A Fourth Dimension or Modifier Variable

Couchon, A.R & Farmer, C.D.

September, 2013

The original three PAS dimensions (Winnie & Gittinger 1973) each include a Primitive personality level indicator best measured by a different subtest from the group of Wechsler scales of intelligence (Wechsler 1955 through revisions). However measured, it is generally considered today that human personality traits, facets, or features will dimensionalize both within and between traits or facets. For example, External – Internal Primitive personality characteristics occur together in a person, one stronger or weaker, but nonetheless are both present and interact with the environment causing adaptation and change. David Saunders (1980, 1983, 1991) introduced a fourth PAS dimension related to stress and problem solving, using an attention interference task (Stroop 1935) as the PAS Primitive level estimate. He clearly speaks to response style and capacity within this “stress dimension” of personality, defined by the PAS. His determinedly chosen and developed, modified Stroop task, Color Naming with Interference (CNI), is a very (and deceivingly so) complex subtest. Try to name the color, don’t read the word, quickly as you can. But black-ink words, read the word:

red blue yellow green yellow green

The interference involving focus, resisting distraction, and sustained attention are obvious but where did this difficulty come from and how is it related to stress (or problem solving) at a constitutional level? In terms of brain-behavior evaluations, one “critical mass” appears to involve the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain not very specifically developed until well into adulthood. This raises questions about the PAS compensation processes which mostly finishes in or around adolescence, i.e. finishing with major impact upon an immature brain system! Actually, this supports Gittinger’s theory involving the relative permanence of compensation determined Basic PAS personality. This critical brain area is formatively changed in development as a result of compensation stress in maturational directions. Of course Gittinger would have had no way of knowing the physiology at the time.

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is bundled sets of neurons with complex (? dopamine) sets of linkages supporting what has been referred to as executive human functions. It is located toward the back and side, between the true frontal brain regions and the motor regions behind. Although late maturing, the region is highly complex and changing in its functions along the way. A previous PAS Brief involving the Leiden Brain and Developmental Lab. ( June 2013) research speaks to the issues of positive and negative reinforcement relative to compensation so will not be included here. The two related points though, involving this modified Stroop CNI instrument, are: 1) Is the CNI a good primitive measurement of PAS stress and problem solving and 2) Might the CNI be both a good diagnostic as well as habilitative instrument involving brain-behavior related to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex functions.

A significant problem in the evaluation or measurement of human stress involves establishing a baseline from which deviations (or none) occur. Such deviation scores can estimate stress vulnerability or resiliency involving stress. If we take the CNI apart, i.e. remove the confounding interference, what is left are two very automatic and little or no stress activities. Looking at the normally printed word “red”, even for a moment or second, results in the inability to not read it. And the automatic response is essentially a non-stress activity. Glancing at another person who is wearing a red sweater, even for a moment or single second, results in the inability to not recognize color red. And this automatic response is also a non-stress activity. So, CNI has its own “built in” baseline from which to estimate deviation from by creating the interference factor. Also, regarding the CNI, a reasonably large, normal, population measured on the task will demonstrate strong tendency to normally distribute. This statistical feature also supports primitivity. Finally, in terms of a good stress measure, the unexplained procedure in administering PAS-CNI involved administering the digit symbol subtest, the PAS Activity Level estimator, immediately prior to CNI. The nature of the digit symbol task involves exercising and raising energy which is brought to bear in as quickly as possible matching symbols with numbers – no problem solving, just energy. Presumably this creates a heightened “emotional set” or sensitivity to the CNI. These three characteristics reasonably support CNI as an estimator of primitive stress in personality.

The second point involving the CNI having potential diagnostically and in habilitation, albeit in a rather general or gross-indicator way, also is supportable. Direct observation of persons engaged with CNI reveals stress behavior features. Increasingly pressured speech, shifting around in place, and expressions of frustrations are commonly noted. The most impressive evidence, beside brain-behavior (above) comes from Lumos Laboratory (2013) research involving Lumosity Human Cognition Project. Lumosity has now included a variation of the Stroop in its cognitive training program. They specifically cite diagnostic indicators from their Stroop-like performance studies involving attention deficits, depression, and reading comprehension. The lab also presents evidence of improvement in these areas based upon practice and training with their Stroop task. Good performance is also associated with multi-tasking capacities. PAS describes good CNI performance associated with “poly-active” capacities, i.e. multi-tasking problem solving approaches.

What remains at issue involving the PAS is to better define a Fourth Dimension or, rule out that CNI and the other “stress-problem solving” subtests are more reasonably strong modifiers across the original three PAS dimensions. A major study (Couchon and Duvivier 2013) of the Dimension vs Modifier is underway.


Winne, J.F. & Gittinger, J.W. (1973) An introduction to the personality assessment system. Journal of Clinical Psychology Monograph Supplement 38, 1 – 68

Wechsler, D, (1955 through revisions) Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Psychological Corporation, New York.

Saunders, D.R. (1980) Definition of Stroop interference in volunteers and non-volunteers. Perceptual and Motor Skills 51, 343 - 354

Saunders, D. (1983. 1991) PAS Fourth Dimension Kit. MARS Measurement. Chapel Hill, N.C.

Stroop, J.R. (1935) Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18 643 – 662.

Lumosity (2013) The science behind Lumosity: Color match. Human Cognition Project, Lumos Lab. San Francisco, CA

Couchon A.R. & Duvivier R.S. (2013) Personality Assessment System: A fourth dimension or a modifier variable. (In publication).