The System-Topics Framework and the Structural Arrangement of Systems within and around Personality


  • I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Bob Emmons and Dan McAdams, whose careful editorial work led to a much-improved article. Dennis Mitchell and Glenn Geher assisted me with the classification ratings of systems in and around personality. Dennis Mitchell, who has assisted me with previous system-topics articles, contributed a number of suggestions. Rebecca Warner has also contributed extensively to both past articles and the present one, especially assisting with a critique of Figure 2. Others from the University of New Hampshire Psychology Department served as ad hoc reviewers, including Elizabeth Stine and members of the Social/Personality lunch group. Heather Chabot, Kevin Carlsmith, Victor Benassi, Ellen Cohn, Bill Peterson, and Shelley Strowman. A thoughtful letter from Jerry Burger in response to an earlier system-topics article encouraged me to distinguish the system-topics approach from the study of psychology more generally. Finally, Christopher Monte reviewed a nearly completed version of the present manuscript and made a number of helpful suggestions.

regarding this article may be sent to John D. Mayer, Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, 10 Library Way, Durham, NH 03824-3567.


ABSTRACT The field of personality psychology possesses rich theories and excellent research, but few good means to communicate them. The system-topics framework is an integratory approach that divides the study of personality into three central topics and their subdivisions: (a) the components of personality, (b) the organization of those components, and (c) the development of those components and their organization over time. The present article describes the system-topics framework and then examines the addition of a potential new topic useful to an improved exposition of the field: the structural arrangement of the component systems in and around personality. A three-dimensional model of these systems is created that can synthesize the many spatial metaphors used in earlier personality theory and research. The reasons for integrating this structural model within the system-topics framework and how such integration can be accomplished are discussed.