This chapter focuses on Henry Murray's approach to laboratory studies of individual lives. The goal was to condense the story of a person's life into another story, a psychological narrative that dealt with a person's inner reality, which can be referred to as psychobiography. Secure in his knowledge of science and its limitations, Murray was forthright about there being a component of artistry involved in writing psychological narratives. He insisted, however, that narratives be written as part of a joint venture with input from a team of researchers that constituted what became known as a “diagnostic council”. The diagnostic council was one of the ways Murray endeavored to control for a very serious problem in writing psychobiographies. People who study the lives and stories of other people have stories and lives of their own. Just as the target of an investigation may not be fully conscious of the effects of his or her subjective experiences on the stories he or she tells, the investigator may not be able to place a rein on the influence of his or her own non-conscious issues and conflicts in the process of reading and interpreting another person's life. Murray's safeguard against the unknowing infiltration (he called it “projection”) of an investigator's own psychological dynamics into the life of the subject under the pretext of objectivity was the diagnostic council whose members served the function of all the king's horses and all the king's men, making suggestions and taking positions, and struggling to agree about which piece went where in the psychological design of the person.
Keywords: Henry Murray; psychobiography; personal psychology; diagnostic council
Chapter. 2329 words.
Subjects: Cognitive Psychology
Full text: subscription required