Dmitry Leontiev

Dmitry Leontiev

Professor, Doctor of Psychology. HSE and Lomonosov Moscow State University.


Toward a differential psychology of life

 “Living is a fundamental business of life. We all do it only partially
James Bugental

Human life at large as a complex target hardly divisible into simple units has rarely been an object of empirical psychological studies, though classical authors like Adler, Fromm, or Erikson kept reminding us of its importance. In recent decades however psychology has become capable of dealing with holistic and complex units and of embracing apparent oppositions like objective vs. subjective, active vs. passive, conscious vs. unconscious etc. in the unity of both poles. Variables like quality of life, life satisfaction and meaning of life are now in everyday use, but they do not exhaust the issue of our dealing with our life.

The key distinction crucial for the differential psychology of life seems to be the dichotomy between passive attitude, taking life as it goes and swimming with the stream, and agentic attitude, taking the stream of life into one’s own hands. This distinction was conceptualized in Oriental philosophy through the metaphor of living asleep vs. living awake and is now at the focus of existential psychology and psychotherapy (May, Frankl, etc.).

This talk will introduce the concept of personal life position (PLP) defined as one’s attitude to one’s own life. This concept is rooted in existential psychology, cultural-historical activity theory and approaches that focus on self-regulatory processes, introducing a special dimension of deliberate self-controlled processes beyond commonly accepted immediate regulations. The PLP inventory (Leontiev & Shilmanskaya) opens new perspectives for psychological research.

Short Bio

Member of the HSE Academic Council

Professional Associations

  • Moscow branch of Russian Psychological Society, vice-president (1990 - present)
  • Moscow Association for Humanistic Psychology, Board (1991-1993)
  • International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature (IGEL)
  • International Positive Psychology Association (2008-present)
  • International Society for Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy (ISEPP), Board (2004-present)
  • European Network for Positive Psychology (ENPP), national representative (2004-present), committee member (2006-2008)
  • International Testing Commission (2010-present)