Person-Environment Fit Theory: Some History, Recent Developments, and Future Directions


  • Robert D. Caplan,

    Corresponding author
    1. George Washington University
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      ROBERT CAPLAN is Professor of Psychology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine in the Center for Family Research at The George Washington University. His research interests include coping with stressful situations and theories of preventive intervention. He and colleagues are currently conducting longitudinal research on patterns of social interaction that predict to effective coping among couples experiencing unemployment.

  • R. Van Harrison

    1. University of Michigan
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      R. VAN HARRISON is Director of the Office of Continuing Medical Education and Assistant Professor in the Department of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Professions Education at the University of Michigan, where he is also a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Social Research. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan in 1976. His early work centered on person-environment fit and job stress. In recent years, his research has focused on methods to evaluate and improve physician performance and on organizational issues in the delivery of continuing medical education.

Department of Psychology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052 or via e-mail to rcaplan@g-wuvm


In honor of John R. P. French, Jr., recipient of the 1992 Kurt Lewin Award, this article traces French's contribution to the development of person-environment (PE)fit theory. The text examines recent extensions of PE fit theory. Extensions include the introduction of response surfaces to examine the homogeneity of effects of PE fit on indicators of mental health across all levels of P or of E and research examining the antecedents of PE fit. The Lewinian tradition of applying theory to the study of social issues is followed to suggest areas for future research.