5 Telltale Signs of Authenticity in Life-Story Narratives

Self-reported questionnaire responses are often skewed by people wanting to “say the right thing.” For example, few of us would openly admit that we were phony, inauthentic, or Machiavellian when filling out a survey. Self-reporting often fails to capture authenticity.

Recently, in an attempt to find a more effective way to study authenticity and inauthenticity, a trio of psychological researchers from Case Western Reserve University and Northwestern University designed and tested a two-pronged ” authenticity and inauthenticity in narrative identity ” (Wilt, Thomas, and McAdams, 2019) experiment.

What makes this new approach to narrative identity unique is that study participants were asked to write a series of brief life-story based descriptions that unwittingly provided hidden clues about authenticity (or the lack thereof) that could be decoded by the researchers based on a list of telltale signs that people were being “phony” or “true to themselves.” Source: Pixabay The central part of this “authenticity and inauthenticity” study consisted of a three-part writing exercise in which dozens of undergraduates wrote descriptive narratives based on three separate memories: (1) one in which they felt authentic (2) one in which they felt inauthentic (3) one that recounted a vivid, emotional memory .

For each of these scenes, study participants were asked to describe when, where, and what happened during the event, who was involved, as well as their thoughts and feelings about the memory. Lastly, they were asked to speculate: “What does the event say about you and your personality ?”

Thematic analysis of the narrative content in these essays revealed five core dimensions of authenticity (e.g., contentment, expression of true self, resisting external pressures, owning one’s actions, relational authenticity) and four common predictors of inauthenticity (e.g., conformity , phoniness, suppression, self-denigration). Narrative Identify Research Through the Lens of My Life Story

Earlier today, when I was on a moderate-intensity morning jog , my phone dinged with a Google Alert about this new study. Within seconds of reading a summary of the study, I had an Aha! moment and said to myself: “This will be fun to write about using a Russian Doll structure that sandwiches a candid life-story narrative (e.g., Exhibit A) smack-dab in the middle of a post about this study on authentic narrative identity.”

Blogger’s note : I’ve decided to write about the latest findings on authentic narrative identity in an autobiographical, as-it-happens style that aspires to be as “true to myself” as possible based on the five telltale signs of authenticity and the four dimensions of inauthenticity identified in this study.

Exhibit A: Below Is a Life-Story “Narrative Identity” Writing Sample

Although I’m a published author and have written over 1,000 blog posts, I still don’t consider myself a “writer” and probably never will. This is a healthy explanatory style for me.

Because I was a straight C- student in high school and had horrible SAT Writing Section scores, when it comes to my writing ability, the bar has been set relatively low for as long as I can remember. This is liberating!

Nobody […]

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