Wednesday, May 30, 2007
3rd and 1st person narrative in personality change
Benedict Carey writes a piece in the Tuesday NY Times science section (PDF here) reviewing work done by a number of researchers on on how the stories people tell themselves (and others) about themselves do or don't help with making adaptive behavior changes. Third person narratives, in which subjects view themselves from a distance - as actors in their own narrative play - correlate with a higher sense of personal power and ability to make personality changes. First person narratives - in which the subject describes the experience of being immersed in their personal plays - are more likely than third person narratives to correlate with passivity and feeling powerless to effect change. This reminds me of Marc Hauser's distinction of being a moral agent or a moral patient. The third person can be a more metacognitive stance, thinking about oneself in a narrative script while the first person can be a less reflective acting out of the script.