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PERSONALITY PROCESSES AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES Intraindividual Stability in the Organization and Patterning of Behavior: Incorporating Psychological Situations Into the Idiographic Analysis of Personality

Yuichi Shoda, Walter Mischel, and Jack C. Wright

In nomothetic analyses, the cross-situational consistency of individual differences in social behavior, assessed in vivo in a camp setting, depended on the similarity in the psychological features of situations. As predicted by the social-cognitive theory of personality, idiographic analyses revealed that individuals were characterized by stable profiles of;/. . . then . . . , situation-behavior relationships that formed "behavioral signatures" of personality (e.g., he aggresses when warned by adults but complies when threatened by peers. Thus, the intraindividual organization of behavior variation across situations was enduring but discriminatively patterned, visible as distinctive profiles of situation-behavior relationships. Implications were examined for an idiographic reconceptualization of personality coherence and its behavioral expressions in relation to the psychological ingredients of situations.

Allport (1937) introduced the concept of idiographic analyses half a century ago, urging personologists to understand each individual deeply in terms of how that person functions, instead of just studying "the operations of a hypothetical 'average' mind" (p. 61). Nonetheless, the idiographic focus has been bypassed by mainstream personality psychology. Probably this neglect reflects not a lack of interest but an absence of appropriate methods and theory for studying individual functioning in ways that are objective and scientific rather than intuitive and clinical. In our view, understanding individual functioning requires identifying first the psychological situations that engage a particular person's characteristic personality processes and the dis-

Yuichi Shoda and Walter Mischel, Department of Psychology, Columbia University; Jack C. Wright, Department of Psychology, Brown University, and Wediko Children's Services, Boston, Massachusetts. Portions of the present results were presented in Yuichi Shoda's 1991 Society of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award address, Columbus, Ohio, October 1991. Preparation of this article and the research was supported in part by Grants MH39349 and MH45994 to Walter Mischel from the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank the administration, staff, and children of Wediko Children's Services, whose cooperation made this research possible. We are especially grateful to Hugh Leichtman and Harry Parad, Wediko's directors, for their support and Mary Powers, Philip Fisher, and Cynthia Scott for their assistance in data collection. We thank Niall Bolger, Nancy Cantor, Daniel Cervone, Chi Yue Chiu, Ying Yi Hong, Kristi Lemm, and Monica Larrea Rodriguez for their valuable comments on drafts of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yuichi Shoda or Walter Mischel, Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.

tinctive cognitions and affects that are experienced in them. Then, an individual's functioning should become visible in the distinctive or unique ways the person's behavior changes across situations, not just in its overall level or mean frequency. For example, a person may often behave in a warm and empathic way with her colleagues at work but almost always in a very critical manner with her family. Another person may show the opposite pattern, so that he is warm and empathic with his family but critical with his professional colleagues. If two people are similar in their behaviors averaged across situations but differ in the situations in which they display those behaviors, are these differences merely a reflection of momentary situational influences? Or do such differences reflect differences in enduring and meaningful aspects of their personality? These are the main questions addressed in this article. In social-cognitive theory,1 individual differences in patterns of behavior across situations reflect such underlying person variables as the individuals' encoding or construals of their experiences, and their expectations, values, goals and self-regulatory strategies (Mischel, 1973, 1990). These relatively enduring person variables within the individual interact with situational characteristics to generate stable but discriminative patterns of behavior. It is these "unique bundles or sets of temporally stable prototypic behaviors" (Mischel & Peake, 1982, p. 754), contextualized in relevant psychological situations, that constitute a locus in which personality coherence may be revealed (Mischel 1990, 1991; Shoda, 1990; Shoda, Mischel, & Wright, 1993a, 1993b; Wright & Mischel, 1987). A major goal of the present


In current usage, the terms social cognitive and cognitive social appear increasingly as essentially interchangeable descriptions of this general approach to personality and social behavior (e.g., Mischel, 1993).

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1994, Vol. 67, No. 4, 674-687 Copyright 1994 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. OO22-3514/94/S3.0O




research was to obtain empirical evidence relevant to the validity of this conception of intraindividual personality coherence. Our analysis of the organization of the individual's behavior is conditional or contextual in the sense that the fundamental unit of observation is not the unconditional probability of traitrelevant behavior (e.g., the tendency to be extraverted), but rather the conditional probability of a given type of behavior in given types of psychological conditions or situations (e.g., Patterson, 1982; Patterson & Reid, 1984; Shoda, Mischel, & Wright, 1989; Wright & Mischel, 1987, 1988). The traditional use of the unconditional probability of trait-relevant behavior is appropriate and useful for many purposes, such as selecting persons on the basis of their predicted future behaviors on average in unspecified situations. However, beyond identifying individual differences in average levels of behavior, we view the intraindividual variability of behavior itself as the behavioral phenomenon of interest. These patterns of if . . . then . . . relations link psychological situations to the person's relevant behaviors (e.g., Mischel, 1973). Responsive to the many calls for a shift from a variable-centered approach in personality research to one that is more person-centered (e.g., Carlson, 1971; John, 1990), our analysis is indeed person-centered and focuses on the within-person (intraindividual) organization of behavior and on personality coherence. However, in the search for intraindividual stability, we do not pursue the traditional configuration of global dispositions or behavioral tendencies that characterize a person (e.g., high in extraversion and low in conscientiousness). Instead, our approach is unique in focusing on how a given type of behavior (e.g., aggression) by an individual varies distinctively but predictably across different types of psychological situations (e.g., ifAheX,butifBheY). Stability in these patterns of if. . . then . . ., situation-behavior relations is predicted to the degree that there is stability in the underlying person variables, such as the individual's ways of construing the situation and his or her relevant goals, values, expectancies, and the like, as they are activated in the particular situation (Mischel, 1973, 1990). Suppose for example that one person encodes events like being teased or provoked by his peer as an offense that requires a response in kind, whereas he sees being warned by his supervisor as a situation in which he has to comply to avoid negative consequences. For another person, however, being teased or provoked by a peer is encoded as normal and acceptable bids for interaction, whereas warning by a supervisor is construed as a personal violation by an unaccepted authority. Such differences in the subjective meaning of different situations, reflecting stable differences in encoding (e.g., Dodge, 1986), may result in activation of different expectancies, goals, values, and other person variables. Behaviorally, the effects should be visible as distinctively patterned if. . . then . . . , situation-behavior configurations, expressed as stable profiles of behavior variability across situations that differ in their psychological meaning for the individual. In the present article, we examine empirical data on the stability of such intraindividual situation-behavior configurations to test this hypothesis. Direct evidence that such patterns of variability in behavior are stable and distinctive within individuals would allow one

to conceptualize them as behavioral signatures of personality, rather than as measurement error or as data contradictory to personality coherence. This calls for an idiographic analysis of behavioral coherence, using an extensive observation system to assess people's behaviors in natural social interactions over many occasions. Unlike many earlier studies of person-situation links that relied exclusively on self-reports, we required behavioral data that would allow us to examine individual differences in people's distinctive patterns of relating to these naturally occurring social situations. In our long-term research program, these patterns were obtained by systematic behavior observations in vivo over the course of a summer in a children's residential camp setting, Wediko Children's Services' summer program in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. The results yielded an extensive archival database that allows systematic analyses to identify personality coherence in behavior as it unfolds across naturalistic situations and over many occasions (e.g., Shoda, 1990; Shoda etal., 1989,1993a, 1993b). Within a given ecological setting, such as the Wediko camp, situations may be conceptualized at different levels and with alternative units (Mischel, 1991; Shoda, 1990; Shoda et al., 1993b). At one level are the nominal situations that have been operationalized in studies of behavioral consistency traditionally (e.g., Hartshorne& May, 1928;Newcomb, 1929; Mischel & Peake, 1982). Typically they were dictated by the structure of the particular ecology (the setting), rather than by their potential psychological impact on, and meaning for, the person or by the generalizability of the observations obtained within them. Usually these nominal situations are highly complex and contain a wide array of different psychological features (Shoda et al., 1993a). In a summer camp, such as Newcomb's (1929) Camp Wawokiye or the present site, Wediko, woodworking, for example, may be a nominal situation that contains such diverse interpersonal psychological events as being praised, frustrated, teased, and punished. Nominal situations such as woodworking in the camp also tend to limit generalizability to other life settings. Thus, individual differences in relation to a specific nominal situation, even if highly stable, necessarily would be of modest psychological interest beyond the setting. On the other hand, at a deeper level, situations may be defined to capture basic psychological features or ingredients that occur in many different nominal situations and settings. In that case, information about an individual's behavior tendencies in relation to them is potentially generalizable to other situations that also contain these features. The utility of analyzing behaviors in terms of their stable relations to particular psychological features, hinges mostly on how widely the features occur in diverse nominal situations and different ecological settings. Table 1 summarizes and illustrates the distinctions among ecological settings, nominal situations, psychological features, and the interpersonal situations used as units of situations in the present study. As the table indicates, such events as being teased, provoked, or threatened are embedded within different nominal situations and contain the salient psychological features that are encoded by individuals and that affect their behaviors dynamically in the stream of social interactions. Just as individuals' responses to particular medications can be understood more fundamentally by considering the specific active ingredi-



Table 1 Examples ofEcological Settings, Nominal Situations, Interpersonal Situations, and Psychological Features

Setting Camp Nominal situations Woodworking Interpersonal situations When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult When peer initiated positive contact When peer teased, provoked, or threatened When praised by an adult When warned by an adult When punished by an adult Psychological features peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative peer, positive peer, negative adult, positive adult, negative adult, negative

Cabin meeting






Watching TV

ents rather than the brand names, the social-cognitive analysis of situations focuses on the psychologically active features of situations. Whereas nominal situations (such as woodworking) tend to contain heterogeneous sets of psychological features, in the present study we focused on interpersonal situations, each of which contains a relatively more homogeneous, distinct set of psychological features (Shoda et al., 1993b), as the units of analysis. The challenge in this type of analysis is to capture those features that are encoded distinctively by perceivers and that activate other relevant cognitive social person variables (e.g., expectancies and values) in the mediating process. Individual differences in response to nominal situations, such as the daily activities within a camp, then, may be analyzed in terms of the person's stable cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to the encoded "active," psychological features within the nominal situations (e.g., Mischel, 1973). These psychological features, in turn, may consist of combinations of even more specific features and may be analyzed in terms of their overlap and similarity. Focusing on interpersonal situations as the situation units of analysis embedded in their nominal situations within the eco-

logical setting of the research site, in this article we examine the consistency and stability of situation-behavior relations that characterize individuals. Guided by the social-cognitive approach to personality (e.g., Mischel, 1973, 1990; Shoda & Mischel, 1993), we pursued an idiographic strategy. Specifically, we focused on the intraindividual organization of behavior in terms of the specific patterns in which that behavior varied across interpersonal situations, examining the stability of this pattern over time within each individual. We hypothesized that there would be significant intraindividual stability in the distinctive pattern by which the person's behavior varied predictably across particular types of these situations, visible as intraindividually stable "profiles" of if. . . then . . . , situationbehavior relations. Second, we examined the implications of these hypothesized intraindividually stable profiles of situation-behavior relations for the nomothetic analysis of cross-situational consistency. Namely, we hypothesized that the same underlying processes that generate stable and distinctive intraindividual profiles of behavior variation across these interpersonal situations also should generate cross-situational consistency in behavior to the



extent that the situations are similar in their psychologically active features. Then the degree of consistency in individual differences in behavior across different situations should be a function of the similarity in the psychological features that they shared. To test this hypothesis, we also examined a more traditional nomothetic aspect of behavior organization, focusing on the cross-situational consistency of individual differences examined separately for each type of behavior observed in each type of psychological situation.


The subjects were the 84 children (60 boys and 24 girls) from the research program described above, who resided for 6 weeks in a summer camp residential setting (Wediko Children's Services) in New Hampshire. They ranged in age from 6 years 5 months to 13 years 2 months, with a mean of 10 years 2 months, and they resided in cabin groups of 6-10 same-sex peers similar in age. This population is characterized by significant social adjustment problems, particularly with inadequate prosocial behavior and aggressive behavior in the home or school environment, and most of the youngsters are from low-income families in the Boston area. Data dealing with other questions and results from the same children assessed in the same setting and summer in thefieldstudy are reported in Shoda et al. (1989, 1993a, 1993b) and Rodriguez et al. (1989).

Method Research Program and Design

The present article reports aspects of a large-scalefieldresearch program conducted at Wediko Children's Services, a summer camp residential program in New Hampshire (Shoda, 1990). The general population and setting have been described previously (e.g., Rodriguez, Mischel, & Shoda, 1989; Wright & Mischel, 1987, 1988). In the research program on which this article draws, a total of 84 children (60 boys and 24 girls, mean age 10 years and 2 months) were observed for the entire duration of one summer session (6 weeks) in the camp. The exceptionally rich database that we collected in this research program yielded a unique data archive for the systematic analysis of social behavior as it unfolds over time and across settings. These data range from highly molecular (e.g., coding of videotaped social interactions in 10-s units), to more molar (e.g., hourly ratings of behavior), to relatively global (e.g., dispositional judgments by counselors at the end of the summer). The data were collected by a team of 77 adult observers (a total of 14 to 28 observers per child), with an average total of 167 hr of behavior observations for each child over the 6-week summer. Our design enabled studies of diverse facets of the organization and nature of the individual's distinctive and stable behavior patterns at various levels of specificity and depth. Specifically, at the level of nominal situations, we analyzed individual differences in the organization of social behavior, focusing on the role of competencies as the characteristic of the individuals and as a demand characteristic of the situations (Shoda et al., 1993a). At the level of interpersonal situations, we addressed the relationships between judgments of global dispositions and the behaviors of individuals who were good exemplars of dispositional categories (Shoda etal., 1993b). We designed the research program to include assessments of interpersonal situations with distinct sets of salient psychological features that are relevant, important, and consensually encoded by people in the population sampled. Five interpersonal situations were selected representing two of the most salient and observable psychological features identified in earlier research (Wright & Mischel, 1988), namely valence (positive vs. negative) of the interaction and type of person (adult counselor vs. child peer) involved in the interaction. Thefivesituations selected to represent each combination of the two psychological features are summarized in the third column of Table 1. Specifically, throughout the 6-week summer, within each hour of camp activity, observers recorded the frequency with which each of thesefivetypes of situations occurred and whether the child responded with any of thefivebehavior categories of interest, namely, verbal aggression (teased, provoked, or threatened); physical aggression (hit, pushed, physically harmed); whined or displayed babyish behavior; complied or gave in; and talked prosocially (Shoda, 1990; Shoda et al., 1989, 1993b). In the present research we tested the hypotheses concerning the nature and stability of the intraindividual organization of social behavior in relationship to these situations from both the idiographic and nomothetic perspectives.

Conditional Probabilities ofBehaviors Within Each Interpersonal Situation

The conditional probabilities of behaviors were based on thefivetypes of behaviors described above, observed within each of thefivetypes of interpersonal situations shown in Table 1. We use the term situationbehavior relation to refer to each of the 25 i/[or when]. . . then . . . conditional probabilities of the five behaviors in response to the five psychological situations recorded (e.g., prosocial talk when teased; prosocial talk when faced with a positive peer contact). The conditional probability of physical aggression when praised by an adult, however, was 0 for all except one child and therefore had little variation across individuals. Thus, this condition-behavior relation was excluded from further analyses. To compute conditional probability of subjects' behavioral responses in each psychological situation reliably, it was necessary that the subjects encounter each situation repeatedly. To ensure adequate reliability and resolution in the conditional probabilities in the analyses reported below, we therefore required that the subject encounter each type of situation at least a total of six times. Individuals differed in the number of times they encountered each of thefivesituations we observed. Specifically, the mean frequencies of encountering each type of situation were as follows (SD shown in parentheses): Peer teased, provoked, or threatened, 10.3 (6.5); Adult warned the child, 42.9 (19.5); Adult gave the child time out, 22.8 (16.0); Peer initiated positive social contact, 39.8 (10.5); Adult praised the child verbally, 66.5 (14.6). We also used this subset to compute cross-situational consistency of conditional probabilities of behavioral responses so that all correlations reported in Table 3 are based on the same set of subjects regardless of the situation pairs involved.

Intraindividual Situation-Behavior Profiles

The if. . . then . . . pattern with which a given type of behavior displayed by an individual varied across the situations constituted an intraindividual situation-behavior profile. For example, Figure 1 shows a situation-behavior profile for verbal aggression for one individual and depicts how the person's verbal aggressiveness varied over thefiveinterpersonal events shown along the horizontal axis. One may plot the absolute conditional probabilities of behavior across situations, but the variability of such a profile would reflect the differences among the situations in how people behave in them in general, constituting the normative level for each situation. For example, most people are more likely to display aggression when teased by peers than when praised by an adult. To plot the aspect of behavior variation that is distinctive for each person, therefore, we subtracted the normative (mean) profile observed in this sample of subjects from the individual's "raw" profiles, and the results were rescaled using as units the standard deviations of the behav-



Child # 17 profile stability: r = 0.96 Child # 9 profile stability: r = 0.89



Child # 28 profile stability: r = 0.49

Child #48 profile stability: r = 0.11



Figure 1. Illustrative intraindividual profiles of verbal aggression acrossfivetypes of psychological situations. The two lines indicate the profiles based on two different, nonoverlapping samples of occasions in which the child encountered each type of psychological situation, shown as Time 1 (solid) and Time 2 (broken).

ior within each situation. In short, the distinctive profile of behavior variability across situations was identified for each individual by the pattern of standardized deviations from the normative pattern in terms of standard scores computed in each situation. Figure 1 illustrates such a profile. In the present analyses, we assessed the stability of these situation-behavior profiles within individuals to test the hypothesis that the distinctive ways in which an individual's behavior varies across situations constitutes an enduring aspect of personality, rather than merely reflectingfluctuationsdue to uncontrolled, random factors.

Indexing Profile Similarities to Determine Their Stability

To index and statistically test the stability of the intraindividual, situation-behavior profiles, the total available observations of each type of situation were randomly divided to form two sets of observations. Within each set, for each subject, conditional probabilities of each type of behavior in each type of situation were computed. This procedure yielded for each person two intraindividual situation-behavior profiles observed on two different sets of occasions. The similarity of the "shapes" of the two profiles was then indexed by an ipsative correlation coefficient, computed within each individual separately, using the interpersonal situations as the units of analysis. For example, if a person's behavior profile for thefivesituations from one set of nominal situations (camp activities) was [ 1.0,0.5,-1.0, --0.5,

0.0], and the one from the other was [0.5, 0.0, -1.5, -1.0, -0.5], the correlation between the two would be +1.0. Note that the correlation essentially reflects the stability of the rank order among the interpersonal situations within the same individual in how the individual's behavior in each situation deviates from the respective norm in each situation. In this example, both profiles indicate that the standardized (i.e., relative to the situation norm) behavior probability was highest in the first situation, followed by the second, fifth, fourth, and then the third. The stability coefficient of +1.0 indicates that the intraindividual rank order of situations was preserved perfectly over time. If the profile from the second set was [-1.0, -0.5, 1.0, 0.5, 0.0], it would indicate a complete reversal of the intraindividual rank ordering of thefivesituations, and the profile stability correlation would be -- 1.0.

Computing Mean Consistency Coefficients Within Versus Across Interpersonal Situations

As noted in the introduction, in addition to the idiographic analysis of intraindividual profile stability we also pursued a more nomothetic route to test the cross-situational consistency of if. . .then. . .relationships separately for each type of behavior in relation to each type of interpersonal situation. Therefore, to test the hypothesis that the degree of cross-situational consistency in individual differences in behavior should be a function of the similarity in the psychological features that

STABILITY OF INTRAINDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOR PATTERNING they shared, we examined traditional, nomothetic, cross-situational consistency coefficients of individual differences in each behavior, computed for each distinct pair of interpersonal situations. To ensure sufficient samples of observations for each type of interpersonal situation, observations from different camp activities were pooled. Specifically, the 14 camp activities were randomly grouped to form two sets of 7 activities, and within each set, conditional probabilities of each type of behavior in each type of interpersonal situation were computed. The consistency of individual differences in these conditional probabilities was computed across the two sets. Different counselors led different activities, and behavior observations were made at the end of each activity on a computer-scored behavior tracking sheet by the counselor who led that activity. Because observations of behaviors in different activities were made by different counselors, consistency coefficients computed across them do not reflect possible links due to overlap in observers. To minimize chance associations present in any specific random grouping of the camp activities, this procedure was repeated 100 times, and the results were averaged using Fisher's r-to-z transformation. These average correlations should be more stable with a smaller standard error than is usually expected for a single correlation, because such averages are less subject to the sampling error associated with the specific random grouping of the 14 camp activities into two sets of 7. If the 100 iterations had been conducted in independent samples, then one should be able to compute the expected standard error of the mean coefficient following the central limit theorem. However, the 100 iterations do not constitute independent samples, and therefore one cannot compute estimates of the standard error by simply applying the theorem, which assumes independence of sampling. Therefore, we used the bootstrapping procedure, whose method and theoretical rationale are described elsewhere in detail (Diaconis & Efron, 1983; Efron, 1981, 1985; Efron ATibshirani, 1986). Briefly, this computation-intensive, nonparametric method of estimating standard errors involves drawing random samples from the obtained data pool and computing the statistics of interest in each random sample. The bootstrapping procedure calls for sampling with replacement; that is, after a subject is drawn from the pool, the chosen subject is replaced back to the pool so that she or he can be chosen again. Therefore, even though it requires forming random samples of the same size as the size of the obtained data pool from which they are drawn, the exact composition of the random sample varies, due to the fact Liat in each random sample some subjects are represented multiple times while some others are not chosen. The distribution across the random samples of the statistic of interest computed in each sample (which in the case of the present analysis is the mean consistency coefficient) provides an estimate of the sampling distribution. Specifically, the standard errors reported in Table 2 are based on 500 such random samples. Within each sample, 10, rather than 100, random groupings of camp activities were made because of the limitation of computer resources; thus, we obtained conservative overestimates of standard errors and p values.


Results Idiographic Analyses oflntraindividual Profile Stability

Figure 1 presents examples of idiographic situation-behavior profiles for individuals, illustrating varying levels of profile stability for allfivesituations. Thefirstprofile in Figure 1 indicates that the pattern by which verbal aggression of Child 17 varied across thefivesituations was stable and distinctive. Specifically, this individual was more verbally aggressive than others when punished by an adult (standard score of over 2.0), but his level of aggression was lower than the average level when teased, provoked, or threatened by a peer (standard score of about 0.5); while in the other three situations his level of verbal aggression

was near average in each respective situation. The two lines indicate the profiles based on two different, nonoverlapping samples of occasions in which the child encountered each type of psychological situation, shown as Time 1 and Time 2. At both Time 1 and Time 2, his profile was characterized by the fact that his level of verbal aggression, relative to the level of the peers in each situation (i.e., the "norm"), was the highest when adults punished him and lowest when another child teased. Child 9, whose profile of verbal aggression is shown in the second panel of Figure 1, was most distinctively verbally aggressive when warned by adults and his overall profile indicated substantial stability. Child 28 (the third panel of Figure 1), on the other hand, was most distinctively verbally aggressive when peers approached him. The profile stability was relatively modest, however, because his profile with regard to the remaining psychological situations changed over time. The last panel of Figure 1, for Child 48, illustrates a case of low profile stability. His profile of verbal aggression was distinctive at Time 1 in that he was most verbally aggressive, relative to others, when praised by an adult, but this was no longer the case at Time 2. As these examples illustrate, children differed widely in the stability and nature of their intraindividual profiles for each type of behavior. To test the hypothesis that on the whole these patterns of behavior variation across situations constitute intraindividually stable profiles, rather than "error variance," the mean profile stabilities for each behavior were computed by averaging each subject's profile stability using Fisher's r-to-z transformation. Because the profile stability is computed ipsatively, we considered each child's observed stability coefficient as independently sampled from a distribution of profile stabilities and tested the statistical significance of the group mean stabilities by t tests as estimates of the sampling error using the standard deviations of the stability coefficients across individuals. The first section of Table 2 shows the mean stability coefficients of intraindividual situation-behavior profiles over all five interpersonal situations listed in Table 1. To provide a reliable assessment of the conditional probabilities of behavioral responses in relation to each situation, yet to retain a maximum number of subjects, we included all subjects as long as'they experienced each psychological situation included in a profile at least six times in the course of the 6-week summer, as indicated in the Method section. Of the total of 84 individuals in the sample, 53 encountered all five situations sufficiently to meet this criterion and thus were included in this analysis. On average, they had mean stability coefficients of. 19 (p < .05) for prosocial talk, .28 (p < .001) for whining, .41 (p < .001) for compliance, and .47 (p < .001) for verbal aggression in their intraindividua! profiles of behavior variability across allfivesituations. It was possible to include more individuals in the analysis by excluding from the profiles the less frequently encountered types of situations. Specifically, excluding the least frequent situation (when teased, provoked, or threatened by a peer), 73 people encountered each of the remaining four types of situations at least six times, and we used that subset of subjects to compute the stabilities of profiles of behavior variability over the four situations. As shown in the second section of Table 2, the average stability coefficients for these profiles were .28 (p <



Table 2 Mean Stability oflntraindividual, Situation-Behavior Profiles of Varying Compositions

Situations All 5 Mean r

t Prosocial talk .19 2.28 52 <.05 .28 3.73 72 <.001 .41 4.17 83 <.001 .20 1.35 52 Whining .28 3.66 52 <.001 .23 2.65 72 <.01 .20 1.08 83 Compliance .41 8.18 52 <.001 .52 9.85 72 <.001 .45 5.18 83 <.001 .45 3.91 52 <.001 .32 2.27 52 <.05 Physical aggression" Verbal aggression .47 5.05 52 <.OO1 .52 6.12 72 <.OO1 .53 4.64 83 <.OO1 .48 3.51 52 <.001



4 situations'" Meanr t



3 situations' Meanr



3 negative situations'1 Meanr

t P


.08 0.57 52 ns





Profile stability of physical aggression could not be computed for profiles that included "praised by an adult" because in that situation this behavior was displayed only by one child in the entire summer. b Excluding "peer teased, provoked, or threatened." c Excluding "peer teased, provoked, or threatened," and "adult gave the child time out (punishment)." d Excluding "peer initiated positive social contact," and "adult praised the child verbally."

.001) for prosocial talk, .23 (p < .05) forwhining, .52 (p < .001) for compliance, and .52 (p < .001) for verbal aggression. Finally, if we also exclude the next least frequently encountered situation (when punished by an adult), all 84 subjects can be included and the intraindividual stability of the pattern of behavior variation across these remaining three situations could be computed. The third section of Table 2 shows the mean stability coefficients for these situation-behavior profiles (consisting of these situations: when peer approached positively, when praised by an adult, and when warned by an adult). The stability coefficients were .41 (p < .001) for prosocial talk, .20 (ns) for whining, .45 (p < .001) for compliance, and .53 (p < .001) for verbal aggression. Together, these analyses show that for a significant proportion of the children in the present sample, the profiles of how each individual's behavior varied over the situations, relative to how others behaved in each situation, tended to constitute a predictable, nonrandom facet of individual differences. If the variations across different types of interpersonal encounters were essentially random fluctuations, or "error variance," the shape of the profiles should reflect only random fluctuation and profile stability would converge to 0 when averaged over repeated occasions and over multiple individuals. The significant mean profile stability obtained over time in these data indicates that that is not the case. It reflects instead the individual's unique if . . . then . . . pattern, visible and stable at this contextualized level of behavior analysis. It is important to note that these intraindividual profiles of behavior variability are independent of the individual's general average levels of the behavior (e.g., mean level of verbal aggres-

sion) in that constant increase or decrease in the average level of behavior (in standard scores computed in each situation) would not affect the shape of the profiles. The statistical significance of the overall results was also tested nonparametrically and conservatively by a sign test. Specifically, we computed the probability of obtaining the proportion of individuals with positive intraindividual profile stability under the null hypothesis of equal chance of obtaining a positive or negative stability coefficient. The results were highly similar to those obtained with / tests, except that for the profiles of prosocial talk behavior over allfivesituations, and for physical aggression over the three negative situations, the sign test yielded p values exceeding .05. Profile stability of whining across five situations is significant at the .01 level, and across four situations at the .05 level, according to this more conservative test. All other significance levels remained unchanged from those indicated in Table 2. Recall that thefivesituations differed in two major features, namely the valence of the interaction (positive vs. negative) and the type of interactant (peers vs. adult counselors), with the former being the most salient aspect of the situations for most children at Wediko (e.g., Susi, 1986; Wright & Mischel, 1988). Thus, we next wanted to determine whether there is evidence for a subtler discrimination even among situations that shared the same valence. A minimum of three situations is needed to compute profile stability coefficients, but our sample of psychological situations included only two different types of situations with positive valence. However, three psychological situations were available for negative valence, making it possible to compute intraindividual profile stabilities among the three negative



situations sampled, namely, being teased, provoked, or threatened by peers; being warned by an adult; and being punished by an adult. The stability of intraindividual pattern of behavior variability over the three negative situations was computed for each subject who encountered them sufficiently in terms of the minimum frequency criterion. As shown in the bottom section of Table 2, for a significant portion of this subsample of 53 subjects, intraindividual patterns of behavior variability were stable for compliance (.45, p < .001), physical aggression, (.32, p < .05), and verbal aggression (.48, p < .001). Thus, the way in which verbal aggression, physical aggression, and compliance varied over the three types of negative situations stably characterized many individuals in the present sample, and the mean intraindividual stability for the sample was significantly above 0. This suggests that for a significant portion of the people in the present sample, these three types of negative situations were psychologically distinct and that their aggressive and compliant responses to each situation were discriminative in ways that stably characterized them. These results go beyond thefindingsobtained in the profiles for allfivesituations, because they show that the shape of the profiles even just among the three negative situations also reflected significant and personologically meaningful intraindividual variance.

sponse to "peer tease" across two independent sets of camp activities was .40, with an estimated standard error of. 16, and was statistically significant at p < .01. The coefficients in the Across column of Table 3 indicate the consistency obtained across different types of interpersonal situations. As expected theoretically, and consistent with the finding of stable intraindividual profiles of behavior variability across situations, individual differences in behaviors across different psychological situations were substantially less consistent than they were within the same psychological situation. In addition to the dichotomous "same versus different" distinction, the pairs of different situations can be further divided in terms of the degree to which the members of the pair are different, and the average consistency reported in the Across column of Table 3 can be grouped in terms of the degrees of similarity between each pair. Using the number of shared features as an index of similarity, we tested the hypothesis that consistency of behavior across psychological situations will be a function of the similarity of those situations in their psychological, active, ingredients. Specifically, the psychological situations in this research program had been selected to vary in the two most salient features of interpersonal situations at the camp (Wright & Mischel, 1988): the valence and the type of interactant. Thus, different pairs of psychological situations can be grouped into those that Nomothetic Analyses ofCross-Situational Consistency: share neither of the two features, one feature, and both features Cross-Situational Consistency in Behavior as a Function to test the effect of similarity. For example, being teased, provoked, or threatened by a peer (negative valence child interacofSimilarity ofPsychological Situations tant) and being praised by an adult (positive valence adult inIn the social-cognitive theory of personality, the basic unteractant) share neither the valence nor the type of interactant. derlying psychological processes that generate the distinctive Being teased, provoked, or threatened by a peer and being and stable intraindividual profiles of behavior variation across warned by an adult (negative-child vs. negative-adult) share psychological situations also have implications for the type of valence but not the interactant. Finally, being warned by an cross-situational consistency in behavior one should expect. adult and being punished by adult are examples of two psychoNamely, the degree of consistency in individual differences in logical situations that are different but that share two features behavior across different situations should be a function of the (both negative-adult). Figure 2 shows averages of the consistensimilarity in the psychological features that they share (Mischel, cies of individual differences in behavior for all combinations of 1973). We tested this hypothesis by computing the traditional different psychological situations reported in Table 3, grouped nomothetic cross-situational consistency coefficients, assessing respectively for 0, 1, or 2 common features shared. The coeffithe stability of individual differences in each type of behavior, cients within psychological situations are shown in Figure 2 as computed separately in each type of psychological situation, as sharing "2+" features because they share the two systematically summarized in Table 3. Recall that for different psychological varied features (valence and interactant) as well as any other situations, different numbers of subjects passed the inclusion feature associated with the particular situation (e.g., two incriterion for computing reliable conditional probabilities (enstances of being "teased, provoked, or threatened by a peer" countering a psychological situation at least six times during the share more than the valence and interactant). The coefficients summer). Therefore, as shown in Table 3, so that all correin the column labeled 2+ were obtained by averaging the conlations are based on the same set of subjects regardless of the sistency coefficients within the "same" psychological situation situation pairs involved, we used the subset of the sample (N reported in Table 3, column 1. 53) that met the reliability criterion for all five psychological situations to compute consistency of conditional probabilities As predicted, as the number of shared features decreased, the of behavioral responses within and across situations. consistency of individual differences in behaviors also decreased. Within the "same" psychological situations (which had The coefficients in the Within column report the consistency at least two common features and may have shared many more), of individual differences in a behavior in response to a specific mean consistency in individual differences in verbal aggression psychological situation observed in one set of nominal situawas .28, and between two different situations that shared two tions (camp activities) and those in the same behavior in refeatures (i.e., when warned by an adult and when punished by sponse to the same psychological situation observed in another an adult), mean consistency in individual differences in verbal set of camp activities. For example, thefirstentry in the table in aggression was .25. When two psychological situations shared the Within column, .40 ± . 16** indicates that the correlation just one feature the mean consistency was .15, and when the between the conditional probability of verbal aggression in re-



Table 3 Mean Consistency Correlations Across Nominal Situations: Within the Same Versus Across Different Interpersonal Situations

Behavior and interpersonal situation Verbal aggression Peer teased, provoked Adult warned Adult punished Peer positive contact Adult praised Physical aggression Peer teased, provoked Adult warned Adult punished Peer positive contact Adult praised Whining Peer teased, provoked Adult warned Adult punished Peer positive contact Adult praised Compliance Peer teased, provoked Adult warned Adult punished Peer positive contact Adult praised Prosocial talk Peer teased, provoked Adult warned Adult punished Peer positive contact Adult praised Within the same interpersonal situation .40 ±.16** .33 ±.10*** .36 ±.10*** .25+ .16 .03 ±.10 .16 + .15 .22 ± .20 .3O±.12* .03 ±.13


Across different interpersonal situations .17 + . 13 .16 ± .12 .15 ± .16 .07 ±.10 .09 ±.10 .12 ± .16 .11 ±.16 .16 ± .16 .01 ±.10


.45 ± .20*** .27 ±.12* .25 ±.13* .25 ±.10* .23 ±.10* .39 ±.17* .26 ±.11** .37 ±.13** .09 ±.11 .07 ± .09 .02 ±.13 .21 ±.10* .11 ±.10 .35 ± .18* .14 ±.09

.15 ± .14 .19±.1O* .14±.13 .12 ± .12 .09+ .11 .10 ± .13 .08 ±.10 .04 ±.12 .07 ±.15 .05 ±.10 .16 ± .10 .11 ±.12 .12 ± .12 .18 ±.09* .16 ± .10

Note. N = 53. The numbers following the ± symbols are bootstrapping estimates of the standard error of sampling distribution for each correlation. Entries show mean correlations of the same behavior (e.g., verbal aggression) across nominal situations in response to either the same or different interpersonal situations. Correlation coefficients reported in the Across column indicate the mean correlations between a behavior observed in one type of psychological situation and the same behavior in each of the four other types of psychological situations. For example, the first entry in the Across column, .17 ± .13, indicates that the mean of the correlations between verbal aggression when teased, threatened, or provoked in one set of camp activities and the same type of behavior in the other four interpersonal situations (i.e., verbal aggression when warned; verbal aggression when punished; verbal aggression when peer approached positively; verbal aggression when praised) was. 17 with an estimated error of. 13. NA = not available. *p<.05. **p<.01. ***/?<.001.

situations shared no common features, as when both the valence and the interactant changed, the mean cross-situational consistency dropped to .06. As Figure 2 shows, the number of shared features was positively and systematically related to cross-situational consistency in four of thefivebehaviors we observed: verbal aggression, physical aggression, whining, and compliance. Cross-situational consistency in prosocial talk behavior, however, was not related in a similar fashion to the number of shared features. Discussion

Stable Patterns ofIntraindividual Variability

In the social-cognitive conception of personality, the specific ways in which an individual's behavior varies from one situation

to another are potentially stable and predictable, constituting a fundamental, nonrandom manifestation of personality that needs to be captured (e.g., Mischel, 1973; Mischel & Peake, 1982; Shoda & Mischel, 1993; Wright & Mischel, 1987). Stable and distinctive patterns of intraindividual variability in behavior are expected from the role of social-cognitive person variables as mediators in the individual's distinctive processing of social information that generate the coherence that characterize the individual's behavior. These intraindividual patterns of variability thus are seen as potential signatures of the underlying stable personality processes that generate them, rather than as measurement errors to be aggregated away. To test the hypothesis that individuals are characterized by stable patterns of intraindividual behavior variability, we examined the organization of this type of personality coherence. The results showed that a significant number of the individuals in



Number of shared features

Figure 2. Consistency of individual differences in behavior across situations as a function of the number of shared psychological features, agg. = aggression.

the present sample were characterized by distinctive and predictable patterns of behavior variation across the particular psychological situations. As predicted, the individual's distinctive profiles of behavior variability observed at different times were significantly similar to each other within a given person and thus relatively stable. In contrast, such profiles from different individuals on average would be expected to have a similarity coefficient of 0, which also was verified empirically by computing profile similarity correlations among all pairs of individuals and calculating their means over many iterations. Thus, the obtained intraindividual stable profiles reflected distinctive and personologically meaningful, nonrandom variance not shared normatively by others in the sample as a whole. Moreover, the patterns of variation across just the three negatively valenced types of psychological situations proved to be significantly stable within individuals over repeated occasions. The latter results indicated that the individuals' discriminations among situations went beyond their overall valence and that they encompassed subtler differences among situations of the same (negative) valence. In the social-cognitive view, these intraindividually stable patterns of behavior variation across situations reflect underlying person variables, such as beliefs and values, and the way different social situations are encoded by the person (e.g., Forgas, 1983). For example, when personality is conceptualized in terms of the goals pursued by the individuals (e.g., Pervin, 1989; Pervin & Furnham, 1987; Read, Jones, & Miller, 1990), or by the cognitive strategies used (e.g., Miller, 1987; Miller & Mangan, 1983; Norem, 1989; Showers, 1992), it is the patterns of stable //. . . then. . . relations, rather than the average behavior tendency, that are expected to reflect more directly the underlying personality differences that distinguish individuals. Regardless of specific theoretical orientation, it is this type of intraindividual stability in the pattern and organization of behavior that seems especially central for a psychology of personality ultimately devoted to understanding and capturing the uniqueness of individual functioning (e.g., Allport, 1937; Mischel, 1973). It is these patterns that also are the basis for inferring underlying motivations and generating explanations about the individual's behaviors (e.g., Shoda & Mischel, 1993; Weiner,

1991). By incorporating such distinctive, stable patterns of interaction into the conception, assessment, and explanations of behavioral coherence, it may be possible to understand in greater depth how and why an individual's behavior varies across specific situations (Mischel & Shoda, in press). It should be noted that the present findings do not speak to variations in behaviors across situations in their absolute levels, for example, in the differences in the number of times people smile at a party and at a funeral. Although confusion on this topic has been frequent, no personologists really expect people's behaviors to be "constant" across diverse situations in their absolute levels. Instead, they have always focused on how an individual's behavior deviates from the respective situation norms (e.g., Joe is more sociable than most people at parties) and tried to demonstrate that this will be consistent from situation to situation (e.g., Joe is also more sociable than most people at the office). Similarly, the present research also focused on how a particular individual's behavior deviated distinctively from the normative levels observed for the group as a whole. However, we did not seek behavioral coherence in the form of consistent individual differences in behavior (relative to situation norms) from one situation to another. Instead, we sought--and found--behavioral coherence in the stable intraindividual patterns of behavior variation across situations that distinguish the individual from others (i.e., from the normative patterns) and that form a part of the person's characteristic behavioral signature--he A when X, but B when Y, and does A most when Z. Analyses of characteristic intraindividual variation of behavior across psychological situations need not be limited to idiographic analyses that identify the signature patterns in behavior that uniquely characterizes a single individual (Nesselroade, 1990). The same type of analyses can be used in nomothetic research to identify groups or "types" of individuals that share certain key psychological processes (e.g., Contrada, 1991). For example, as Kazdin (1990) noted, it has proved surprisingly difficult to characterize disturbed children with such broad labels as "conduct problems," "impulsive," and "socially withdrawn" by identifying common maladaptive behaviors in general. By focusing on the characteristic patterns by which their behaviors vary across psychological situations, it may be possible to identify individuals who share common types of maladaptive, or adaptive, processes that are manifested in a common if. . . then . . . pattern of behavior variation. Thus, focusing on intraindividual, situation-behavior, patterns of variation could address a clinical as well as a theoretical need.

Stable, Distinctive Intraindividual Patterns of Variability Limit the Level ofCross-Situational Consistency

The obtained intraindividually stable profiles of //. . . then . . . relations between psychological features of situations and the person's behavior also have important implications for the pursuit of cross-situational consistency in nomothetic research that seeks behavioral consistency across situations. Namely, as predicted from social-cognitive theory (e.g., Mischel, 1973; Shoda & Mischel, 1993), and as shown formally elsewhere (Shoda, 1990), to the extent that individuals are characterized by stable and distinctive patterns of variations in behavior across situations, there is an intrinsic limit to the levels of cross-



situational consistency across situations that can be expected. This may be illustrated by considering an individual whose behavior in one situation was at the group mean. To the extent that the individual is characterized by a stable and distinctive intraindividual profile of variability, the individual's behavior in a second situation, relative to its normative level, should be stably higher, or lower, than in the first situation. Thus, stable intraindividual variability in behavior implies changes in the individual's rank ordering with regard to a behavior across the situations and necessarily reduces the observable level of crosssituational consistency, as traditionally defined, that should be expected theoretically. In the long "person-situation" debate, the relatively high behavior variation, and consequently low cross-situational consistency of individual differences in behavior across different situations (e.g., Mischel, 1968, 1973; Mischel & Peake, 1982; Ross & Nisbett, 1991), have been misread for many years as if they undermined the utility of the personality construct (e.g., Goldberg, 1993; Wiggins, 1992). In our view, however, this interpretation is valid only if one considers the variability of behaviors within individuals across situations either as "error" or as due to "situation," rather than as a meaningful reflection of enduring personality processes. The presentfindingsprovide further evidence that situation specificity and low cross-situational consistency actually are aspects of the intraindividual stability and organization of personality that can be seen at the idiographic level. They suggest that the expression of personality coherence becomes visible not in the higher cross-situational consistency of individual differences in behavior that has been sought by thefieldfor so many years, but rather in the individual's stable patterns of variability in behavior across situations, which have been viewed as "error" by global trait theory but which may constitute essence for the personologist. Meaningful Personological Variance Is Not "Error" Typically in nomothetic personality research and assessment, intraindividual variability in behavior across situations is treated as error and one aggregates observations from multiple situations to focus on the individual differences in the mean level of the behavior (e.g., Epstein, 1979). However, while aggregation is useful for demonstrating individual differences in average behavior trends, it unfortunately obscures any meaningful patterning of behavior variation across situations and treats it as error variance. Thus, the behavioral signatures of personality seen in the intraindividual, stable ;/. . . then. . . profiles found in this research program would become lost in the process. The stable intraindividual patterns of behavior variability that characterize individuals across situations also presumably are generated by the same underlying mediating processes within individuals that produce thefindingsof significant Person X Situation interaction variance (Endler & Hunt, 1969; Endler, Hunt, & Rosenstein, 1962; Magnusson & Endler, 1977). In fact, the stability of intraindividual profiles is mathematically related to the Person X Situation interaction variance (see Shoda, 1990, for formal derivations). Thus, the characteristic way in which the person's behavior varies predictably and systematically across different situations is exactly the type of be-

havior variation that has been labeled the Person X Situation interaction variance. Traditionally, the behavioral expressions of personality have been seen in stable differences between individuals in their typical levels of behavior averaged across different situations and over time. Consequently, the findings of significant Person X Situation interaction variance were seen as another source of variance, different both from the person component of variance and from the situation component. Viewed from the social-cognitive reconceptualization of personality (Mischel, 1973; Mischel & Shoda, in press; Shoda & Mischel, 1993), however, stable patterns of behavior variation across situations, which make up the Person X Situation variance, are the primary behavioral expression of the individual's distinctive personality and reflect its nature at least as much as the mean differences in behavior between persons (the person component of variance). Indeed, in the social-cognitive conception of personality, the patterns of Person X Situation interactions that constitute intraindividual, stable if. . . then . . . profiles provide an essential route to capturing the distinctiveness of the individual. These if. . . then. . ., situation-behavior profiles constitute basic phenomena of personality that cannot even be defined without reference to the relevant situations--the ife--to which they refer. Effects of Similarity Among Psychological Situations We predicted that individual differences in behavior should be relatively consistent across the same types of psychological situations (within situation-behavior combinations), but less consistent across different types of psychological situations. In contrast, to the degree that behaviors primarily reflect individual differences in overall, situation-wnspecific behavior tendencies, consistency between behaviors observed within the same types of psychological situation (within consistency coefficients) should not be different from consistency observed in different types of psychological situations (across consistency coefficients). As predicted, the data showed that individual differences in behaviors were much more consistent within the same types of psychological situations, even when they were sampled from diverse nominal situations, than were individual differences in behavior in different psychological situations also sampled across diverse nominal situations. This general relationship has been hypothesized often (e.g., Krahe, 1990; Lord, 1982; Magnusson, 1991; Magnusson & Ekehammar, 1973; Magnusson, Gerzen, & Nyman, 1968; Pervin, 1977; Price & Bouffard, 1974). In a typical study, for example, it has been shown that individual differences in behavior in a laboratory situation with unstructured social interactions were more consistent with those in a similar unstructured laboratory social interaction than they were with behavior in a laboratory debate on capital punishment (Funder & Colvin, 1991). The present analyses attempted to move beyond demonstrating greater consistency in essentially the same situations compared with very different situations by analyzing situations in terms of the psychological features that are important in determining the behavior of interest in the ecology of the setting. The results indicated, as expected, that as the number of the psychological features that are shared between situations increased, the con-



sistency of individual differences across those situations also increased. From Nominal Situations to Psychological Features In spite of much discussion about the importance of situations (e.g., Bern & Funder, 1978; Funder & Colvin, 1991; Lord, 1982), research into their role in behavior organization has identified them in terms of what we consider nominal situations specific to the particular setting: the activities and places of daily life routine. In such field study sites as Wediko, or in Newcomb's classic summer camp Wawokiye (Newcomb, 1929), these nominal situations have involved such regularly scheduled events asfishingand trampoline and eating in the dining hall, or in the Carleton College study (Mischel & Peake, 1982), events in classrooms, a library reserve room, or dormitory rooms. Personality psychologists traditionally have dismissed situation-specific individual differences in behavior as not very informative or generalizable in part because they operationalized situations in terms of the traditional, nominal units. In fact, if such behavior tendencies are specific to a particular nominal situation, there is little generalizability because each nominal situation contains its own configuration of features of unspecified psychological ingredients. In contrast, in the present approach, we conceptualized situations in terms of their psychological, "active" ingredients or features. These psychologically active features of situations constitute a main part of the individual's personal experience and "life space." Individuals are not justfishingor doing athletics: They are being provoked, teased, threatened, warned, praised, sought out, or shunned. These encounters and events, embedded in diverse nominal situations, contain psychological features--or active ingredients--that interact with the individual's unique configuration of social-cognitive person variables to generate a distinctive behavioral signature. To the extent that such features are found widely in various nominal situations and settings, the stable configuration of // . . . then . . . relationships will constitute a coherent pattern that "stays" with a person across diverse nominal situations and settings. Then it should be possible to incorporate into the analysis of personality coherence people's specific interactions with particular situational features without sacrificing generalizability. For example, a child who at a summer camp may be characterized by the profile of compliant behavior when warned, but very aggressive behaviors when punished, may be characterized by the same profile at home or at school in relation to psychological features of situations. If the psychological meaning of relatively molar nominal situations can be analyzed in terms of more basic psychological micro features of situations, it should become possible to understand and predict people's interactions with them with increasing precision. In idiographic assessment it is useful to identify for each person a characteristic set of "activating psychological features." For example, for Child 17 in Figure 1, the "activating feature" for aggressive behaviors is being punished by an adult. For Child 28, on the other hand, peer positive contact constitutes a single most prominent activating psychological feature for this behavior. If one knows the psychological ingredients of a given nominal situation (e.g., frequencies of each type of psychological fea-

ture contained), then one may be able to predict the nominal situations in which a given person will be likely to display this behavior. The pattern by which a person's behavior varies across the nominal situations will depend on the frequency or salience of the psychological features that activate the relevant behavior for that individual within the particular nominal situations encountered. Because individuals are characterized by distinctive sets of activating features, the pattern by which a given person's behavior varies across the situations also is expected to be distinctive but potentially predictable. Our approach to identifying the psychologically active ingredients of situations is of course not the only route. The units of situations used need not necessarily be at the level of single interpersonal interaction, and interpersonal interactions are not the only psychologically significant aspects of situations (e.g., Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990). For example, in a related study also conducted at the samefieldsite and with the same subjects, units of nominal situations such as camp activities were characterized in terms of the types of competencies they demanded. As predicted, cross-situational consistency in behavior was found to increase as a function of the similarity in these types of demands (Shoda et al., 1993a). Likewise, an earlier study in the same setting but with a different sample was focused on the overall levels of cognitive, social, and self-regulatory competencies demanded by nominal situations and found that individual differences in aggressive behaviors in situations that were more demanding were more strongly related to the global dispositional ratings of aggressiveness than were aggressive behaviors in less demanding situations (Wright & Mischel, 1987). Moreover, many important psychological features of situations involve internal states, such as "when stressed" (Bolger & Schilling, 1991), "when angry," and "when frustrated," that must be included in a comprehensive analysis of the individual's if. . . then . . . , situation-behavior profiles (Wright & Mischel, 1988). Although not all psychological features are part of everyone's personality signature, social-cognitive theory proposes that all persons have such characteristic patterns with regard to particular sets of them that activate their distinctive configuration of person variables (Mischel, 1973, 1990). Consequently, the individuals' characteristic ways of processing social information become revealed in the patterning of their behavior in relationship to those features of situations. The continuing challenge then is to identify for each individual, or group or type of individuals, the critical psychological features, to assess distinctive and stable patterns of behavior variation across them, and to understand the psychological processes that generate them. Toward Idiographic Personality Psychology The social-cognitive reconceptualization of personality of course recognizes the existence of broad overall average individual differences at the aggregate level with regard to which most people can be compared on most dimensions (Mischel, 1973). Whereas such overall average differences are highly informative, our basic thesis is that essential aspects of personality coherence become visible in the intraindividual pattern of variability, rather than in the traditional cross-situational consistency coefficient (Mischel, 1973, 1990). The present research, we hope,



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has demonstrated that rather than threatening the existence of the personality construct, an explicit focus on the relationships between psychologically relevant contexts and the individual's behaviors in them are vital for the conception of personality and expand its domain (also see Mischel & Shoda, in press). Although intraindividual coherence has long been a central concern for personologists, it has proved difficult to find objective, systematic methods for assessing and identifying its behavioral manifestations. The intraindividual patterns of behavior variability, the configuration of if. . . then . . . , situationbehavior relations illustrated here, far from undermining the concept of personality actually enable idiographic studies of personality and thus provide a systematic method for personality psychology's most enduring basic goal (e.g., Allport, 1937; Bern & Allen, 1974; Magnusson & Torestad, 1993; Mischel, 1968). By addressing not only the average level of behavior (e.g., overall agreeableness) but also when, where, and with whom it occurs, one can see the individual's distinctive, coherent, and systematic patterns of behavior variation and glimpse the psychological processes and person variables that underlie them. Most earlier work within an idiographic framework has been restricted to the individual case, and most nomothetic research has tended to be focused on the hypothetical "average mind" that Allport (1937) hoped the psychology of personality would transcend. In contrast, the present study suggests a new route that is not limited to a single individual and allows potentially generalizablefindingsof broad relevance while still retaining an essentially idiographic, person-centered focus. First one analyzes the intraindividual organization and regularities of individual functioning, as seen in the stable, intraindividual patterns of behavior variability. Then one seeks features of such patterns that are common to groups and types and other categories of persons who share similar underlying personality processes. Finally, one identifies the mediating personality processes that underlie and generate these patterns.



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