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A narrative analysis of moral agency in possible selves : exploring strong evaluation and experience of values in letters from the future

Meyer, K. (2014) A narrative analysis of moral agency in possible selves : exploring strong evaluation and experience of values in letters from the future.

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Abstract:The individual freedoms which modernity has brought along can be seen both as boon and bane for the self. The philosopher Charles Taylor identified their burden with a fading moral framework in postmodern societies. Furthermore, he pictures the self as being on a search for individual moral agency in order to cope with the lack of moral guidance. The present study combined Taylor’s philosophical and a narrative definition of moral agency, leading to two components: Strong evaluation and experience of values. While existing narrative research on moral agency directs towards the past, the present study argues that narrative futuring may be able to exceed that which can be learned from the past. Through narrative futuring people create possible selves, defined as vivid narrations of the self in the future. The present study aims to explore whether and in which way types of moral agency come to the fore in possible selves. To this end, narratives in the form of letters from the future were collected online from Dutch and German participants. Four letters with high variation in the degrees of strong evaluation and experience were purposivly selected. These letters were then systematically examined by using storyline analysis. As a result, four types of moral agency were identified, which differ in regard to the components of moral agency: 1) attempt towards moral agency; 2) adjusting strong evaluative moral agency; 3) experiencing the process towards moral agency; 4) fulfilled moral agency. While types 1 and 2, which show low degrees of experience, may be interpreted as searching for moral agency, this is not the case regarding types with high degrees of experience. Furthermore, this searching character was not consistently related to the degree of strong evaluation. It has been concluded that narrative futuring appears to be a promising approach to moral agency, because the future narratives expressed values both explicitly through strong evaluation and implicitly through experience. Likewise, both components of moral agency seem to complement rather than oppose each other. Further research should explore the precise role of the two components and potential subvariables such as act- and being-related experience. Also, the use of including formal variables such as temporal orientation, coherence and development in the typology should be investigated. Replication and validation studies may potentially open the way for practical use within value oriented psychological interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/65762
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