of personality description developed by John W. Gittinger is called
the Personality Assessment System or PAS. A prime postulate of
the PAS is that the human personality is so complex that it can
not be adequately understood nor characterized by the limited
dimensionality of any of the prevailing heuristic models.
this limit and to portray the indisputable multiformity of personality
and its subtle richness of diversity, the Gittinger PAS model
hypothesizes three basic dimensions and six collateral dimensions.
The result is a nine-dimensional model. Moreover, since the PAS
also takes into account the interactions between these
nine dimensions, the many degrees of freedom thus brought into
being allow the PAS to map far more variability in personality
attributes than is possible in any the currently popular models.
with which these many degrees of freedom can be used to explain
variance in personality characteristics is treated elsewhere in
this Web site; in this section we are concerned only with describing
the PAS model and the hypotheses upon which it is based.
of the PAS
to Gittinger's system, both personality structure and personality
function may be considered as the result of three determinants.
These determinants interact with one another over the period of
growth from birth to adulthood and, together, produce that person's
characteristic patterns of action and reaction, internal and external;
in other words, what we refer to as the person's personality.
These three determinants are:
personality characteristics. These are refered to in the PAS
as the "primitive" personality pattern. The primitive
pattern is that with which the infant enters the world.
- The environment
in which the person develops. This includes, in particular,
the nature and strength of the forces for personality change
that the maturing child experiences during the developmental
period up to about thirteen to seventeen years of age. These
pressures (or the lack of them) produce what the PAS refers
to as the "basic" personality pattern.
events in which further change may (or may not) occur. These
later forces (or the lack of them) extend into early adulthood
to produce the "contact" or superficial personality
pattern which all adults present in their day-to-day contact
the Personality Assessment System regards the determinants of
personality as starting with native endowment which may (or may
not) be changed by two levels of susequently-learned adjustments.
The final outcome -- the adult personality -- results from a complex
interaction of these factors. The purpose of the PAS is to provide
a systematic way to comprehend, analyze and communicate the nature
of this complex interactional process.
important to note that the PAS holds process interactions to be
crucial to an understanding of personality structure and function.
The PAS is
not a linear model in which more of this or that factor
necessarily implies more of this or that consequence. To the contrary,
it is often found that more of a particular factor will be related
to either more or less of some particular behavior
-- depending upon the strength of some other factor present
in the person's pattern.
upon interaction of personality attributes is one of the
major cogencies of the PAS; it is also the reason the PAS is sometimes
dismissed as "too complicated."
is natural to prefer simple models, we should note that simple
models which adequately encompass the diverse and multifold facets
of the human personality seem not yet to have surfaced in the
mainstream of personality theorizing. In fact, it is our position
that models which are both adequate and simple are not possible.
glance, the PAS model does appear complex. Nonetheless, it circumvents
much of the annoying inconvenience of complexity by also offering
a comprehensible and easily-learned notational "shorthand."
This notation method permits both easy apprehension and communication
of the concepts inherent in the PAS. Any particular pattern of
personality may be expressed in its rich fullness and conveyed
to others with a few symbols and minimal prolixity once one has
mastered the PAS idiom.
then, native personality endowment, as the system interprets it,
includes three fundamental components, or primitive dimensions
of personality. The infant's position on these dimensions are
regarded as inherent in that, from birth onward, they predetermine
the quality and direction of the individual's selective tendencies
in both awareness and response. Such predetermination is both
positive and negative in that it establishes the general lines
along which the individual will be:
to develop, and,
from development by rendering other orientations alien.
personality structure provides an inherently preferred type of
reactivity. From the very beginning of life, how an individual
responds, as well as to what he responds, will be essentially
in accord with this fundamental pattern, until or unless external
interference forces change upon him.
As the individual
develops, he is confronted with the task of reconciling his primitive
personality pattern with various environmental and social demands.
These external pressures require him to adapt his inherent needs
to the requirements of reality. By acquired (learned) alterations
to his primitive personality tendencies, then, the individual
is enabled to overcome, in part, the limitations which his native
personality structure imposes on his inherent ability to adjust.
We will discuss this later, but let us now explain the dimensions
along which personality change may (or may not) occur.
Dimensions of Personality
to the three levels of personality development over time, the
system also regards an individual's personality structure in terms
of three major dimensions or continua. These dimensions, to be
more fully described later, include:
- The Externalizer-Internalizer
(or E-I) dimension,
- The Rigid-Flexible
(or R-F), and,
- The Acceptable-Unacceptable
(or A-U) dimensions.
previously, these three dimensions cannot be regarded as discrete
entities, since their interaction is far more important in determining
personality structure than is any of the structure's single components.
The brief accounts which follow are therefore considerably over-simplified
by the omission of interaction, and still further by an emphasis
on direction without consideration of degree.
As a result,
the dimensions are described initially as if they were dichotomous,
while the system, in fact, does not regard them as merely
nominal, either-or, scales. Rather, the dimensions of the PAS
can be shown to be ratio scales; for large samples, distributions
of scores across them approximate normal distributions. Nevertheless,
as a heuristic simplification in the discussion to follow, we
shall treat the PAS dimensions as if they were dichotomous. Please
bear in mind that, in doing so, we are, in effect, talking about
personality characteristcs that tend to fall at the extremes of
people will be found at these extremes on all the dimensions though
many will be found to quite divergent on one or more of the dimensions.
And, since it is usually exactly these divergences that create
real-life problems, the following discussion is far from totally
Externalizer-Internalizer Dimension of Personality
and the Internalizer represent polar extremes on the Externalizer-Internalizer
personality dimension. The Externalizer or E, is perceptually
dominant, environmentally sensitive, and more responsive to external
than to internal cues.
Externalizer, or E, is more interested in doing than in thinking.
His perception is relatively specific and concrete. His emotionality
is directed outward, he is primarily environmentally dependent,
and he seeks his major psychological satisfactions in relationships.
He has difficulty, however, in situations which require ideational
awareness, self-sufficiency, and control of his natural tendencies
toward activity and relatedness. He is usually seen as a dependent
person who makes many demands on those in his environment. At
the same time, however, he is involving, expecting those in his
environment to respond in kind to his overtures. The E's locus
of experiential reality is "out there."
Internalizer or, I, on the other hand, is ideationally dominant,
self-sufficient, and more responsive to internal than to external
cues. The I individual will seem primarily passive, tending toward
withdrawal, and is usually more inclined to thinking than to doing.
He perceives in abstract rather than concrete terms. His emotionality
is directed inward, he is primarily self-contained, and he seeks
his major psychological satisfactions in the privacy of his own
experiences. His problems lie chiefly in the need for controlling
his tendencies toward passivity and withdrawal, in increasing
his perceptual reactivity, and in learning how to relate to others
on a genuinely interpersonal basis. The I's locus of experiential
reality is "in here."
respects, the E-I dimension is similar the familiar Introvert-
Extrovert dimension of most other models. However, as later discussion
will reveal, they are far from identical)
Rigid-Flexible Dimension of Personality
and flexibility are the polar extremes of the Rigid-Flexible dimension
of personality. The Rigid or R, individual reacts
to a limited number of specific, well-defined stimuli, on which
he can focus and concentrate. The range of his reactivity is narrow.
He is not easily distracted and is characterized by psychological
attributes such as attention, concentration, and set. He tends
to compartmentalize, and his psychological "insulation"
restricts his awareness, making him emotionally insensitive and
self-centered. He has difficulties in situations requiring qualities
such as sensitivity, sympathy, and insight.
the Flexible or F, person has a wide range of reactivity, and
tends to be simultaneously aware of a large variety of stimulii.
He thus has difficulties in concentration, and his threshold for
confusion is low. He is characterized by psychological traits
such as sensitivity, empathy, and insight. However, lacking psychological
"insulation," he tends to react to any stimulus that is
presented by the environment; he ignores stimulii only with difficulty.
His major problems lie in restricting his inherently generalized
reactivity sufficiently to enable him to focus and concentrate.
Acceptable-Unacceptable Dimension of Personality
and Unacceptability are the polar extremes of the Acceptable-Unacceptable
personality dimension. The terms refer to the individual's role-playing
adaptability; that is, to his inherent skill in adapting to the
requirements of his cultural milieu. The Acceptable
or A, individual is socially versatile, and can make rapid, appropriate
role adjustments in different situations This facility, though
not necessarily reflecting true emotional involvement, tends to
create a highly favorable impression. As a result, the acceptable
individual usually encounters a high degree of interpersonal acceptance.
One of his major problems lies in the demands that others make
of him to live up to the high expectations which his own social
adeptness has engendered.
or U, individual, on the other hand, is relatively inept at role
playing. He is therefore forced to apply the few roles with which
he is familiar to whatever situations he encounters, regardless
of their appropriateness. He is thus more apt to experience rejection
rather than acceptance and the first impression which he makes
is often unfavorable. His chief problems, then, are to overcome
this unfavorable initial impression, and to increase his social
to the Primitive Tendencies
hypothesizes various kinds of adaptations, or adjustments, which
the individual can make in connection with each of his three primitive
personality tendencies. These adjustments are regarded as occurring
at two levels.
- The more
fundamental of the two levels is that of "Compensation,"
a term which refers to long-range and comparatively stable adaptive
tendencies which occur throughout childhood and,
which represent the second level of adaptation, including the
less stable adjustments which the individual makes in the later
phases of his development.
which follows begins by describing the nature of Compensation,
continues with an account of the later Modification tendencies,
and concludes with a description of ways in which compensatory
and modifying tendencies can exert their respective influences.
definition, Compensation, or the first, or Basic, level of adjustment,
is the tendency of an individual to acquire the orientation and
attributes of primitive tendencies opposite those inherent to
him. For example, the primitive Externalizer or E, learns, through
Compensation, to become more ideationally aware, passive, and
self-sufficient. Similarly, the primitive Internalizer or I, compensates
by becoming more perceptually aware, more active, and more envirormentally
activities, then, are not inherent in the primitive personality
structure. They are acquired tendencies, externally induced and
environmentally determined. They are long-term, (usually life-long)
developmental adjustments which, in combination with the individual's
primitive personality structure, eventually become his characteristic
external and internal frame of reference, achieving stability
and persisting across time. When compensatory activities have
been completed, the individual is regarded as having reached the
second, or "basic" level of personality development.
of Compensation is highly desirable as a prerequisite for adequate
functioning for most people. Exclusively ideational or perceptual,
rigid or flexible, acceptable or unacceptable types of awareness
and response are clearly insufficient to enable an individual
to cope successfully with the many different kinds of situations
in which he will find himself. To this extent, then, an adequate
adjustment is greatly facilitated by the development of at least
some of the attributes and orientations which are opposite to
the individual's primitive tendencies. In fact, a complete lack
of compensation often leads to a starkly one-sided and improverished
development in whatever dimension it may occur.
Internalizer (I), for example, whose natural tendency remains
entirely unchecked, often turns in the direction of autistic withdrawal,
and may easily become schizophrenic. The completely uncompensated
Externalizer (E), on the other hand, has failed to develop an
internal frame of reference. He thus loses the ability to make
appropriate discriminations within the perceptual field, becomes
indiscriminately reactive, and loses contact with reality. Many
children diagnosed as having "Attention Deficit Disorder"
are probably extreme E's who have reached the middle-years of
childhood without having achieved any compensation in the E-I
mode of adaptation toward which a person tends in this connection
is hypothesized to depend on several complex factors. The most
important of these is probably the strength of the primitive tendencies
inherent in the individual himself.
precipitating change are, however, mostly external. These are
supplied by the environment in which the person develops. Prime
among these environmental factors are the strengths of the pressures
put upon an individual to exhibit behavior opposite that called
for by his primitive tendencies. This presure can be of two forms:
received for behavior opposite that called for by the child's
innate pattern and,
received for behavior that is in accord with the child's primitive
may also influence compensation. A child may, on his own compensate
in order to overcome a physical weakness or to capitalize on an
unusual strength. Identification with a role model often leads
to self-instigated compensation as do, in some cases, particularly
traumatic or rewarding experiences.
in the vast majority of cases, one factor predominates in determining
whether or not the child will broaden his repertoire of coping
skils beyond those provided by his primitive tendencies by the
process of compensation. That factor is the quality of the acceptance
which he receives from his parents or parent surrogates. This
is particularly true in the early years of childhood.
parents, in the main, approve and support the child's primitive
tendencies, he will accept himself as he is. He will therefore
tend to retain his inherent personality features in relatively
unaltered form, having no powerful motivation to change them.
perhaps, an irony here. It seems likely that the widely-practiced
child-rearing tactic of complete acceptance, though laudable
in motive, may, in many cases, deprive children of coping skills
they would later value highly if they had them. It also seems
very probable that the practice of total acceptance may doom
other children to the retention of disfunctional primitive patterns
they find later to be totally unsuited for life as adults.
Process in Summary
then, a child's development will proceed along inherent lines
if permitted to do so. Lacking environmental pressure to acquire
the attributes of the opposite pattern, development in the opposite
directions will fail to take place. The outcome is that, when
a child has been permitted to develop primarily in accordance
with his primitive tendencies, he is characteristically relaxed,
and essentially free of major conflicts, guilt- feelings, and
anxiety. This type of development occurs, for example, in the
primitively externalized child, whose perceptual dominance and
naturally high activity level have been met chiefly with acceptance.
It is equally characteristic of the fundamentally internalized
child who has not suffered rejection because of his internalized
attributes. The penalty paid for such courses of development
is the lack of a wider range of coping skills which would have
otherwise been made available for later life had compensation
of the individual's personality, in connection with each of
the other primitive dimensions, is reasonably parallel. The
primitivly Rigid, or R, child who has not been induced by external
forces to depart from his inherent inclinations will remain
Rigid, just as the initially Flexible, or F, child whose natural
developmental course has not been checked will retain his dominant
primitive social Acceptability or Uacceptability will not be
altered or relinquished unless change is environmentally initiated
and externally forced. Whenever an individual has not been pressured
into developing compensatory activities to offset the limits
of a primitive tendency in his personality structure, that tendency
is regarded by the system as "uncompensated," or as retaining
its inherent dominance.
other hand, the quality of the individual's interaction with
the environment may engender more disapproval than acceptance
of the child's primitive tendencies. The parents may tend to
reject and punish him for displaying the behaviors prompted
by his Primitive pattern. They may reserve their praise and
approval for his attempts to acquire tendencies opposite those
of his innate leanings. In such cases, the child will be pushed
away from his natural inclinations and forced to develop along
opposite lines. He will therefore begin to turn his energies
toward altering, rather than expressing his primitive tendencies,
and compensatory activities will become his major developmental
emphasis. While external pressure begins with the parents or
parent surrogates, it is continued throughout the entire process
of socialization. It is supplied by other adults in the environment,
such as teachers, and later also by contemporaries, whose influence
becomes increasingly important.
conflict, as the PAS interprets the term, is the result of the
development of compensatory tendencies, especially if they are
sufficiently strong to result in over-compensation. Compensation
forces the individual to reject and to defend himself against
the tendencies of his primitive pattern; such a course will
be undertaken only if guilt feelings have been aroused. The
development of compensatory activities, then, is closely associated
with an individual's attempts to escape from feelings of guilt.
can serve as a method by which guilt feelings are handled and
controlled, it also represents a form of adjustment which is
achieved and maintained at some psychological cost. An individual
can conceal his primitive tendencies from others, and even from
himself with varying degrees of success. However, though he
can exclude them even from his own awareness, he cannot render
them non-existent. Their continuing operation, whether it be
at conscious or unconscious levels, can only serve to increase
both his guilt fee]ings and his anxiety.
orientations then, are always characterized by some amount of
tension. In fact, tension is a major observable difference in
the respective behaviors of, say, a compensated Internalizer
and an uncompensated Externalizer. Both will manifest perceptual
reactivity and high levels of activity. Both will be relating,
outgoing, and environmentally dependent. In one case however,
that of the compensated I, these attributes have been acquired
at the expense of psychological pain, and are maintained to
avoid still further pain. Conflict and inner tension is the
begin to see how the PAS conceptualization of the E-I dimension
differs from the conventional Introvert-Extrovert scale. Both
the uncompensated E and the compensated I will be seen as "extroverts"
but they are very different people.
relaxed" extroverts are probably uncompensated E's. "Driven,
'Type-A'" extroverts are probably compensated I's. The outward
behavior may be superficically similar but the psychodynamics
behind that behavior is vastly different. Comparable differences
will be seen as we explore the other dimensions of the PAS.
Compensatory tendencies, then, are undertaken by or forced upon
the individual to protect the ego from threat, and are accompanied
by tension primarily because of their defensive nature.
where the acquired overlay of compensation has not been sufficiently
strong to force the primitive tendency entirely out of conscious
awareness, the kind of conflict which ensues has the advantage
of partial recognition by the individual of his own true nature.
The PAS regards such orientations as suppressed states, in which
partial control over conflict can be exerted, and, in consequence,
a feasible solution remains a possibility.
other hand, where the primitive tendency is strong and the intensity
of compensation is also great, acute defensiveness will result,
and repression will occur. Here, the conflict operates at a
level beyond the individual's awareness, so that conscious control
is no longer possible, and effective solutions cannot be achieved.
Tension and anxiety increase, but their source is now entirely
unknown to the individual himself.
is the name given to the second, or Contact, level of personality
adjustment; the level acquired by an individual as he enters
adulthood. Since this level is achieved during the later stages
of development, it lacks the stability of the compensatory tendencies,
and is more vulnerable to stress. Modification does not operate
on the primitive tendencies directly, nor does it achieve the
powerful masking strength of which compensation is capable.
The fundamental distinctions between modification and compensation
do not lie in direction, but rather in the temporal sequence
of their developments, and in the intensity of their effects
and compensatory tendencies unite to form the basic level of
the individual's personality structure. Later, his modifications
will be added, to form the surface layer of his personality,
or as the PAS terms it, his "Contact" personality. The
contact level is the least tenacious of the three levels of
personality formation, and the one which breaks down most readily
under stress. Its relative vulnerability is in marked contrast
to the high degree of stress resistance which characterizes
the basic level of personality.
individual's basic structure has been firmly established, a
stress situation of truly disruptive intensity is usually required
to force the basic level to yield. Any return of the individual's
Primitive components represent profound regression.
Effects of Compensation and Modification