Study of Lives: Essays on Personality in Honor of Henry A. Murray

Study of Lives: Essays on Personality in Honor of Henry A. Murray

Study of Lives: Essays on Personality in Honor of Henry A. Murray

Study of Lives: Essays on Personality in Honor of Henry A. Murray

Excerpt

This book of essays on personality has been given its title with a view to capturing something of the flavor of Henry A. Murray's thinking and influence on psychology. "The study of lives" is a phrase he has often used to describe his own work, and it suggests his central conviction that living beings must be studied as living wholes. Personality, he has repeatedly pointed out, is a dynamic process--a constantly changing configuration of thoughts, feelings, and actions occurring in a social environment and continuing throughout life. If small parts and short segments of human affairs have to be isolated for detailed scrutiny, they must still be understood as parts of a patterned organic system and as segments of a lifelong process. This has never meant for him that all research should take the form of collecting life histories, although his contributions along this line have been outstanding. It implies simply that isolating, fragmenting, and learning just a tiny bit about a lot of people tend to carry us away from what is most worth studying. The significant things about personality are part of the whole enterprise of living.

In his own research, Murray has followed the plan proposed in 1938 in his Explorations in Personality. This plan calls for stating a series of specific research problems, designing experimental situations to explore them, and using a relatively small number of subjects, whose life histories become known through other tests, interviews, and imaginative productions. Whatever the focus of interest--family relations, superego, the role of imagination, sentiments, ego strength, fitness for dangerous tasks, commitment, values, dyadic interactions--the specific findings can then be seen as aspects of lives. When several workers pool their efforts in this way, the results obtained by each enrich all the others, and there may be the additional bonus that some subject, like "American Icarus," will disclose a pattern of development not hitherto recognized. Research

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