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Professor Brian Little C Psychol FBPsS

Professor Brian Little, C Psychol  FBPsS

Distinguished Scholar


Professor Brian R. Little received his early education in British Columbia and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.  His research lies at the intersection of personality, developmental and applied psychology.  He has taught at Oxford, Carleton and Harvard Universities and received numerous awards for his teaching and research. Since 2000 he has been Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Carleton and since 2010 has been directing the Social Ecology Research Group (SERG) at Cambridge.

Research Interests

Four areas of current research interest:

Personal Projects Analysis.

Little created Personal Projects Analysis (PPA) as a general methodology for examining the daily pursuits of individuals and groups.  PPA was influential in stimulating research on goal pursuit in the fields of personality, social, clinical, organizational and developmental psychology.  A comprehensive treatment of this research is found in the book Personal Project Pursuit: Goals, Action and Human Flourishing.  Research with PPA continues to expand and includes psychometric explorations of the methodology, cross-cultural explorations of the content and appraisal of personal projects and studies of the links between personal project features and well-being.

Social Ecology of Human Development.

Little’s social ecological framework for studying human development was one of the first to focus explicitly upon the measurement of human-environment transactions and the importance of such transactions for public policy. He continues to do research within this framework and is particularly interested in the link between personality, contexts and personal projects in transitions across the life-span.

Person-Thing Orientation.

In the early seventies Little published articles on the developmental significance of differential orientation toward persons and things.  The Thing-Person Scale (T-P Scale) was used to assess individual differences in orientation toward person and things. Although little came of that early work, there is currently considerable interest in such differential orientation, particularly in studies of sex differences and of psychopathology.  A new series of studies on differential orientation is currently under way.

Well being.

The study of personal projects, human development and differential orientation all converge in Little’s research program on the factors that drive and sustain human well-being.  With the benefit of collegial links to The Well-being Institute at Cambridge, Little is developing a comprehensive theory and set of assessment tools for the exploration of the quality of lives, well-being and flourishing.  He is particularly interested in the incorporation of perspectives from philosophy, economics and anthropology into a comprehensive theory of well-being.

Key Publications

Little, B. R. (1972a). Psychological man as scientist, humanist and specialist. Journal of Experimental Research in Personality, 6, 95-118.

Little, B. R. (1976). Specialization and the varieties of environmental experience: Empirical studies within the personality paradigm. In S. Wapner, S. B. Cohen & B. Kaplan (Eds.), Experiencing the environment (pp.81-116). New York: Plenum.

Little, B. R. (1979).  The social ecology of children’s nothings.  Paris: UNESCO.

Little, B. R. (1983). Personal projects: A rationale and method for investigation. Environment and Behavior, 15, 273-309.

Little, B. R. (1987a).  Personal projects and fuzzy selves: Aspects of self-identity in adolescence.  In T. Honess & K.Yardley (Eds.), Self and identity: Perspectives across the life span (pp.230-245). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Little, B. R. (1987b). Personality and the environment. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of environmental psychology (pp. 205-244). New York: Wiley.

Little, B. R. (1989). Personal projects analysis: Trivial pursuits, magnificent obsessions, and the search for coherence. In D. Buss & N. Cantor (Eds.), Personality psychology: Recent trends and emerging directions (pp. 15-31). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Little, B.R. (1996). Free traits, personal projects and idio-tapes: Three tiers for personality psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 340-344.

Little, B. R. (1998). Personal project pursuit: Dimensions and dynamics of personal meaning.  In P. T. P. Wong & P. S. Fry (Eds.), The human question for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 197-221).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Little, B. R. (1999a). Personal projects and social ecology: Themes and variation across the life span. In J. Brandtstadter & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Action & self-development: Theory and research through the life span (pp. 197-221). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Little, B. R. (1999b). Personality and motivation: Personal action and the conative evolution. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of Personality Theory and Research (2nd ed., pp. 501-524). New York: Guilford.

Little, B. R. (2000a). Free traits and personal contexts: Expanding a social ecological model of well-being. In. W. B. Walsh, K. H. Craik & R. Price (Eds.), Person environment psychology (2nd ed.) (pp.87-116). New York: Guilford.

Little, B. R. (2005). Personality science and personal projects: Six impossible things before breakfast. Journal of Research in Personality, 39, 4-21.

Little, B. R. (2006). Personality science and self-regulation: Personal projects as integrative units. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 55, 419-427.

Little, B. R. (2007). Prompt and circumstance: The generative contexts of personal projects analysis. In B. R. Little, K. Salmela-Aro & S. D. Phillips (Eds.), Personal project pursuit: Goals, action and human flourishing (pp. 3-49).Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Little. B. R. (2008).  Personal projects and free traits: Personality and motivation reconsidered.  Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1235-1254.

Little, B. R., & Chambers, N. C. (2004). Personal project pursuit: On human doings and well beings. In M. Cox & E. Klinger (Eds.), Handbook of motivational counseling: Concepts, approaches and assessment (pp. 65-82). Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Little, B. R., & Gee, T. L. (2007). The methodology of personal projects analysis: Four modules and a funnel. In B. R. Little, K. Salmela-Aro & S. D. Phillips (Eds.), Personal project pursuit: Goals, action and human flourishing (pp. 51-93). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Little, B. R., & Joseph, M. F. (2007). Personal projects and free traits: Mutable selves and well beings. In B. R. Little, K. Salmela-Aro & S. D. Phillips (Eds.), Personal project pursuit: Goals, action and human flourishing (pp. 375-400). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Little, B. R., & Ryan, T. J. (1979). A social ecological model of development. In K. Ishwaran (Ed.), Childhood and Adolescence in Canada (pp. 273-301). Toronto, ON, Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Little, B. R., Salmela-Aro, K., & Phillips, S. D. (Eds.). (2007). Personal project pursuit: Goals, action and human flourishing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.