In Stories We Trust: Studies of the Validity of Autobiographies

George S. Howard, Arthur C. Maerlender, Paul R. Myers, Tom D. Curtin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


There is a dearth of research addressing the validity of life stories, or autobiographies. In part, this is because it is unclear how such data sources might be validated. This article recommends two different perspectives for obtaining evidence relevant to the validity of autobiographical data. A study is conducted from each of these perspectives, and multiple validity estimates are obtained in each investigation. The construct validity of standard psychological constructs (e.g., assertiveness, trustworthiness) obtained in Study 1 from autobiographies was equal to that of standard instruments designed to assess these constructs. Evidence for the validity of life themes, extracted from autobiographies in Study 2, was also apparent. Because life histories, autobiographies, and case studies are relied on heavily in the practice of counseling psychology and are rapidly regaining popularity in scientific studies, these positive findings suggest the wisdom in this increasing use of life history data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-405
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of counseling psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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