Conceptualization of Autobiographical Data in Response to Questions on Life Choice



The question of life choice is of special significance to individuals yet remains underexplored in psychology. Difficulty in the precise definition of “life choice”, complexity in interpreting the notion, and scarcity of special research methods — all contribute to such a situation. This article contains a brief analysis of the current state of life choice problem, reviews existing research approaches and their limitations, and highlights the need for empirical investigations and qualitative methods. We analyzed life choice data using semi-structured interview: 44 respondents of middle maturity age (30–45 years old), while answering questions, on their own identified significant life choice situations and counted the number of such choices. The qualitative-quan- titative analysis of these autobiographical texts identified choice episode categories, pinpointed the most (“family” and “profession”) and the least (“finance”) frequently named fields of choice realization, showed that the episodes can be divided into “situations” and “themes”, and revealed that the majority of named episodes belong to the current period (middle maturity) and only a small number of mentioned choices have been made in childhood. The article also presents a wide range of significant life choices (from emigration abroad to a childhood memory) and shows that the significance of each choice is deeply subjective. We used content analysis to examine selection criteria of life choice episodes, to identify “life choice patterns”, and to consider various grounds of an answer “I had no choice.” Our analysis also revealed different ways of representation of the autobiographical data and different principles of such reflection, defined quantitative indicators for clarification of “life choice patterns.” The collected data also demonstrate a psychotherapeutic potential of the life choice dialogue and suggest the necessity of careful analysis of the procedural aspects of such an interview.

General Information

Keywords: choice, life choice, free will, content-analysis, autobiography, life course

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The research was supported by Russian Science Foundation, project 18-18-00222.

For citation: Popova-Nikityuk N.S. Conceptualization of Autobiographical Data in Response to Questions on Life Choice. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2019. Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 155–171. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2019.204. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Leont’ev D. A., Ovchinnikova E. Iu., Rasskazova, E. I., Fam A. Kh. Psikhologiia vybora [Psychology of Choice]. Moscow, Smysl Publ., 2015. 464 p. (In Russian)

Information About the Authors

Natalia S. Popova-Nikityuk, Post-graduate student, St. Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:



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