Whose Life Task Is It Anyway? Social Appraisal and Life Task Pursuit



The study uses a social contextual framework to examine how others are represented in individuals’ life task appraisals and how such appraisals are related to strategies to pursue those life tasks. The extent to which life tasks nominated by 81 college students (45 females) were appraised as shared with others and pursued collaboratively was examined through a questionnaire. Participants listed five life tasks, indicated if each life task was theirs alone, indirectly shared (others were impacted by their life task pursuit), or directly shared (another person might also nominate the life task as theirs) with others in their lives, described three activities used to pursue their life task, and coded how others were involved in these activities. Results indicated that the majority of college students’ life tasks were appraised as involving others, that directly shared appraisals were found more frequently in the relationship domain, and that directly shared appraisals were associated with collaborative life task pursuit strategies. In addition, appraising life tasks as directly shared did not appear to reflect aspects of anxiety or compensation. A content analysis of the strategies coded as involving other individuals revealed diverse ways in which others are involved in life task pursuit ranging from active engagement of others to cognitive strategies where others are implied. The findings have implications for research on life tasks and other goal structures in that structures may involve the social context in adaptive ways.