The Study of Lives reveals for the first time the extent of Henry A. Murray's considerable influence on the study of personality. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he has either trained or strongly influenced some of the world's leading psychologists, eighteen of whom have written fascinating essays for this book. The range of topics presented here is as diverse and highly original as Murray's own ideas about personality. Everyone concerned with the study of personality will find this book an excellent sampling of the best work being done in the field.
"The study of lives" is a phrase Henry A. Murray has often used to describe his own work, and it suggests his central conviction that living beings must be studied as living wholes. Personality, he has repeatedly pointed out, is a dynamic process-a constantly changing configuration of thoughts, feelings, and actions occurring in a social environment and continuing throughout life. If small parts and short segments of human affairs have to be isolated for detailed scrutiny, they must still be understood as parts of a patterned organic system and as segments of a lifelong process. This has never meant for him that all research should take the form of collecting life histories, although his contributions along this line have been outstanding. It implies simply that isolating, fragmenting, and learning just a tiny bit about a lot of people tend to carry us away from what is most worth studying.
The essays in this book are grouped under headings that represent some of Murray's strongest interests: His conception of personality as a dynamic process is reflected in Part I, which deals with continuities and changes in the course of life. His interest in devising procedures suitable for disclosing live feelings, fantasies, and adaptations and his insistence on the necessity for an adequate taxonomy of carefully discriminated, carefully defined variables are represented in the papers of Part II. His view that creativity is a central property of human nature has contributed to the reflections and researches that make up Part III. Finally, his concern with values--the great blind spot of traditional science but so obviously a momentous problem for contemporary lives and societies--has been taken up in several different ways by the authors of Part IV.