Personal life-narratives, like literary narratives, comprize both subject matter and style conveying information about experiences in a structured manner. The subject matter of these anecdotes generally concern relations between self and other and the main style factor contrasts an engaged first-person or a detached third-person perspective. Attribution theorists of the 1960s and 1970s argued that when people adopt an engaged first-person perspective they emphasize the external situational determinants of their own behavior. In contrast, when they assume a detached third-person perspective they focus on internal dispositional factors which govern the behavior of others. The main premise underlying this study was that individuals could approach both their own experiences and those of others from engaged situational or detached dispositional viewpoints. The life-narratives of 51 undergraduates, who each recounted one positive and one negative episode, were analysed using a qualitative research strategy. The relative frequency of categories underlying the structure of the narratives was determined and their interrelations were examined using factor analysis. The first four factors reflected the four possible combinations of engaged and detached attitudes toward self and other's life experiences. Awareness of self and other as well as the ability to shift between engaged and detached perspectives in everyday life and in literary narratives were then considered in an evolutionary context.
Watson, D. (1982): The actor and the observer: How are their perceptions of causality divergent? Psychological Bulletin, 92, 682-700.
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