., showing empathy, helping behavior, and social tolerance), and transcendental (self-transcendence; e.g., the sense of being part of the whole universe) behavior were of special interest. We also investigated which pronouns were most common in relation to personality constructs that were significantly related to the narratives. Method Personality was assessed among 79 adolescents at one point in time using the NEO Personality Inventory – Revised (NEO-PI-R) and the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). Six months later, adolescents were asked to write down the most positive or the most negative event that had happened to them in the last three months. Adolescents were explicitly instructed to answer the following questions within their narratives: What happened? Who were involved? Why do you think it happened? How did you feel when it happened? How do you think the involved persons felt? The descriptions were quantified using semantic spaces, a computational method in which the Latent Semantic Analysis algorithm generates a semantic representation of the narratives. This representation was used to study whether it predicted the personality measures. Results Only Self-directedness and Cooperativeness were predicted by the semantic representation of the narratives. High levels of Self-directedness and Cooperativeness were associated with plural pronouns (e.g., us), whereas low levels were associated with singular pronouns (e.g., one-self, mine). Conclusions Agentic and communal values are involved when adolescents describe positive and negative life experiences.

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