Autobiography and Problem Selection

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Steven R. Brown


The proposition that “participants pursue values through institutions utilizing resources†finds expression in the problems with which participants become concerned and which they choose to address, and these choices in turn are a function of prior life experiences as revealed in policy-related autobiographies. As part of a pedagogical exercise focused on the policy process, university students in a senior seminar were invited to nominate possible problems (for development as seminar papers) and to reflect on those events in their lives that they would identify as having been significant in developing their interests in these particular problems. The 23 seminar members then Q-sorted the set of 27 problems, and factor analysis revealed six patterns of problem preference (from four Q factors, two of which were bipolar). These were in turn associated with common themes and experiences contained in the auto- biographical narratives, as examined in cases from each of the factors. Conclusions are drawn about the role of previous experiences in autobiographical memory and about the implications for goal clarification in the policy process.

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Brown, S. R. (2022). Autobiography and Problem Selection. Operant Subjectivity, 39(1/2). Retrieved from