Skip to main content

The Use of Unusual Psychological Theories in Psychobiography: A Case Study and Discussion

  • 380 Accesses

Abstract

This chapter argues for the use of ‘unusual’ theories in psychobiographical research through the presentation of a case study. Historically, psychobiographical research has made use of the work of psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, and developmental theorists, while more recent psychobiographical approaches have preferred more modern, empirically based theories. However, over reliance on a few theories within psychobiographical research creates the possibility for narrow explanations of complex lives. Given the proliferation of theoretical models in psychology the current use of theory barely scratches the surface of available explanatory paradigms. This chapter argues for the value of casting the explanatory net wider, and for the inclusion of more psychological theories in psychobiographical work. Using a psychobiographical case study, the chapter illustrates how a ‘forgotten’ psychological theory (Tomkins in Personality structure in the life course. Springer, New York, pp 152–217, 1992) can serve as a useful explanatory paradigm for a complex religious figure. The case study focuses on Gordon Hinckley (b. 1910, d. 2008), the fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), who remains a prominent figure in contemporary Mormonism and played a key role in the rapid growth and increasingly positive public profile of the Religion throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Using Tomkins’ script theory in conjunction with a psychobiographical method and the analysis of data gathered from published speeches, this study explores Hinckley’s personality structure and identifies three core psychological scripts.

Keywords

  • Gordon Hinckley
  • Psychobiography
  • Script theory
  • Silvan Tomkins
  • Latter Day Saints
  • Mormonism

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-16953-4_12
  • Chapter length: 19 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-16953-4
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    A popular Mormon hymn sang in praise of Joseph Smith.

References

  • Alexander, I. (1988). Personality, psychological assessment and psychobiography. Journal of Personality, 56(1), 265–294.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Allen, J., & Cowen, R. (1972). The twentieth century: Challenge for Mormon historians. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 7(1), 27–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baker, S., & Campbell, J. (2010). Mitt Romney’s religion: A five factor model for analysis of media representation of Mormon identity”. Journal of Media and Religion, 9(2), 99–121. https://doi.org/10.1080/15348321003738801.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Beaman, L. (2001). Molly Mormons, Mormon feminists, and moderates: Religious diversity and the Latter-day Saints Church. Sociology of Religion, 62(1), 65–86.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bowman, M. (2011). Mormonism and its historians: The state of the field. Religious Compass, 5(12), 720–730. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2011.00321.x.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, L., & Carlson, R. (1984). Affect and psychological magnification: Derivations from Tomkins’ script theory. Journal of Personality, 52(1), 36–45.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, M. (2008, January 29). Gordon Hinckley: Media-aware prophet keen to move into the mainstream. The Guardian. Downloaded from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jan/29/usa.obituaries.

  • Carlson, R. (1981). Studies in script theory: I. Adult analogs of a childhood nuclear scene. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40(3), 501–510.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, R. (1986). After analysis: A study of transference dreams following treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(2), 246–252.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, R. (1988). Exemplary lives: The uses of psychobiography for theory development. Journal of Personality, 56(1), 105–138. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1988.tb00464.x.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Decker, M. (2005). The un-hagiography [Book Review of David O. McKay and the Rise of modern mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright. Pub: Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005]. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 38, 218–212.

    Google Scholar 

  • Demorest, A. (2008). A taxonomy for scenes. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 239–246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2007.05.004.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Demorest, A., & Alexander, I. (1992). Affective scripts as organizers of personal experience. Journal of Personality, 60(3), 645–663.

    Google Scholar 

  • Demorest, A., Popovska, A., & Dabova, M. (2012). The role of scripts in personal consistency and individual differences. Journal of Personality, 80(1), 188–218. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00727.x.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Demos, E. V. (2009). Luisa seen through the lens of Tomkins’s decontamination script: Commentary on Dr. Alvarez’s case presentation. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 29, 320–326. https://doi.org/10.1080/07351690902987831.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • De Aubin, E. (1996). Personal ideology polarity: Its emotional foundation and its manifestation in individual value systems, religiosity, political orientation, and assumptions concerning human nature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(1), 152–165.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • De Aubin, E. (1999). Personal ideology: The intersection of personality and religious beliefs. Journal of Personality, 67(6), 1106–1139.

    Google Scholar 

  • De St. Aubin, E., Wandrei, M., Skerven, K., & Coppolillo, C. (2006). A narrative exploration of personal ideology and identity. In D. P. McAdams, R. Josselson, & A. Lieblich (Eds.), Identity and story: Creating self in narrative (pp. 223–248). Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/11414-010.

  • Deseret Publishers. (2005a). Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley: Volume 1: 1995–1999. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deseret Publishers. (2005b). Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley: Volume 2: 2000–2004. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dew, S. (1996). Go forward with faith: The biography of Gordon B. Hinckley. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • du Plessis, C. (2017). The method of psychobiography: Presenting a step-wise approach. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 14(2), 216–237. https://doi.org/10.1080/14780887.2017.1284290.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Elms, A. (2005). If the glove fits: The art of theoretical choice in psychobiography. In W. T. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of psychobiography (pp. 84–95). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elms, A. (2007). Psychobiography and case study methods”. In R. W. Robins, R. C. Fraley, & R. F. Krueger (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in personality psychology. Guilford: New York, NY.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erikson, E. (1950/1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erikson, E. (1968/1994). Identity, youth and crisis. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erikson, E. (1976). Toys and reasons. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erikson, E. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hinckley, G. B. (1981). Be thou an example. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hinckley, G. B. (1971–2007). General conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Text of speeches retrieved from www.lds.org.

  • Hinckley, G. B. (1989). Faith, the essence of true religion. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hinckley, G. B. (2000). Standing for something: 10 neglected virtues that will heal our hearts and homes. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holinger, Paul. (2008). Further issues in the psychology of affect and motivation: A developmental perspective. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 25(3), 425–442. https://doi.org/10.1037/0736-9735.25.3.425.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Itzkowitz, N., & Volkan, V. (2003). Psychobiography: Terminable and interminable. Annual of psychoanalysis, 31, 7–20.

    Google Scholar 

  • Koltko-Rivera, M. (1999). Mormon psychohistory: Psychological insights into the Latter-day Saint past, present, and future. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 32, 71–99.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kőváry, Z. (2011). Psychobiography as a method. The revival of studying lives: new perspectives in personality and creativity research. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 7(4), 739–777.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lawton, H. (2012). Issues in psychobiography. The Journal of Psychohistory, 40(1), 16–20.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mauss, A. (2011). Rethinking retrenchment: Course corrections in the ongoing campaign for respectability. Dialogues: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 44(4), 1–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • McAdams, D. P. (2005). What psychobiographers might learn from personality psychology. In W. T. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of psychobiography (pp. 64–84). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCune, G. (1996). Gordon B. Hinckley: Shoulder for the Lord. Salt Lake City, UT: Hawkes Publishing Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miles, M., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ponterotto, J. (2014). Best practices in psychobiographical research. Qualitative Psychology, 1(1), 77–90. https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000005.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ponterotto, J. G. (2015a). Psychobiography in psychology: Past, present, and future. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 25(5), 379–389.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ponterotto, J. G. (2015b). A counsellor’s guide to conducting psychobiographical research. International Journal of Advances in Counselling, 39, 249–263. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-017-9295x.

  • Ponterotto, J. G. (2018). Advancing psychobiography: Reply to Young and Collins (2018). American Psychologist, 73(3), 288–289. https://doi.org/10.1037/1mp0000320.

  • Ponterotto, J. G., Reynolds, J. D., Morel, S., & Cheung, L. (2017). Psychobiography training in psychology in North America: Mapping the field and charting a course. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 11(3), 259–475. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejpop.v11i3.938.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Runyan, W. M. (2005). Evolving conceptions of psychobiography and the study of lives: Encounters with psychoanalysis, personality psychology, and historical science. In W. T. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of psychobiography (pp. 19–41). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Saccaggi, C. F. (2015). Leading the Latter-Day Saints: Psychobiographical studies of Mormon prophets (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis). University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schultz, W. T. (2005a). Introducing psychobiography. In W. T. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of psychobiograph (pp. 3–18). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schultz, W. T. (2005b). How to strike psychological paydirt in biographical data. In W. T. Schultz (Ed.), Handbook of psychobiography (pp. 42–63). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schultz, W. T., & Lawrence, S. (2017). Psychobiography: Theory and method. American Psychologist, 72(5), 434–445. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000130.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shipps, J. (2007). From peoplehood to church membership: Mormonism’s trajectory since World War II”. Church History, 76(2), 241–262.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, P. (1996). The meaning of vehaviorism for B. F. Skinner”. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 75, 343–365.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Stark, R. (1996). So far, so good: A brief reassessment of Mormon membership projections. Review of Religious Research, 38(2), 175–178.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (1985). Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, UT: Author.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (2015). Facts and statistics. Retrieved February 23, 2015 from http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/.

  • Tomkins, S. (1963). Left and right: A basic dimension of ideology and personality. In R. W. White (Ed.), The study of lives (pp. 388–411). New York, NY: Atherton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomkins, S. (1965). The psychology of commitment. Part 1: The constructive role of violence and suffering for the individual and his society. In S. Tomkins & C. E. Izard (Eds.), Affect, cognition and personality: Empirical studies (pp. 148–171). London, UK: Tavistock Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomkins, S. (1981). The quest for primary motives: Biography and autobiography of an idea. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(2), 306–329.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Tomkins, S. (1991/2008). Affect imagery consciousness. Volume III: The negative affects: Anger and fear. In B. T. Karon (Ed.), Affect imagery conciousness: The complete edition (pp. 704–1076). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomkins, S. (1992/2008). Affect imagery consciousness. Volume IV: Cognition, duplication and transformation. In B. T. Karon (Ed.), Affect imagery consciousness: The complete edition (pp. 1077–1349). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomkins, S. (1992). Script theory. In R. A. Zucker, A. I. Rabin, J. Aronoff, & S. Frank (Eds.), Personality structure in the life course (pp. 152–217). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carol du Plessis .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

du Plessis, C., Stones, C.R. (2019). The Use of Unusual Psychological Theories in Psychobiography: A Case Study and Discussion. In: Mayer, CH., Kovary, Z. (eds) New Trends in Psychobiography. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16953-4_12

Download citation