Dan P. McAdams is the Henry Wade
Rogers Professor of Psychology and Professor of
Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University,
Evanston, IL. He was Chair of the Psychology Department
2009-15. Author of nearly 300 scientific articles and
chapters, numerous edited volumes, and 7 books,
Professor McAdams works in the areas of personality and
life-span developmental psychology. His theoretical and
empirical writings focus on concepts of self and
identity in contemporary American society and on themes
of power, intimacy, redemption, and generativity across
the adult life course.
Professor McAdams is the author most recently of The Art and Science of Personality Development (Guilford Press, 2015) and The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (Oxford, 2006/2013). He also wrote a psychological biography of U. S. President George W. Bush, entitled George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait (Oxford, 2011). In 2016, The Atlantic commissioned Professor McAdams to write an extended psychological essay on the life and mind of Donald J. Trump, which appeared as the cover article for the June, 2016 issue of that magazine. He has won numerous awards in personality and developmental psychology including the Henry A. Murray Award for the study of lives, the Theodore Sarbin Award for theoretical innovations, the Jack Block Award for career contributions to personality psychology, and the 2006 William James Award for best general-interest book in psychology, for The Redemptive Self. He currently serves as President of the Association for Research in Personality.
Lines of Human Development – Actors, Agents, and Authors
Across Time and Across Cultures
Human beings begin life as social actors, but they eventually become motivated agents and autobiographical authors, too. Across biographical time and across cultures, three lines of self-development may be discerned. First, there is the long trajectory that runs from the emergence of temperament differences in infancy to the elaboration of the full-fledged dispositional traits that contour socio-emotional performance in adulthood. Second, the young child’s consolidation of theory of mind paves the way for the articulation of a personalized motivational agenda, incorporating the goals, values, and beliefs that provide the psychological infrastructure for human agency. Finally, human beings become reflexive authors of the self in the emerging adulthood years, as they fashion narrative identities to reconstruct the past and imagine the future so as to provide life with some semblance of temporal continuity, meaning, and purpose. Over time, stories (authorship) layer over goals and values (agency), which in turn layer over traits (the social actor). Thus, self-development is not fundamentally about continuity of individual differences or the transformations produced by ontogenetic or life-historical stages. Instead, it takes the form of a gradual thickening of psychological makeup, as layers accrue and continue to develop. Culture is deeply infused in all three layers, but it finds its most compelling manifestations and implications at the level of life authorship.