Summary

The interpersonal perspective argues that personality is best conceptualized as the social product of interactions with significant others. From beginning to end, we are always transacting either with real or imagined others and their expectations. Personality cannot be understood from the inside out, because it is intrinsically immersed in context. Harry Stack Sullivan is regarded as the father of interpersonal perspective. Sullivan's contribution lay in realizing that some forms of mental disorder, while perhaps most dramatically and tangibly manifest through the individual, are nevertheless created and perpetuated through maladaptive patterns of social interaction and communication. The issue with which Sullivan struggled, the essential basis of the interpersonal approach, concerns the nature of the self. Implicitly, all of us regard the self as a thing, a concrete entity or substance with sharply defined boundaries, like a rock. If so, we should know exactly who we are all the time. According to Sullivan, that is not the case. No essential self lies hidden beneath the veils of the unconscious. Instead, there is only a self-concept that is continually being defined and redefined by the interpersonal communications of others. After Sullivan, the next important figure in the emerging interpersonal movement was Timothy Leary, who believed that personality should be thought of in terms of levels, not unlike the psychodynamic idea of levels of consciousness: public communication, conscious description, private sym-bolization, attributions, unexpressed unconscious, and values. Leary also contributed to the development of the interpersonal circumplex, a figure that organizes personality constructs like the segments of a circle, which is formed by crossing the two content dimensions believed to define interpersonal communication—dominance and affiliation. Interpersonal principles map directly to the circle. According to complementarity, for example, interpersonal behavior is designed to elicit from others actions that validate the sense of who we are. Pathologically rigid individuals possess a constricted conception of self. Only a particular kind of response from others is experienced as validating, and only this kind of response is sought from interpersonal interactions. Since their needs are strong and consistent, individuals with a constricted self-concept may be experienced as controlling or coercive. The most creative contemporary development of interpersonal theory is Benjamin's (1974, 1996) SASB. The SASB seeks to integrate interpersonal conduct, object relations, and self-psychology in a single geometric model.

Cognitive psychology began in the 1950s as a reaction against behaviorism. As an information processor, the mind actively gathers and selects information about the world, self, and others at both conscious and nonconscious levels. When cognitive distortions cohere as a pattern, they may be thought of as cognitive styles. Different personalities process consensual reality in different ways. Each of the personality disorders has its own style of cognitive processing.

Cognitive therapists hold that behavior can be explained by examining the contents of internal mental structures called schemas. Schemas are assumed to mediate cognitive processing at every level, from sensation to paradigms, and on to action plans that the organism can use to affect the world. Like a cognitive filter, they are ever ready to be applied to create an interpretable world. Everything put through the filter is automatically processed. As such, their primary advantage lies in allowing experience to be processed with great efficiency. The information-processing economy that schemas afford, however, also comes at a cost. Because schemas necessarily exist between the raw data of sensation and the meaningful world of subjective experience, they introduce interpretive biases that preempt other construals, possibly distorting consensual reality. Beck et al. (1990) applied the cognitive perspective to the personality disorders, describing the schemas, or core beliefs, that shape the experience and behavior of personality-disordered individuals. In addition, they emphasize the importance of cognitive distortions. These are chronic and systematic errors in reasoning, which promote the misinterpretation of consensual reality.

In personality, the inductive perspective is intimately tied up with the history of psychology. The most influential factor model of personality is the Five-Factor Model, derived from analyses of various personality inventories, not words from the dictionary. As the name indicates, this model consists of five broad higher order factors: Neuroti-cism, Extroversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. In turn, each dimension consists of several lower order facet traits, thus lending the model a hierarchical structure.

The evolutionary-neurodevelopmental model believes that evolution is the logical choice as a foundation for an integrated science of the person. Psychological health is dependent on the fit between the entire configuration of a person's characteristics and potentials with those of the environments in which the person functions. The first task of any organism is its immediate survival. Organisms that fail to survive have been selected out, so to speak, and fail to contribute their genes and characteristics to subsequent generations. Evolutionary mechanisms related to survival tasks are oriented toward life enhancement and life preservation. Such mechanisms form a polarity of Pleasure and Pain. Behaviors experienced as pleasurable are generally repeated and generally promote survival, while those experienced as painful generally have the potential to endanger life and thus are not repeated. The second evolutionary task faced universally by every organism is adaptation. To exist is to exist within an environment. Organisms must either adapt to their surroundings or adapt their surroundings to conform to and support their own style of functioning. The choice is essentially between a Passive versus Active orientation, that is, a tendency to accommodate to a given ecological niche and accept what the environment offers, versus a tendency to modify or intervene in the environment, thereby adapting it to themselves. The third universal evolutionary task faced by every organism pertains to reproductive styles, essentially sociobiological mechanisms, that each gender uses to maximize its representation in the gene pool. All organisms must ultimately reproduce to evolve. A parallel framework of neurodevelopment is outlined to demonstrate the ontogenetic stages through which humans progress so as to acquire the sensitivities and competencies required to function in accord with their evolutionary origins.

According to evolutionary theory, personality is manifested in eight different domains: expressive acts, interpersonal conduct, cognitive style, defense mechanisms, self-image, object-representations, morphologic organization, and mood-temperament.

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