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Personality, Interpersonal Theories of

  1. Aaron L. Pincus

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0669

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Pincus, A. L. 2010. Personality, Interpersonal Theories of. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. Pennsylvania State University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The origins of the interpersonal tradition in personality and clinical psychology are found in Harry Sullivan's highly generative interpersonal theory of psychiatry, which considered interpersonal relations and their impact on the self-concept to be core emphases in understanding personality, psychopathology, and psychotherapy. The interpersonal legacy that emerged from Sullivan's work is now in its fourth generation and has dramatically evolved over a nearly 60-year history, increasing in level of theoretical integration, methodological sophistication, and scope. Throughout this history, interpersonal theories of personality have had a reciprocally influential history with research programs that have culminated in well-validated, empirically derived, circular (or circumplex) models and methods that are used to describe individual differences in interpersonal motives, dispositions, and behaviors. The integration of interpersonal theory and the interpersonal circle provides a coherent nomological net for the integrative study of personality, personality assessment, psychopathology, psychotherapy, health psychology, and behavioral medicine (Pincus & Cain, 2008; Pincus, Lukowitsky, & Wright, in press). Thus interpersonal theories of personality (IPC) include multiple methods to assess the interpersonal constructs associated with circumplex structural models, and they tie operational definitions of reciprocal interpersonal processes and patterns of validity in interpersonal behavior directly to these models. Figure 1 presents a contemporary version of the interpersonal circumplex model.


  • personality theory;
  • interpersonal circumplex;
  • interpersonal complementarity;
  • agency and communion