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Functions of personal and vicarious life stories: identity and empathy

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The present study investigates functions of personal and vicarious life stories focusing on identity and empathy. Two-hundred-and-forty Danish high school students completed two life story questionnaires: one for their personal life story and one for a close other’s life story. In both questionnaires, they identified up to 10 chapters and self-rated the chapters on valence and valence of causal connections. In addition, they completed measures of identity disturbance and empathy. More positive personal life stories were related to lower identity disturbance and higher empathy. Vicarious life stories showed a similar pattern with respect to identity but surprisingly were unrelated to empathy. In addition, we found positive correlations between personal and vicarious life stories for number of chapters, chapter valence, and valence of causal connections. The study indicates that both personal and vicarious life stories may contribute to identity.
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Keywords: Personal life stories; empathy; functions; identity; vicarious life stories

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Center on Autobiographical Memory Research (CON AMORE), Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Publication date: May 28, 2018

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