Introduction: Personality Psychology and the Case Study


  • Preparation of this article was facilitated by a grant from the Spencer Foundation to Dan McAdams. We thank Bill Nasby and Nancy Read for undertaking such a herculean effort in the first place and sticking to it with such intelligence, patience, and grace over the long haul. We also thank Ravenna Helson and David Winter for help and guidance at an early stage in this project.

Address correspondence to Dan P. McAdams, Program in Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 2115 N. Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-2610.


ABSTRACT This article introduces the Journal of Personality's special issue on the life voyage of Dodge Morgan who, in 1986 at the age of 54, sailed solo around the world in 150 days. Before the voyage, Morgan agreed to participate in an intensive psychological case study, the data for which provide the focus for this special issue. William Nasby and Nancy W. Read have organized the vast array of psychological data obtained from Morgan and produced a complex and illuminating interpretation of his life, drawing liberally from the five-factor trait model of personality and the life-story model of adult identity. This introduction provides a historical and intellectual context for Nasby and Read's study by considering the various ways in which personality psychologists have employed the case study in research and examining the many conceptual and methodological problems and possibilities that arise in the psychological study of the single case.