Scripts and Life Stories

The fact that people are attracted to environments that appear to "fit" their personalities presumably accounts for some of the stability of personality traits (Rhammer, 1973). Slow-paced, gentle people tend to prefer small towns, athletic people tend to migrate to the Sunbelt states, and shy people avoid public encounters. The choices of specific living environments and lifestyles result in greater stability of personality, a stability created more by the individual than the environment (Lerner & Busch-Rossnagel, 1981).

In addition to selecting their living environments, people create environments to suit their own needs and goals. According to script theory, people attempt to maintain a sense of continuity or order in the important features (scenes) of their lives. A life script enables the individual to anticipate, respond to, control, and create meaningful events. Following this script, personality develops by means of a two-way process—past to future and future to past. The way in which the past has been constructed changes as a consequence of later experience. Anticipations of what the future will bring both color the present and revise the past, and past experiences return to alter the individual's perceptions of the present (Carlson, 1981).

Somewhat similar in conception to script theory is McAdams' (1993, 1994) life-story model of identity formation. According to this model, adults derive a sense of identity by creating and modifying their life stories in response to changes in both themselves and their environments. A life story is an internalized narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an anticipated ending. The emotional feel of the story, which can range from bleak pessimism to blithe optimism, is referred to as the narrative tone of the person's identity. The imagery, themes, ideological setting, nuclear episodes, characters, and ending of the story are all important descriptors of the person's identity. These elements change as identity develops over time, a process that may be conscious or unconscious. A successful life story is one that possesses coherence, credibility, and openness to new possibilities; it is richly differentiated, reconciles the opposing aspects of the self, and integrates the self into the sociocultural context (McAdams, 1993, 1994).

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