Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Timothy Leary's Interpersonal Behavior Circle


The interpersonal circle or interpersonal circumplex is a model for conceptualizing, organizing, and assessing interpersonal behavior, traits, and motives. The interpersonal circumplex is defined by two orthogonal axes: a vertical axis (of status, dominance, power, or control) and a horizontal axis (of solidarity, friendliness, warmth, or love). In recent years, it has become conventional to identify the vertical and horizontal axes with the broad constructs of agency and communion. Thus, each point in the interpersonal circumplex space can be specified as a weighted combination of agency and communion.

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Leary Circumplex

Originally coined Leary Circumplex or Leary Circle after Timothy Leary is defined as "a two-dimensional representation of personality organized around two major axes".

During the twentieth century, there were a number of efforts by personality psychologists to create comprehensive taxonomies to describe the most important and fundamental traits of human nature. Leary’s circumplex, developed in 1957, is a circular continuum of personality formed from the intersection of two base axes: Power and Love. The opposing sides of the power axis are dominance and submission, while the opposing sides of the love axis are love and hate.

Leary argued that all other dimensions of personality can be viewed as a blending of these two axes. For example, a person who is stubborn and inflexible in their personal relationships might graph her personality somewhere on the arc between dominance and love. However, a person who exhibits passive–aggressive tendencies might find herself best described on the arc between submission and hate. The main idea of the Leary Circumplex is that each and every human trait can be mapped as a vector coordinate within this circle.

Furthermore, the Leary Circumplex also represents a kind of bull's eye of healthy psychological adjustment. Theoretically speaking, the most well-adjusted person of the planet could have their personality mapped at the exact center of the circumplex, right at the intersection of the two axes, while individuals exhibiting extremes in personality would be located on the circumference of the circle.

Placing a person near one of the poles of the axes implies that the person tends to convey clear or strong messages (of warmth, hostility, dominance or submissiveness). Conversely, placing a person at the midpoint of the agentic dimension implies the person conveys neither dominance nor submissiveness (and pulls neither dominance nor submissiveness from others). Likewise, placing a person at the midpoint of the communal dimension implies the person conveys neither warmth nor hostility (and pulls neither warmth nor hostility from others).

The interpersonal circumplex can be divided into broad segments (such as fourths) or narrow segments (such as sixteenths), but currently most interpersonal circumplex inventories partition the circle into eight octants. As one moves around the circle, each octant reflects a progressive blend of the two axial dimensions.

The interpersonal circumplex model has served as the foundation for the development of a number of personality measures designed to assess interpersonal constructs in accordance with the model.

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Theoretical Assumptions

Leary claimed that “to understand a human being is to have probability evidence about his relationships with others (perceived, actual, or symbolic), about the durable interpersonal techniques by which he wards off anxiety, and about the reciprocal responses these techniques pull from others”.

Thus, Leary offered nine working principles for interpersonal theory of personality, and among them the following:
  1. All interpersonal behaviors are attempts by a person to avoid anxiety or to establish and maintain self-esteem.
  2. Any personality measure should be able to assess, on the same continuum, the whole range of behavior from normal to extreme.
  3. Assessment of interpersonal behavior requires a broad collection of specific measures, related to each other.
  4. For valid assessment of interpersonal behavior, the same measures should be equally applied to interacting individuals.

Scales Representing the Interpersonal Circle

Various instruments have been used to represent the interpersonal domain as a circumplex. Among them are the Interpersonal Checklist (ICL), Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS), Revised Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS-R), Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Circumplex Scales (IIP-C), and Inventory of Interpersonal Goals (IIG).

We will review these models in more details in the following posts.

About Timothy Leary

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Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as "turn on, tune in, drop out", "set and setting", and "think for yourself and question authority". He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and he developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Leary was arrested regularly and was held captive in 29 different prisons throughout the world. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America".[1]

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