looking out from a cave

Incremental Validity of Narrative Identity

While much of my own and others’ research effort towards understanding the content of personality has focused on individual differences in personality traits, my work is part of a growing body of research showing the importance of understanding personality via narrative identity. One of a handful of researchers in this emerging area of individual difference research, my work in the field of narrative identity clearly demonstrates that narrative identity is a core component of how individuals conceptualize themselves. My recent review of the literature in this area, led with my colleague Jon Adler (Adler, Lodi-Smith, Philippe, & Houle, 2016), demonstrates that the stories individuals tell about their lives can provide meaning and purpose to the many disparate experiences of the lived life. Individual differences in the way in which individuals narrate crucial events in their lives provide a lens to understand the extent to which they have successfully built meaning and purpose. Through a systematic review of the literature, we demonstrate that individual differences in narrative identity have incremental validity above and beyond other individual difference variables and situational factors in the prediction of psychological well-being. Blending my expertise in longitudinal design and analysis with my expertise in assessing and coding narrative identity, my program of research uses a mixed methods approach to address the development of narrative identity and its impact on optimal aging. For example, I show that trait maturation is related to mature narratives of personality change and that individual differences in narrative processing predict important variance in psychological health during college above and beyond the effects of trait maturation (Lodi-Smith et al., 2009). Together, my work in this area suggests that the assessment of individual differences in how individuals narrate important growth experiences in their lives can afford a better understanding of personality maturation and psychological health than self-report alone.

Relevant publications:

  • Adler, J.M., Dunlop, W.L., Fivush, R., Lilgendahl, J.P., Lodi-Smith, J., McAdams, D.P., McLean, K.C., Pasupathi, M., & Syed, M. (2017). Research methods for studying narrative identity: A primer. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 8, 519-527.
  • Adler, J., Lodi-Smith, J., Philippe, F, & Houle, I. (2016). The incremental validity of narrative identity in predicting psychological well-being: A review of the field and recommendations for the future. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20, 142-175.
  • Lodi-Smith, J. (2015). Narrative utility and self-concept clarity in contextual personality research. European Journal of Personality, 29, 336 – 337.
  • Lodi-Smith, J., Geise, A.C., Roberts, B.W., & Robins, R.W. (2009). Narrating personality change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 679-689.
  • Roberts, B. W., Harms, P.D., Smith, J. L., Wood, D. & Webb, M. (2006). Methods in personality psychology. In Eid, M. & Diener, E. (Eds.). Handbook of Psychological Assessment: A Multimethod Perspective. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.