The Concept “Life” in Personal Thesauri of Adults



In the framework of the existential-narrative approach developed by the author, a theoretical and empirical analysis of one of the levels of a personal thesaurus (the “Life”-macrothesaurus) is presented. The article contains some results of a study of the personal thesaurus of respondents of three age groups: young adults (30–40 years old), adults/mature (45–60 years old), elderly and aging (over 65 years old). The study is based on the author’s position on the hierarchical structure of a personal thesaurus, which includes: a meta-level formed by subjective ontology (1); the macro-level, consisting of two adjacent macrothesauri “Me” and “Life” (2); a mini-level consisting of existential concepts (3) and a micro-level formed by current concepts-quanta that capture a person’s distinctive existential experience (4). The study used the author’s semi-projective technique “The semantic personality thesaurus”, which includes 20 tasks for choosing verbal, imaginative, symbolic associations with the “Life”-concept, for its paremic and metaphorical comprehension, for correlating one’s own model (or life strategy) with archetypal, literary and other models, for the axial and central or peripheral placement of the content of the concept “Life” in the semantic fields of existential dichotomies, for the construction of existential dictionaries, etc. It is proved that there are significant age-related differences in the content of personal thesauri of this level. In the group of 30–40-year-old respondents, the “Life”-macrothesaurus appears as a combination of the following central units: love, development, movement, complexity. The life strategy is formulated as “catch the moment”; a significant unit is life-quality. In the group of 45–60-year-old respondents, the “Life”- macrothesaurus is generally represented by the following units: faith, home, hope, family (and children), movement / action / activity, development (or self-development), creativity, diversity, interest, charisma / blessing, mindfulness, complexity. In the group of respondents older than 65 years, the “Life”-macrothesaurus includes the following units: family, joy, happiness, love, interest, diversity, surprise, duty, responsibility, successes, activity, belief, hope, freedom, work (and labor), need (or usefulness), achievements, humility, gratitude, tranquility, repentance, sense, clarity, desire, children, memory, honor, respect.

General Information

Keywords: personal thesaurus, hierarchical structure of the personal thesaurus, life, life path, existential experience, personality, macroconcept

Journal rubric: Empirical and Experimental Research

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Sapogova E.E. The Concept “Life” in Personal Thesauri of Adults. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2020. Vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 98–127. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2020.201. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Elena E. Sapogova, Doctor of Psychology, Professor of the Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology, Moscow State Pedagogical University, Professor, member of the editorial board of the journal “Cultural-Historical Psychology”., Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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