Destiny Is in the Details: Action Identification in the Construction and Destruction of Meaning

  • Jay L. Michaels
  • Steven S. Parkin
  • Robin R. Vallacher


Any action can be identified in myriad ways, from a sequence of movements to the expression of goals, values, and self-concepts. Despite the uncertainty of action, people routinely identify their actions at a level that both enables effective performance and provides a foundation for higher-level meaning. Action identification theory holds that this is possible because of the interplay of two principles—one reflecting a desire for higher-level action understanding, the other reflecting the need to focus on lower-level details in order to perform the action. Over time and experience, the tension between these principles establishes an optimal level of identification—high level enough to provide meaning but low level enough to provide the details necessary for action implementation. Action experience and factors in the action context can upset this dynamic equilibrium, promoting recalibration of the optimal identification level. Meaning in life is thus not a static state, but rather a dynamic process.


Action Identification Personal Meaning Goal Pursuit Romantic Attachment Cognitive Closure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay L. Michaels
    • 1
  • Steven S. Parkin
    • 2
  • Robin R. Vallacher
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPresbyterian CollegeClintonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

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