Towards Locating the Validatable Foundations of Life Themes … and, how we communicate this

57 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2024

Date Written: January 8, 2024


Aim/Purpose: This paper seeks to explain why personality assessment instruments fail to explain the disjunct of their results with how a person lives life.

Background: People wanting to know who they are and whether or why their life’s activities do not match what they feel look to “personality tests”. However, a test, with its “correct” or “incorrect” responses fail to reveal one’s core values, or ethos. Over the millennia, four valued virtue ethics systems have emerged, and one or more, a combination of them, or a synthesis of them all may be the one that accomplish the goal of the “personality “test”. This article, by settling on a paradigm case, places Authentic Systems under the microscope to see if it fulfills the central goal of identifying one’s value system that is the source of their life theme, or pattern of behavior. Some research directions are provided to elaborate and support life theme discovery.

Methodology: Several cases of individuals seeking assistance in personality assessment are used to define the context and commonalities of issues in matching assessment results with how their life themes are actually displayed. Life theme archetypes are surveyed, their common denominators distributed among four groups. Each of these four are further analyzed to find their abstract philosophical renderings of core values and their outgrowths, as well as why these are critical in shaping personality. Some major existing assessment methods and programmes are examined to see if they account for these values. A selected programme, Authentic Systems, is described in detail, because it has a record of success, that is, clients reporting it does what the others fail to do in explaining how and why core values generate their life themes. A theory is advanced, further research designed to assess its validity. All this occurs against the background of the Informing Science framework of critique.

Contribution: Numerous disciplines are called upon to explain the mismatches between personality assessment instruments, life themes, and core values. The two main study areas of psychology (applied) and philosophy, are supplemented by archaeology, biology, mathematics, and even physics (among others) to yield the field of discourse necessary for problem resolution,. It is hoped that this article will encourage not only interdisciplinary exploration, dialogue, and research, but a combined discipline, itself, perhaps nominated as “identity studies”.

Findings: A brief examination of the case studies revealed: A) the interdisciplinary nature of locating one’s identity; B) current assessment instruments insufficient to reveal that which generates one’s life theme; C) context (environmental conditions, culture, personal background, mental state, etc.) often is ignored in such assessments; D) philosophical probing ignored, that is, one’s core values – what is important in that person’s life; E) a failure to explain how or why a personality emerges; F) personality assessment failing in identity assessment; G) only a personalized deep probing will be the right step in locating one’s identity. An Internet search found no programme with a philosophical underpinning, save one, Authentic Systems. All the others reflected applied psychology, where examiners observed behavior without asking the underlying thinking generating it. That is, a discrepancy between the philosophical substrate and behavior correspondingly led to explaining why persons often felt uncomfortable in social situations, as well as why they were attracted to objects and events. An extended observation revealed that not only are personality and life themes stable but there is reason to think they are genetically-based. Such is predicated upon the view that mentation has organic correlates, such as the right-half of the brain being associated with one’s capacity to contribute to order the world. The US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (2023) project is predicated upon this with both neuroimaging and genetics. An alternate finding is that applying research on the nature of information, points to the character of one’s identity – the greater the entropy, the less order, and conversely. To have maximum identity, there must be maximum order, hence, the least entropy, i.e., the greatest capacity to inform.

Recommendations for Practitioners: To provide an accurate inventory of one’s personality, psychological practitioners need to take two crucial steps. First they need to discover what is most important in one’s life. What do they value? Second, they need not simply one probe but a series of snapshots over time and in different situations/contexts (dynamic evaluation).

Future Research: Many more cases both in the usual domain and that of Authentic Systems need to be assembled, collated, and analyzed for both effectiveness in assessing one’s personality, and in terms of the philosophical component, i.e., locating one’s identity and nature in terms of meaning. Given the initial findings about the genetic basis of personality, long-term research of the type conducted by the NIMH on neurocorrelates and the genetic basis of behavior, there is reason to explore the same for postulating the physical basis of core values. Such raises the even more controversial physiological foundation of all mentation, including emotions. Sidebar discussions emerge about biocomputing, artificial intelligence, and contrived life, itself.

Keywords: Personality assessment, life themes, applied psychology, philosophical basis of personality, virtue ethics, personal values programmes, transdisciplinary studies in psychology and philosophy, case studies in psychology and philosophy, resonance in informing

JEL Classification: Y8, Z10

Suggested Citation

Horne, Jeremy, Towards Locating the Validatable Foundations of Life Themes … and, how we communicate this (January 8, 2024). Available at SSRN: or

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics