Themes of Agency and Communion in Significant Autobiographical Scenes

Dan P McAdams*, Barry J. Hoffman, Elizabeth D. Mansfield, Rodney Day

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

275 Scopus citations


In three studies employing over 350 community adults and college students, participants wrote or told narratives of personally important scenes in their lives. The autobiographical accounts were coded for themes of agency and communion, the two general content dimensions in lives and life stories that have been identified by many theorists and researchers. The four agentic themes of self-mastery, status, achievement/responsibility, and empowerment were positively associated with Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) measures of achievement and power motivation, self-report scales of dominance and achievement, and personal strivings concerning being successful and feeling strong. Similarly, the four communal themes of love/friendship, dialogue, care/help, and community were positively associated with intimacy motivation, needs for affiliation and nurturance, and personal strivings concerned with warm and close relationships. The results suggest a thematic coherence in personality across the arenas of key autobiographical memories, social motives, and daily goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-377
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Themes of Agency and Communion in Significant Autobiographical Scenes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this