This study contrasted personal life narratives describing Action and Reaction oriented life episodes. Action episodes involve an attempt to achieve a goal or adjust to the demands of a situation with emotion resulting either from the fulfilment or frustration of these efforts. Reaction episodes involve holistic experiences with sensory, affective, and organic responses to autobiographically meaningful events. One hundred and fifty-one students at the University of Toronto completed a three-part questionnaire, each with 13 items, which was examined with factor analysis. The order in the questionnaire actually was - the first part inquired about Action, the second part Reaction, and the third part General responses to emotional episodes. In accordance with mainstream social psychological theorizing about emotion, intensity and attributional attention to causes loaded on separate factors for the Action model. An holistic response unifying the two factors was found for the Reaction model. Twenty-two of these respondents participated in an indepth interview recounting one Action and one Reaction episode. A content analysis was performed on the interview protocols and 10 categories were derived. Factor analysis on the frequency with which these categories were present in the individual protocols revealed contrasting motifs. Accounts of Action episodes reflected emotional detachment and responses to the actions of others. Reaction narratives reflected either an absorption in negative episodes or empathic responses on behalf of others. From an evolutionary perspective, the Action model lies on a autonomic fear-anger continuum involving both enhancement of neocortex planning along with the inhibition and transformation of potentially distracting emotions into generalized arousal. The Reaction model has a strong facial feedback component reflecting conditioned organic, perceptual, and cognitive responses to contextually complex events lying on the happiness-sadness dimension of social connection or loss.
An examination of sex differences in spatial abilities reveals comparative superiority of males and females on mental rotation and location memory tasks, respectively. The existing cross-cultural data focus primarily on male-biased spatial tests and suggests that the sex difference in mental rotation ability is near universal. While cultural pressures can enhance or diminish performance, its magnitude is preserved. Proximate causes, including the organizational and activational effects of hormones, may move these performance distributions closer or further apart. Evolutionary-based theories have focussed mainly on sexual selection versus division of labour as the critical factors in the selection of male-female spatial specializations. A unified model of human spatial judgment is proposed considering fundamental differences between three-dimensional judgments of spatial rotation and two-dimensional judgments associated with spatial location memory. Mental rotation ability is favored when a stationary viewer tracks where a moving target is headed, while location memory is engaged when a mobile viewer inventories what is present in a space. While these mental abilities may be considered complementary, cultural pressures for a male-female division of labor will favor depth judgments by males and location memory judgments by females.
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.