How Aging Shapes Narrative Identity

It’s not just our flesh and bones that change as we get older.Photograph by dirkmvp41 / Flickr

In 2010, Dan McAdams wrote a biography about George W. Bush analyzing the former American president using the tools of personality psychology. It was, in his own words, a flop. “I probably had three readers,” McAdams laughs. But an editor from The Atlantic happened to read it, and asked McAdams to write a similar piece analyzing Donald Trump. It was a hit, attracting 3.5 million readers.

“So something good came out of it,” McAdams tells me. He used the case in class. And, he explains, he has always been interested in politics anyways. “I’m kind of a political junkie going back into the ’60s. That’s my autobiographical reasoning.”

Autobiographical reasoning gets far more sophisticated as you age.

By autobiographical reasoning, McAdams means finding and attaching meaning using your own life history. It’s how he has come to interpret the time he spent writing his book, and it’s part of how all of us build our broader narrative identity—the story of who we are and where we’re going.

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Altro da Nautilus

Nautilus8 min lettiBody, Mind, & Spirit
Is Life Special Just Because It’s Rare?: Vitalism in the age of modern science.
A rocket powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen and carrying a scientific observatory blasted off into space at 10:49 p.m., March 6, 2009 (by local calendars and clocks). The launch came from the third planet out from a G-type star, 25,000 light-years
Nautilus14 min lettiBiology
An Existential Crisis in Neuroscience: We’re mapping the brain in amazing detail—but our brain can’t understand the picture.
Happy Holidays. This week we are reprinting our top stories of 2020. This article first appeared online in our “Maps” issue in January, 2020. On a chilly evening last fall, I stared into nothingness out of the floor-to-ceiling windows in my office on
Nautilus8 min letti
Who Said Nobody Read Isaac Newton?: It’s a myth that legendary works in science aren’t read.
The central university library at Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, is an imposing, towered building known affectionately for being called a “magnificent erection” by, before he became prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.1 When I was a graduate stude