Posts tagged ABCD

The BioPsychoSocioEnvironmental model

Most of us have heard about the BioPsychoSocial model of mental illnesses and have also heard about the stress-diathesis model. Today as I was contemplating the two, taking cue from my ABCD model of psychology, I tried combining the two and find quite some merit in that approach.

Schematic of diathesis–stress model.

Schematic of diathesis–stress model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To recap, BioPsychoSocial model says that any disease is a result of multiple interacting factors- some of them biological in nature while others psychological and social. The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind and together they may lead to health or illness. This model is as opposed to the BioMedical model which considers the disease to be predominantly due to biological factors.

The stress-diathesis model posits that people have underlying biological or psychological vulnerabilities and when exposed to an environmental stressor may develop a mental disease with varying probabilities. The same stressor may be harmless to a person who does not have those many vulnerabilities, but prove detrimental for someone with the right kind of vulnerabilities.

Combining the two models together, one can have biological, psychological or social diathesis or vulnerabilities and when exposed to the right environmental toxin/stressor may lead to the emergence of a mental health issue in the individual.

To  elucidate by way of an example. Consider a person whose serotonin neurotransmitter system is such that he typically has lower levels of baseline serotonin. This would be a biological vulnerability to depression. He also has tendency towards negative automatic thoughts or pessimism.  This would be a psychological vulnerability. Moreover he has limited social support and is unmarried and from a low SES background. This would be the social vulnerability. Strike three. On top of this, lets say he suddenly loses hos job and is laid off. That environmental life event may be enough to drive this person to clinical depression.

The BioPsychSocioEnvironmental model has application not only in psychopathology, but I believe its a powerful framework for normal development too. For e.g., if we replace diathesis-stress model with differential susceptibility thesis  then the diathesis or sensitivity to context can interact with both positive and negative environmental events to lead to positive or negative life outcomes.

To me combining the two models is immensely fruitful; hope you too find it useful.

To thrive in life invest in these 8 psychological constructs

We all want to excel in life and various psychological constructs have been proposed that can help us in this mission. These range from grit(mostly used in academic domain) to PsyCap (mostly used in work domain) to the concept of deliberate practice (mostly used in niche domains).

That's My Goal

That’s My Goal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grit has been proposed to be made up of passion and perseverance; passion itself being made up of investment of time and effort regularly in activities that one finds important, loved and self-defining (i.e. one identifies one’s self with the passionate activity).

PsyCap is made up of Confidence (self-efficacy), Hope, Resilience and Optimism; Hope itself being made up of Agency (goal directed energy) and Pathways (planning to meet goals).

So with so many constructs floating around which ones are basic and which ones derivative?

I propose the following eight basic psychological constructs, which if focused upon can lead to well-being and success in life:

  1. Purpose: Everyone should start with defining their life purpose. Once defined, it provides a general direction and decision-pulse for all your decisions, actions etc.  It is the super-ordinate goal of your life and all other goals should be subordinate and aligned to this.  A firm commitment to this purpose provides the motivation/ drive to achieve and flourish. This acts as the ‘narrow’ polarity of the fundamental four ABCD model by restricting our choices, once purpose is determined and defined. This is the end goal.
  2. Pathways : If purpose is the end goal, pathways are the means or subordinate goals and strategies to achieve that super-ordinate goal.  It enables one to flexibly take stock of the progress towards the end goal and adjust or change the means goal to continue momentum towards the end goal. As Angela Duckworth says ‘ “Go, go, go until you can’t go anymore…then turn left.” This acts as the ‘broad’ polarity of the fundamental four ABCD model by expanding our repertoire of responses.
  3. Positive narratives: We all tell stories to ourselves and our view of past is not objective but actively constructed. And its better to tell positive stories to ourselves than otherwise. This is related to learned optimism. As per Seligman, one should make stable, internal and pervasive/ generic attributions about positive events and temporary, external and specific attributions about negative events. This eventually enables us to  have a positive image of our abilities in the past and leads to hope and self confidence that we will be able to achieve in future too. This is related to ‘other’ polarity: how we interpret what happens to us via others .
  4. Positive self-belief: Call it confidence, call it self-efficacy or call it even agency ; this is belief in one’s own ability and efforts to lead to positive outcomes.  This is obviously related to ‘self’ and is cognitive in nature.
  5. Perseverance: This is being in for the long haul. When set upon achieving a goal, time is not a constraint, and one would continue investing time into the pursuit; if setbacks happen, one rebounds or emerges more determined. One does not change one’s goal or strategy easily. This is also related to resilience. This is ‘passive ‘ polarity as one reacts to setbacks / obstacle when they happen, but otherwise just continues investing time and energy. This is behavioral in nature.
  6. Practice: This is ensuring that efforts are not a constraint when it comes to achieving the goal. One is willing to work hard to archive ones goals and one actively and regularly and diligently puts in that effort. This again is ‘active’ and behavioral in nature. The willingness to put in hard work can again be developed like other constructs.
  7. Passion: This is not the regular definition of passion; by passion here I mean a consistency of interests and a fascination with a subject. It includes things like not getting distracted or waylaid by competing interests and also not letting you interest wane or fade over the time. It is obviously related to emotions and is the ‘pain’ polarity as an obsessive passion may sometime lead to pain.
  8. Playfulness: This is about having a playful attitude when working towards your goals;  it includes things like enthusiasm towards the goal, enjoying the journey by having flow experiences and being engaged and curious. This too is emotional in nature and is related to ‘pleasure’ polarity.

Some other construct are a composite of these; hope is a composite and so is deliberate practice or resilience.

Similarly, there are other constructs like task commitment ( like perseverance, endurance, hard work, but also self-confidence, perceptiveness and a special fascination with a special subject) which cover almost all of these.

I believe the above has great utility and can be a good framework for studying non-ability , non-personality factors that lead to exceptional performance. I am excited and look forward to other people adopting this model for their research and conceptualizations.

emotions and personality: take 6

Cover of "Personality Disorders in Modern...

Cover of Personality Disorders in Modern Life


Today I learned that Theodore Millon died. I started reading ” personality disorders in modern life” as a tribute to him, but the monkey mind that mine is, ended up writing this post instead.


To recall, Theodore Millon’s model talked about four fundamental evolutionary problems faced by all humans: 1) existence 2) adaptation 3) replication and 4)  abstraction. There were also two polar ways of approaching each fundamental problem; that of pleasure-pain; activity-passivity; self-other and I added to it the fourth polarity of broad-narrow. Anyway those polarities need not concern us for this post.


There is an influential model of emotions – the PAD model which views emotions, not as discrete basic emotions, but as dimensional in nature and thus different emotions differ from each other not as entities in themselves, but as graded multi-dimensional affects.


To elaborate, while the lay man may think of emotions as a few basic discrete emotions like sadness, happiness, anger, love, wonder, disgust, fear , interest etc. , as per this theory the emotions are complex graded amalgamations of a few basic fundamental dimensions.


As per this PAD theory, the first dimension is valence / pleasure/ pleasantness etc. which tells us whether the emotion colloquially feels ‘good’ or ‘bad’ . As we all know , no emotion by itself is bad; negative emotions have their own benefits, if invoked for a short amount of time and are situation specific; and the benefits of positive emotions is self-evident. BTW, some people consider ‘flow’ which is a sort of neutral emotional condition to be better that either.


The second dimension is Arousal/ energy/ vigor etc which tells us how strong the emotion is and how much it arouses us. Some emotions like courage arouse greatly (not just the person displaying courage, but also subtly the people witnessing it) while other emotions can have a calming effect (like love and compassion { depends what sort of love one is talking about 🙂 } )


The third dimension is dominance/ potency etc. and to my mind represents the ability of emotion to take control of you (/ others ? ). The immediate example that springs to mind is anger, but then so can be interest/ fascination. In either case, you empower your emotions to rule over you than vice versa.


The for-now-final dimension that I (and others) have added to the PAD model is predictiviness/transparency of the emotion:  whether it is hard to predict/ discern in oneself/ others or is consistently and transparently available to self/ others.


How does this relate to personality?


While reading the first chapter of Millon, I had the insight that one analogous personality dimensional structure we can talk about is as follows:


1) Strength/ existence of personality: whether one has ‘a personality’ / quirks in the first place. How (ab) normal one is; where one fits on the normal curve of personality traits distribution. Analogous to emotions, personality quirks have a function; those familiar with evolutionary theory will know why outliers are necessary for survival (of the species).


2) Fitness/ adaptability of personality : whether one can fit in with the social norms/ changing landscapes. Lay men think of people in terms of having a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ personality; in reality people are just responding to the environment and adapting. The behavior of some people is flexible, while for many its more rigid.


3) Centrality/ hold of personality: whether the quirks that make you unique form the average person, are central to your self-definition or have peripheral value; whether you want to shape/ influence/ mold loved others (like spouse, child etc)  as per your values or are OK with the differences.


4) Consistency/ integrity of personality: whether you are consistent in your thoughts, words, actions etc. or are comfortable with contradictions. (as and aside, a philosophical question is whether there is consistency behind contradictions and contradiction behind {apparent} consistency). With the cognitive revolution, much focus has shifted here. Using a information processing metaphor, much of new personality research like Daryl Bem‘s self-perception theory or Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory revolve around the idea of being consistent; either by changing your behavior or your self-image or maybe the language and words you use etc. etc. For eg. my counseling teacher used to say you can either be as comfortable as Gandhi (who he said used to sleep peacefully like a child whenever he got some time) or you can be as uncomfortable as OSHO.


So how does this relate to my ABCD model (or even the PAD model outlined above??) ? I’ll leave that as a homework exercise for regular readers. For now, let me just briefly touch upon the terms we use in personality research.


1. Temperament : more about what ‘Nature’ has endowed you with. He has an ‘irritable temperament’


2. Character : more about how ‘Nurture’ has shaped this character.


3. Personality: more about what ‘passions’ drive you.


4. Image: more about being ‘prudent’.


Let me elaborate. I have previously blogged about false dichotomies. I believe Nature Vs Nurture is a false dichotomy.  Everyone knows that. What about the new dichotomy I am introducing (Passion vs. Prudence) ?  As I mention in my false dichotomy blog post, Passion is about habits- using the power of your sub/ un-conscious mind – choosing for once , by way of habits, rituals etc. what you want to choose in times of crisis (on auto-pilot etc.). Prudence is about trying to reason, using whatever information is available at hand (including your gut reactions)- not necessarily conscious- but using bounded rationality- coming to a decision afresh at each choice point.


As I had mentioned in my false dichotomy post, Passion via prudence is more about making meaningful choices and a belief in choice/ free will. Nature via Nurture is all about proving the right environment to people to make their best attributes shine out. Running out of how to phrase ({Passion via Prudence} via {Nature via Nurture}) and what it is all about. Maybe you can help?

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Schizophrenia: 4 a’s and ABCD

The term Schizophrenia , as many of the readers will recall, was coined by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist , who  intended the ‘split personality’ to reflect the fact that there was an underlying dissociation between various functions like memory, cognition, emotion that are normally integrated in normal people.

He also gave the famous 4 a’s that he presumed lied at the core of the schizophrenia and were fundamental aspects of the disorder.

To recall:

‘affect’: Inappropriate or flattened affect-emotions in-congruent to circumstances/situation.

autism’: social withdrawal- preferring to live in a fantasy world rather than interact with social world appropriately.

‘ambivalence’ : holding of conflicting attitudes and emotions towards others and self; lack of motivation and depersonalization.

‘associations’ : loosening of thought associations leading to word salad/ flight of ideas/ thought disorder.

Bleuler maintained that these distinctive and fundamental  features identified and formed the core of Schizophrenia while the manifest symptoms like hallucinations and delusions (first rank symptoms as per Schneider) were peripheral and not that important).

The readers of this blog will also be familiar with the ABCD model of psychology where Affect, Behavior (social aspects), Cognition and Desire (motivation/ dynamics)  are the four fundamental domains; it is easy to see how the four a’s of Bleuler map to the 4 domains of psychology and it seems that schizophrenics have major troubles in each domain:

affect: this directly maps to Affect dimension and inappropriate affect is a major core part of the syndrome.

autism: though named somewhat incorrectly the intent of autism was to catch the behavioral and social impediments of the schizophrenics.

ambivalence: here there are conflicts and ambiguities regarding what one desires; for self and for others; lack of motivation/conflicted motivation  is significant at this dimension.

associations: here the cognitive underpinnings are all too evident- the thought disorganization and flight of ideas is all too cognitive in nature.

It is amazing how the insights of Bleuler from a century before lend themselves so easily to fit the ABCD framework. What do you think, a bit stretched? or have I started making loose associations myself 🙂 ?

2 factor theories of personality

Simple emoticons of the four temperaments cita...

Image via Wikipedia

While most people are generally aware of the five factor model of personality (that is the FFM or OCEAN model that is revealed by factor analysis), the two factor models of personality may not be that readily apparent, though most readers will be familiar with some form or the other of the 2 factor models of personalities like the four humors/temperaments of the Greeks or the enneagrams or the temperaments used in Kiersey personality sorter.

In brief, two factor models of personality posit that individuals differ on two bipolar dimensions and that one’s personality type or temperament can be determined based on whether one is high or low on these 2 dimensions. for eg consider factor 1 and factor 2 as the 2 underlying personality factors; then there would be 4 typical temperaments : high factor 1, high factor 2; high factor 1, low factor 2; low factor 1, high factor 2; and low factor 1, low factor 2. Typically the extremes of the bipolar factors would be named such that low factor 1 corresponds to some trait and high factor 1 to opposed trait and similarly for factor 2.

The scheme becomes sometimes more complex by not mandating that a personality type lies on extremes, but positing that the balanced or middle value of these factors is also relevant; in these cases up to 9 personality types can be created by using the 3 typical values (high, mid, low) of the two factors. Enneagrams uses this schema.

To clarify by way of an example, the ancient Greeks posited 2 underlying personality factors – a hot-cold factor that coded the response-delay as to whether response was quick or slow to follow an event; and a dry-wet factor that coded whether the response was sustained or subsided quickly. This resulted in 4 temperaments: sanguine ( Air i.e. hot and wet; quick onset and quick offset; the happy-go-luck personality ) ; choleric (Fire i.e. hot and dry ; quick onset but prolonged offset; the energized or angry personality) ; Phlegmatic ( Water i.e. cold and wet; prolonged build-up but quick offset; the hard-to-provoke calm personality) and finally melancholic (Earth i.e. cold and dry; prolonged onset and prolonged offset ; the classical brooding personality) .

As one can see from the Wikipedia page on 2 factor models of personality, there are a lot of theories that define their personality types on the basis of 2 underlying factors one of which is factor 1 (the Wikipedia page cites that as extroversion scale) and teh second is factor 2 (which the Wikipedia labels people-task orientation scale, a nomenclature to which I am more sympathetic).

There is a table listed at the end of the Wikipedia article and form a cursory look at the table one can see that the interpretation of the two factors have changed from time to time; it began as affect/emotion based interpretation; got morphed into behavioral terminology; briefly flirted with motivational constructs that lead to character types(refer Fromm) and finally also had some recent cognitive interpretations. I am a big proponent of the ABCD model of psychology and the eight stage models of personality; I have formerly reconciled the ABCD model with eight personality factors/stages by following Theodore Millons approach whereby each Affect, Behavior, Desire (Motivation) and Cognition is split in 2 underlying polarities viz, pleasure/pain; active/passive; self/other and broad/narrow respectively.

While reconciling the above I have also been acutely aware that I am more focused on the person side of personality rather than the situation side of personality. Those who are aware of the person-situation debate in personality psychology will be aware that any analysis that focuses on person to the exclusion of environment/situation is not doing full justice to the study of personality or psychology. To remedy that I propose that while factor 1 in each ABCD domain can be used as a proxy for the splitting of Affect, Behavior, Desire or Cognition under the 2 polarities and in internal focused , the factor 2 is more in relation to the environmental/ situational effects and is more external.

If you have lost me till now, please bear patience. Let me clarify by way of an example. consider the DiSC theory and assessment produced by William Martson. He proposed 2 factors ; Factor 1 is Active/passive with reference to behavior of person and Factor 2 is open/controlled or favorable/antagonistic with reference to the environment one chooses to operate in/ finds oneself in. Thus, his definition of DISC as follows:

Dominance, which produces activity in an antagonistic environment; with a feeling of unpleasantness until stimulus is acted upon
Compliance, which produces produces passivity in an antagonistic environment; with a feeling of unpleasantness until stimulus is reconciled
Inducement, which produces activity in a favorable environment; with a feeling of pleasantness increasing as interaction increases
Submission, which produces passivity in a favorable environment; with a feeling of pleasantness increasing as yielding increases

Of course he is working on 2 levels – the Affect level where he discusses feelings and emotional tone and stimuli and the Behavioral level where he discusses active/passive behavior in a appropriate environment. With this I am all set to propose my new 16 factors theory of personality that may also bridge the gap between ABCD model of personality/psychology, the eight stages /factors theory of personality and the 16 personality factors or the 16 MBTi types.

To recall, Affect is the first stage/domain where pleasure/pain polarity is operational; I propose we also take in account a second polarity/factor as to whether the stimuli causing pleasure(pleasantness)/ pain(pleasantness) is present/being introduced or being recalled/ is absent. Let us call this factor Stimuli present/stimuli absent.

Behavior is the second stage/domain where active/passive polarity is operational; here the effect of environment can be subsumed under the polarity of whether the environment is favorable or antagonistic. Let us call this factor env favorable/antagonistic .

Desire is the third stage /domain where the motivational impetus can be either Self /Other focused. Here the environment/situational factors to consider are the significant others or the desirable objects – be it things or peoples . I call this polarity of being concerned with objects the things/ people factor.

Cognition is the final fourth stage/domain where the operational polarity is that of Broad/narrow – or put another way abstract(generalized) and concrete (specialized) ; here I posit that the system which is being cognized can be either chaotic/ orderly and that view of how the system is conceived results in factor of system chaotic/orderly.

Let me now elaborate all the 16 different types that emerge once one takes all these 2 factors (diff for each domain) and the 4 domains (ABCD) under consideration.

Affect driven combinations/types :

  1. generally feels pleasant due to presence of stimuli (a happy-g-lucky sanguine person; predominant emotion : joy; ‘reward’ driving factor in terms of reinforcement theory)
  2. generally feels pleasant due to absence of stimuli ( a lazy , lethargic., contended phlegmatic personality; ‘relief’ in terms of reinforcement theory) .
  3. generally feels unpleasant due to presence of stimuli ( an angry person energized to remove that stimuli; choleric with predominant emotion anger and ‘punishment’ driven in terms of reinforcement theory;)
  4. generally  feels unpleasant due to absence of stimuli (a sad person grieving loss of a beloved object ;melancholic with  predominant emotion sadness and ‘penalty’ is the reinforcement principle in use)

Behavior driven combinations/types

  1. Actively strives in favorable environments. (Influence/Inducement in DiSC terminology)
  2. Actively strives in even antagonistic environments (  dominant in DiSC terminology)
  3. Passively accommodates in even favorable environments (Submission/ steadfastness in DisC terminology)
  4. Passively accommodates in unfavorable environments ( Compliance in DiSC)

Desire /Motivation driven combinations/types leads to Fromm’s Character orientations

  1. Accommodating others with a focus on people – Marketing Character orientation as per Fromm
  2. Accommodating others with a focus on things – Receptive orientation-Fromm
  3. Assimilating in self the other people – Manipulative orientation-Fromm
  4. Assimilating in self with a focus on things- hoarding orientation-Fromm

Cognition driven combinations can be correlated with Hermann Brian dominance Instrument

  1. Broad/generalized synthesis of chaotic patterns ( Imaginative thinking style)
  2. Broad/generalized synthesis of ordered  patterns (Interpersonal thinking style)
  3. Narrow/specialized analysis of chaotic patterns ( Sequential thinking style)
  4. Narrow/specialized analysis of orderly patterns  ( Logical thinking style)

Of course I would love to correlate the cognitive factors with the Beauty and sublime factors of Kant but am unable to paint a coherent picture at this time. Maybe one day I will.

How do you find the above marriage of ABCD theory with 2 factor models of personality? do let me know via comments.



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