Psychobiography: Theory and Method

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Psychobiography is best understood as a branch of applied personality science in which experimental findings are used to explore the lives and personalities of public figures, from artists to politicians. This article introduces the field, addresses questions commonly raised about it, and explores, among other subjects, what psychobiographical research might offer to the field of psychology. Two recent model psychobiographies are described in detail—McAdams’s (2010) profile of George W. Bush and Kasser’s (2013) analysis of John Lennon—both of which are oriented scientifically and rooted in experimentally derived concepts. Lastly, criteria for evaluating psychobiographical studies are summarized, as well as attributes of effective psychobiography that tend to include the components of fact, fit, and function.

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