CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY
Although initiated in the 1940s, the movement to internationalize counseling psychology in the United States only began to pick up steam over the past decade. Many messages have been sent articulating the utility of cross-cultural competence, but it has taken some time for these messages to take root. Since 2000, there has been an accelerated interest in international perspectives in U.S. counseling psychology journals, a supportive infrastructure in U.S. professional associations, growing interest in training international students, and increased cross-national communication and collaborations. Moreover, counseling and counseling psychology professions are vigorously growing around the world, with a multiplicity of professional identities, training and credentialing standards, and professional service delivery models in evidence to address a broad range of societal needs.
Several authors have suggested that the biggest challenges for U.S. psychologists, including counseling psychologists, is overcoming ethnocentrism (e.g., Cheung, 2000; Gerstein, 2005; Heppner, 2006;Leong & Blustein, 2000; Marsella, 1998; McWhirter, 2000; Norsworthy, 2005; Pedersen & Leong, 1997; Segal, Lonner & Berry, 1998). During the 1980s, some counseling psychologists questioned the value of such international experiences. McWhirter (2000) wrote that “my professional colleagues were supportive and happy for me, but many could not understand why a counseling psychologist would want to take his family to Turkey for anything other than a brief tourist trip, and some even questioned that” .It was not uncommon for the motivations of counseling psychologists interested in international topics to be questioned, with the presumption that they are “only looking for an excuse for foreign travel” (McWhirter, 2000, p. 118). Undoubtedly, such attitudes and beliefs among U.S. counseling psychologist affected the development of the international movement in the counseling profession in the past. When we are unaware of cultural issues, it is difficult to know what we do not know; this lack of awareness significantly restricts understanding, sensitivity, and appropriate responses. Based on the U.S. multicultural literature, exposure may be an important first step in breaking down ethnocentric walls. Qualitative and single-subject methods in conjunction with quantitative designs may be useful for scholars who choose to examine ethnocentrism and ways to reduce its limiting influences (see Morrow, Rakhsha, & Castaneda, 2001, regarding qualitative research designs that can be applied to studying cross-cultural ethnocentrism).
Enhancing Cross-Cultural Competence
Historical analysis of the past 60 years suggests that the U.S. counseling psychology profession has evolved from the notion of “helping” our international colleagues and moved toward building mutually beneficial, egalitarian cross-national collaborative relationships. However, building such relationships is often a complicated and challenging process that is not well understood. As Heppner (2006) noted, “it is all too easy to offend our international colleagues, and at the same time, all too easy for us to become anxious or feel offended as well” (p. 169). Such feelings often inhibit further development of cross-national collaborative relationships. Thus, a key issue for the future of the profession is enhancing cross-cultural competence (Heppner, 2006). Anumber of scholars have written about various aspects of cross-cultural competence (e.g., Heppner, 2006; Leong & Ponterotto, 2003). Marsella and Pedersen (2004) provided a wide array of suggestions for internationalizing the counseling psychology curriculum. At this point, a major challenge for U.S. counseling psychologists is not only overcoming our ethnocentrism, but also deconstructing and thereby understanding the ambiguous construct of cross-cultural competence. Cross-cultural competence is so basic and fundamental to the internationalization movement, but also so ambiguous and overwhelming at the same time. The challenge is not only to define and assess cross-cultural competence (i.e., attitudes, knowledge, awareness, and skills), but also to learnhowto promote it in the next generation of counseling psychologists. Given the dearth of information on this topic, qualitative methodologies and singlesubject methodology may prove useful in promoting model building.
Cultural Sensitivity versus Imposed Etics in Theory Development
A number of cross-cultural psychologists have warned of the dangers associated with the monopoly and hegemony of Western models of science (e.g., Gerstein, 2005; Leong, 2002; Marsella, 1998, 2006; Norsworthy, 2005). An important challenge is to recognize that our theoretical models may work in the United States but not necessarily in other countries. Cross-cultural psychologists have labeled this ethnocentric tendency in scienceimapsosed etics—the assumption that the theories and models that apply to a person’s cultural group are universal and can be easily applied to other cultural groups. There are several approaches to including a cultural context in psychological theories (Heine et al., 2004; Leong, 2002). The first is thueniversalismapproach where culture is considered to bean unimportant and nuisance variable that needs little or no attention. The cultural variable is essentially ignored. This universalism approach serves as the foundation for “imposed etics.” The second is theculture assimilationapproach wherein cultural differences are recognized but minimized based on the “melting pot” assumption that other racial or cultural groups will assimilate to mainstreamAmerican culture (Western European culture). To the extent that these groups assimilate, mainstream psychological theories and models will work equally well with them. In the international realm, this implies that Western models can be transported to other cultures and that globalization will make it relatively easy for these models to be assimilated into other countries. Leong and colleagues (Leong & Lee, 2006; Leong & Serafica, 2001; Leong & Tang, 2002) have proposed another approach, the cultural accommodation model (CAM). This model aims to identify the missing cultural elements in the Western models from a cross-cultural perspective and potential culture-specific variables that can be used to address these cultural lacunae in Western models. This model involves three steps: (1) identifying the cultural gaps or blind spots of existingWestern theories and models that restrict their cultural validity, (2) selecting current culturally specific concepts and models from cross-cultural and ethnic minority psychology to fill in the cultural gaps and modify or accommodate the theory to these cultural groups, and (3) testing the culturally accommodated theory to determine if it has incremental validity beyond the culturally unaccommodated theory. Most important, the CAM model strongly suggested that psychologists as scientists should test the theory or model with demonstrated incremental validity provided by the culture-specific variables (Quintana, Troyano, & Taylor, 2001). Asignificant amount of cross-cultural research is aimed at evaluating the cultural validity ofWestern models when applied to other cultures. In some instances, the Western models of psychology will be found to be culturally valid and more than adequate when directly applied to cultural groups in other countries or regions. In other instances, some of the cultural validity studies will find problems and inadequacies in Western models. It is important to note that although a Western model, or a modified Western model using the CAM or any other approach, might be able to predict or explain a particular phenomenon (e.g., psychological adjustment) in another culture outside the United States, it may not necessarily depict the most important constructs to explain a particular phenomenon in that culture. Although Western-based instruments have been appropriately translated, back-translated, and predict intended outcomes in other cultures, the cultural assumptions inherent in those inventories may not necessarily include the most important psychological constructs pertaining to that phenomenon in a non-Western culture. For example, U.S.-based applied problem solving and coping inventories have been utilized in many cultures around the world. But Heppner et al. (2006) found very different coping factors when Asian values and customs were utilized to create items; these East Asian coping factors depicted other psychological constructs that do not appear in U.S. models. In short, the underlying cultural assumptionsbionththeWestern models as well as the target culture must be adequately addressed in applying any psychological models from one culture to another. Thus, another approach is to first identify constructs and build theoretical models based on the cultural assumptions and customs of that particular culture, and then examine howWestern-based constructs (and their underlying values) that have been particularly useful in the United States might add to a particular cultural model. This approach is more in line with the development of indigenous models to explain psychological phenomena in a particular culture and similar to the derived etic method in cross-cultural psychology research (Berry, 1989 ). In short, identifying the match underlying the assumptions/cultural values of both cultures is a critical step to becoming culturally sensitive in cross-cultural theory development. Just as we cannot assume that a Western theory of counseling is automatically going to work for other cultural groups, we cannot assume that certain culture-specific variables being added in any approach are automatically going to improve the cultural validity of the theory in question Gerstein, & Canel, in press). It is quite conceivable that different versions of a culturally sensitive model will have to be tested before the best set of variables can be found. The major foci andchallenge for counseling psychology cross-cultural research is to develop knowledge bases and to interpret what we have observed in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way.
Supporting and Extending Indigenous Psychologies
Related to the need to avoid imposed etics, there has been a movement in cross-cultural psychology that calls for the support oifndigenous psychologieass a countervailing force to the wholesale exportation ofWestern models of psychology to other parts of the world (Kim & Berry, 1993).Aquote from Durgan and Sinha (1993) in a chapter on indigenous psychology in India captures the essence of the problem quite well: When modern scientific psychology, based on the empirical, mechanistic, and materialistic orientations of the West, was imported into India as part of the general transfer of knowledge, it came in as a ready made intellectual package in the first decade of the cent.u.r.yI.nfact, this transfer in a way constituted an element of the political domination of theWest over the third world countries in the general process of modernization and Westernization . . . . Research conducted was by and large repetitive and replicative in character, the object being to supplement studies done in the West . . . . Thus, the discipline remained at best a pale copy of Western psychology, rightly designated as a Euro-American product with very little concern with social reality as it prevailed in India.
With the increasing internationalization of U.S. counseling psychology, it is incumbent on us not only to examine the cultural relevance of our models of counseling in other countries but also to support the identification, development, and evaluation of indigenous models of helping as potentially equally valid ways of healing. Indeed, many of these indigenous models predateWestern models of counseling and psychotherapy. We also have much to gain by testing the generalizability of the knowledge and theories developed in other countries to U.S. populations. Our international colleagues have developed tremendous knowledge bases through their research and practice spanning hundreds and thousands of years. Ponterotto (Chapter 8, this volume) addresses the potential utility for U.S. counseling psychologists to apply knowledge on thmeulticultural personalitythat has been developed in the Netherlands. Moreover, the culturally related knowledge from other countries has the potential to help us conceptualize novel intervention strategies to address old problems. For example, the collectivistic-based school counseling program (Chao, Wang, & Yang, 2006) in Taiwan has tremendous potential for U.S. school counselors. Our challenge is to identify relevant knowledge bases developed in other countries and test their applicability to solving problems in the United States.
Promoting the Integration of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Foci
American counseling psychologists need to promote the integration and coexistence of multicultural and cross-cultural foci. In the past, there has been some tension between psychologists engaged in the U.S. multicultural movement and those engaged in cross-national activities. Sometimes the tension seems to result from the belief that a focus on cross-cultural issues will diminish or detract from a focus on multicultural issues, or vice versa. Henderson, Spigner-Littles, and Milhouse (2006) cited the necessity of understanding both indigenous and foreign cultures, “if practitioners are to understand traditional African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Mexican Americans, they must first understand traditional African, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican cultures” (p. vii). A common goal of both foci is to promote the understanding of the role of culture in human behavior, and the absolute necessity of utilizing a cultural context in all aspects of our work as counseling psychologists. An increased sensitivity to the role of culture in understanding human behavior makes us better counseling psychologists. It is incumbent on scholars to demonstrate how multicultural and cross-cultural foci can build on and enrich one another in the service of common goals.Challenge 6: Promoting Cross-National Research Collaborations Time and space have shrunk, making communication and travel across national borders commonplace. At this time, U.S. counseling psychologists often travel to different countries; learn from others’models, worldviews, and experiences; and work collaboratively with international colleagues. It is more than abundantly clear that human beings’ emotions, cognitive functions, motivations, reasoning, problem solving, and many other psychological constructs are learned, displayed, and interpreted in cultural contexts. Cross-cultural research has the potential to greatly enhance the knowledge bases in our specialty. Moreover, as responsible and culturally sensitive researchers, we need to obtain data from more international samples to expand knowledge bases.
It has been almost 30 years since the first call for diverse methodologies (Gelso, 1979), which has had a significant impact on counseling psychology (Heppner, Wampold, & Kivlighan, 2008). We envision another methodological revolution, one that will spark a fundamental change in the way we structure research questions and ideas, as well as conduct and evaluate research. Future researchers will constantly consult and collaborate with their international colleagues to exchange the latest research findings, formulate their research ideas in multinational research teams, collect data from many different countries, and discuss their results across various cultural contexts. Their papers will be reviewed by U.S. and international editors and reviewers. The challenge for the counseling profession is how to promote and conduct meaningful cross-national research and create cross-cultural knowledge bases in counseling psychology. Two strategies to promote cross-cultural knowledge are by composing cross-national research teams and by conducting research on immigrant or international populations in the United States. The different cultural assumptions among members of international research teams can create obstacles and challenges. International research collaboration involves time, energy, and a good deal of relationship development. Research team members with different cultural perspectives may require more cross-cultural problem solving.As with domestic research teams, it is essential to start with networking and relationship building to get to know potential research collaborators. There is a need for more information about what factors promote successful cross-national research. Onestrategy is to identify “best practices” by studying cross-national research teams that have been more and less effective. Another strategy is to study “best practices” in training the next generation of crossnational researchers in our graduate programs. It might also be useful to study successful cross-national researchers to identify effective coping strategies, communication styles, and personality variables.We need to know much more about the factors that promote successful cross-national research teams.
Promoting Culturally Valid Practice around the Globe
Counseling practitioners worldwide often find inspiring new ideas from their foreign peers. Tai Chi and meditation are accepted as being therapeutic by a larger audience in the United States more now than 10 years ago. There is currently an active exchange of practical experiences with cohorts from different countries. There is a growing interest by U.S. researchers in the mental health and career needs in several Asian countries, most notably China. There is also interest in exporting U.S. counseling knowledge, philosophy, and techniques to China. However, we are responsible for ensuring that our knowledge, philosophy, and techniques are culturally relevant in different environments. Practice developments in counseling can greatly facilitate understanding of how culture affects the counseling process and outcomes across different cultures. A major challenge is not only to internationalize U.S. counseling practice, but also to validate, present, and publish research on the utility of cross-cultural practice.
Enhancing and Promoting International Education
There are a number of unaddressed questions about the type of training that is best for international students. Most if not all of theAPA-accredited doctoral programs train students in U.S.-based assessmentmodels, counseling theories, and intervention strategies. Although the multicultural movement has broadened the U.S. training model overall, it remains aWestern model based onWestern values. Some colleagues maintain that international students enrolled in U.S. training programs should be able to counsel effectively in the United States and, indeed, some international graduates do seek employment in the United States. But should the mission of our training programs be bound to U.S. culture alone, or should it include the ability to work in other cultures? Should we have additional or different training goals for students intending to return to their home countries? Are these students expected to attain the same level of skill using Western counseling methods as U.S. students? Should an Asian international student who plans to return to his or her country also learn how to confront a client in ways that include relevant Asian values (e.g., interpersonal harmony)? One challenge facing the counseling profession pertains to the training goals for international students who plan to return to their home countries, or who have different worldviews and interpersonal styles that fit an individualistic culture more or less well. A related challenge pertains to understanding how international students can promote the understanding of cultural differences and sensitivity in our training programs. A recent study found that 90% of counselor educators sampled agreed that the cross-cultural perspectives of international counseling students had positively enriched their program, and 83% agreed that working with international counseling students had positively affected them personally and professionally (Ng, 2006).We believe that we could learn much more from the international students currently enrolled on our campuses . Sometimes the learning in our training programs is perceived as primarily a unidirectional process (from instructor to student) as opposed to a bidirectional process where international students and U.S. students and faculty learn about cross-cultural issues from their interactions and discussions throughout the educational process. Moreover, having good relationships between domestic and international students today means networking with international leaders tomorrow. Promoting meaningful linkages between our domestic and international students may contribute to the internationalization of our profession. Thus, a related challenge for U.S. training programs is to identify ways to benefit maximally from the diverse cross-cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills that currently exist in many counselor training programs. Finally, there is much to gain from U.S. graduate students studying abroad (e.g., see Alexander et al., 2005). There are many ways for students to learn from our international colleagues, such as workshops, brief 2-week immersions, semester- or year-long study abroad experiences, and dual-degree programs. Similar to the reports from Fulbright scholars, students report that their cross-cultural learning experiences are not only stimulating, but also sometimes transforming (e.g., Friedlander et al., 2002). But why are so few counseling psychology graduate students studying abroad? (J. Ponterotto, personal communication, February 22, 2007). Our challenge is to internationalize the training curriculum by developing effective cross-cultural learning opportunities for U.S. students in counseling psychology.
Collaboration among Counseling Organizations
In analyzing the recent history of U.S. counseling psychology, Heppner et al. (2000) concluded, “the profession has now evolved beyond any one organization. Collaboration among Division 17, CCPTP [Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs], ACCTA [Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies], and other groups has been and will continue to be critically important in the future” . Yet collaboration only among U.S.-based counseling organizations will not be sufficient in the future. Rather, it will be increasingly important to collaborate across counseling organizations around the globe—“there are common elements in the development of counseling psychology across national boundaries, and the voices of counseling psychology leaders from one country can support and lend credence in another country” (Heppner, 2006,). We have much to share and learn from each other’s experiences. The challenge is how to overcome cross-cultural obstacles to promote collaboration among counseling organizations around the world. It is incumbent on counseling leaders to understandthe many benefits of such collaboration and to build the necessary organizational structures to promote global alliances.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY
Friday, March 11, 2011
It is rather generally assumed that information processing is a major basis for most behaviours which humans demonstrate in daily life conditions. Individual differences in the ways people process information are major candidates for defining personality. However, what type of model is best suited to accommodate individual differences based on information processing? Our contribution to answering that question is based on the results of our studies. The physiological measures scrutinized here have found an almost natural fit in three independent dimensions. Formally speaking, those dimensions come up to all requirements that are usually imposed on personality traits. earlier studies of the energetic dimensions have invariably revealed a great deal of consistency across time and across situations. Furthermore energetics have revealed a great deal of genetic influence. Accordingly, if one intends to study personality at the energetics level, information-processing traits are the obvious choice. However, if one is interested in overt behaviour the picture changes drastically. As regards overt behaviour the energetic dimensions interact. This implies that a given score on one dimension may underlie behaviours that are qualitatively different depending on the individual’s scores on the other dimensions. Accordingly, rather than three different trait dimensions regarding overt behaviour we must think in terms of eight different types. Personality can be defined as the intra-individual organization of information-processing dimensions. Personality types are persons with similar intra-individual organizations of the information-processing dimensions. If our information-processing variables occupy the central position we think they do, persons of the same type may be expected to behave in similar ways. Information processing is directly connected with the presence or absence of control in a variety of situations. I expect information processing to become manifest in the behaviours that people show in daily life. In domains of a recurrent nature they will
obtain the character of ‘styles’. Examples are the styles that people demonstrate in major professional activities like teaching, sports, arts, selling and managing. For a long time, psychologists have successfully explored and mapped styles in those areas. However, why and how they are connected with personality has never been sufficiently explained. Our informationprocessing approach may provide a new framework here. An assumption to be tested first is that information processing provides a basis for job control in a more general sense.
Direct evidence bearing on this question has been obtained in a recent study of job control (Riteco, 1998). Riteco asked 180 workers at a Dutch university to indicate how far they were able to control a number of key situations in teaching and research. He also asked them to indicate to what extent they pursued the different delta goals in their work.preference for each of the delta goals is connected with job control. This finding suggests that in the same university jobs different delta goals may be emphasized all having a positive effect on control in key situations. This is tantamount to saying that it may be useful to distinguish among different occupational styles. The information-processing types proposed here may provide an explanation. To study the capacity of the information-processing types to explain occupational styles we addressed the domains of teaching, designing and leadership. For teaching we re-analysed the data of a now classical study of teaching styles (Hettema, 1972). In that study lessons given by 100 high school teachers in the areas of English and mathematics were observed. Detailed observation of teacher behaviour included technical acts, like explaining, asking questions, giving feedback, using the blackboard, but also social behaviours likecracking jokes, addressing pupils, giving support, maintaining order, gesticulating, punishing, etc. Based on long-term behaviour observation, we found clear differences in the ways teachers dealt with subject matter, with classroom activities and with student social behaviour. Teacher behaviour could be classified as reflecting one of six different styles. The styles were labelled the normative, structuring, accepting, stimulating, directive and supportive style of teaching. For the different styles we identified the dominant delta goal present in the behaviours defining the style and found some clear relationships with delta social control, control, proximity, knowledge, agency and support .
A completely different area is architectural designing. Van Bakel (1995; Hettema and Van Bakel, 1997) studied information processing in reports of 52 experienced architects while designing new buildings. As a major tool he used an S-R inventory containing ten typical designing situations. In each situation the architects reported on the decisions they would make when confronted with such a task. Decisions could be based mainly on the building site S, the program or design brief P, or pre-existing conceptions C of what the building should look like. The results showed clear individual differences in information processing that were rather consistent across different designing tasks. The different ways of processing information could be allocated to six designing styles. The feasability style is dominated by making inventories to be aware of all the problems to be met, emphasizing delta knowledge. Typical for the pragmatic style are trial and error toimprove the existing conditions before designing starts: delta preparation. A primary concern in the convergent style is turn to the building site and study the natural environment as a major prerequisite. Delta proximity may be the underlying delta goal. In
the analogic style the design is derived analogically from forms existing before in the head of the architect. This rather conservative approach might reflect delta control. In the
iconic style a fixed mental image is adopted as a powerful guideline and all other data are
subordinate to that image. Delta agency might be the underlying goal. In the syntactic style geometrical proportions and modular grids are employed as shape decision rules. This type of designing provides the designer with authority for a great manydecisions that are otherwise left to his own judgement: delta social control. An area where styles have obtained special attention is leadership. In earlier work the main objective of leadership research was to provide means for selecting good managers. This approach put special emphasis on authoritarian versus democratic leadership, sometimes completed with laissez-faire. However, in recent work more refinement has been obtained. Thus, for instance, House and Mitchell (1974) made a distinction into six different styles: authoritarian, performance-oriented, participating, democratic, directive and supporting styles of leadership. In this model, rather than criteria used by selectors the goals of the leaders are emphasized. Democratic leaders are primarily interested in knowing what their co-workers want. Participating leaders want to work in close connection with the others. Performance-oriented leaders are interested in production or output, no matter how this is attained. Supporting leaders on the other hand, are especially concerned with underachievers, for whom they provide help whenever necessary. The main objective of directive leaders is to have others behave according to their own preferences. Finally, authoritarian leaders will impose norms, pass judgement and punish co-workers not living up to company standards. There are some clear relationships between the leader goals and the delta goals proposed here.Styles like these have been proposed without much theory guiding them. Particularly, the question why styles are so hard to be altered has always remainedenigmatic. Now it can be seen why and how persons functioning in the same environment emphasizing the same company goals use different stylistic means for goal attainment.
Clearly much work remains to be done in the area of occupational styles.The information-processing types may be crystallized in the delta goals emphasized. A further step would be to assess the dominant energetic patterns of those people confronted with films representing those settings.
A central contention of this chapter is that part of the individual differences observed in social information-processing elements are due to inheritable differences in informationprocessing energetics. Our first hypothesis states that all three energetic dimensions are involved. However, rather than a linear additive model we expected the dimensions to interact as regards the different elements of social information processing. Second hypothesis states that specific patterns of emotional and volitional information processingunderlie goals and beliefs. For instance, in primary control delta goals are central elements. People with a tendency to react with a specific energetic pattern are expected to pursue the corresponding delta goal rather than people with a tendency to react with other energetic patterns. For primary control the hypotheses were tested in a recent study in which 87 female twins were observed in eight different situations (Hettema and Lensvelt- Mulders, in preparation). The situations were presented in two different modes: films and verbal descriptions. During the films physiological reactions on seven variables were registered continuously and cast into dimension scores using the procedures given before. Each S obtained scores on each dimension in each situation. Delta goals were measured with an SR questionnaire in which brief descriptions of the situations were followed by 28 action descriptions. The actions were prototypical actions each representing one of the delta goals of social control, control, proximity, knowledge, agency, or preparation. The actions were obtained from four domains—the mental, social, physical and instrumental domains. In each situation offered the Ss indicated in how far they would consider acting like described. Delta goal scores were averages across domains. Our first analysis was directed at identifying the basic model underlying the relations. Two models were considered: the linear additive model and the interactive model. To test the models we obtained average dimension scores and average delta goal scores across the eight situations. First for the prediction of each delta goal the linear model was tested using multiple regression analysis as a tool. The resulting multiple Rs ranged from 0.08 for delta preparation to 0.15 for delta social control. Subsequently, we tested the interaction model by inserting two-way and three-way interaction terms in the regression model. The multiple Rs increased to values ranging from 0.20 for delta preparation to 0.26 for delta social control. In addition, for each analysis the regression coefficients for interactions were compared with those for the main effects. For the main effects the median (absolute) coefficient was 0.15, for first order interactions 0.21, and for second order interactions we found 0.38. We concluded that underlying delta goals are interactive energetic patterns rather than global differences in overall activity. The patterns were conceived as information-processing types emphasizing either controlled or automatic processing in each dimension. With dichotomies on the three dimensions there are eight different patterns Inspection of the regression coefficients led to hypotheses about the precise form of the patterns involved in each delta goal. The hypotheses were tested on relatively independent data using differences in situations rather than persons as a tool. First of all, we divided our sample into two equivalent subsamples of twin halves. For each subsample in each situation two scores were obtained: the number of patterns predicted to underlie a delta goal and the average delta goal preference score.Clearly, there are also differences in the specific systems emphasized. For instance controlled effort, sometimes connected with general intelligence, is related with delta knowledge, delta preparation, delta control and delta agency, but not with delta proximity or delta social control. As a whole these results are promising, although it should be kept in mind that the correlations reflect differences among situations, not individual differences.
A major difference between primary and secondary control is that primary control is proactive whereas secondary control is reactive. Primary control includes actions to maintain or increase control. For primary control no specific eliciting situation is required. Secondary control on the other hand includes reactions elicited by an uncontrollable situation. The prototype of uncontrollable situations are stress situations. Thus our central hypothesis regarding secondary control states that part of individual differences observed in coping reactions to stressful situations are due to inheritable differences in reactivity on the three energetic dimensions. Secondary control in general and coping in particular serves to give meaning to otherwise uncontrollable events. However, individuals show vast differences in the ways they provide meaning to the situation prevailing. Connected with those differences are the beliefs of individuals. In our view, beliefs are based on specific forms of processing emotional and volitional information. People with a tendency to react with those forms are expected to use the corresponding coping style rather than people tending to react with other forms. This hypothesis was tested in a recent study (Hettema and Geenen, in preparation) in which 43 male Ss were observed while being confronted with an accident presented on film. This particular film was chosen because, as earlier research had shown, watchingother people suffering is a potent stressor. The film contains a quiet household situation interrupted with an accident in which a person is hurt. The film was presented five consecutive times and physiological reactions were monitored continuously. All Ss completed a coping inventory based on the work of Folkman and Lazarus. The results indicated that when the actual stressor was met there was an increase in automatic reactivity in all systems reflecting emotion. As a reaction there was an increase of controlled activity in all systems reflecting volition. During the replications, previous to meeting the stressor all systems gave an increase of volitional activity interpreted as coping. Correlations were computed between energetic dimension scores in those phases and coping style.
The amount of stress experienced in a given situation is not necessarily equal for different persons. Our approach assumes differences in experience to occur as a function of the ways in which the information is processed. While the same situation is more stressful for some Ss than for others, coping behaviour will be more pronounced for those Ss. Therefore, clearly, this study needs replication with other stressors. Nevertheless we did find correlations between informationprocessing dimensions and some of the coping styles. These outcomes suggest that, like delta goals, coping styles may be characterized by specific patterns of information processing. Restricting ourselves to the significant correlations found the data suggest that two styles—planful/rational and daydreams/fantasies are predominantly volitional. Two other styles-self-blame and distancing—are mixed types involving emotion as well as volition.
To my knowledge and surprise, our attempts to find direct behaviour genetics data on information processing were not successful. True, behaviour genetics has studied variables like mental abilities and personality traits, and interpreted the outcomes to reflect inheritable differences in information processing. However, in those studies no direct processing indices were collected. The recent work of Lensvelt-Mulders (2000; Lensvelt-Mulders and Hettema, 2001) has changed this picture. Using the experimental design explained earlier she studied the reactions of 100 MZ and DZ twins to eight films and analysed scores on the three dimensions identified earlier with quantitative genetic analysis. As a result heritability estimates (h2) revealed values of 0.79 for arousal, 0.81 for effort and 0.82 for activation. Interestingly, the heritability estimates (h2) for the single variables were much lower ranging from 0.28 for GSL to 0.42 for SBP. Heritability estimates for the three dimensions are among the highest ever found for personality measures of individual differences. The heritability of information-processing energetics appears to be firmly established.
Biological models of information processing have been studied almost invariably in laboratory settings. A major aim of our research has been to study information processing in daily life situations. The situations were derived from an extensive taxonomy of situations developed by Van Heck (1989), in which over 200 situations have been defined meticulously in terms of cues and features. For the experimental study of information processing 25 situations were selected and cast in films (Hettema et al., 1989; Hettema, 1994). During the films seven psychophysiological reactions presumably relevant for the Pribram-McGuinness model were measured continuously. Reactions included heart interbeat intervals (HIV), pulse transit time (PTT), T-wave amplitude (TWA), galvanic skin response level (GSL), finger temperature (FTT), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and
systolic blood pressure (SBP). The pattern of physiological reactions was taken to reflect information processing at each moment in time. This claim was tested in different studies
(Hettema et al., 2000). Our analyses included several thousands of reaction patterns. First, after proper standardization correcting for time trends as well as for base levels, on
the basis of covariations among the measures we derived three dimensions, interpreted as
arousal, activation and effort. Subsequently, the specific characteristics of each dimension were tested. As expected, the arousal dimension was particularly sensitive to novelty induced with films mismatching existing expectancies. The activation dimension was sensitive to evaluative aspects, i.e. good versus bad. Evaluations were induced with positive versus negative explanations of the films’ content prior to exposition. The effortdimension reflected involvement versus detachment on the side of our subjects, induced through instructions emphasizing involvement versus detachment. Finally, in a separate study we found evidence on the nature of each dimension to reflect controlled versus automatic processing. We concluded that our three dimensions represented arousal, activation and effort as proposed by Pribram and McGuinness (1975, 1992).
A major problem yet to be solved is individual differences in information-processing energetics. Since the Pribram-McGuinness model was neither intended nor ever used to study individual differences this was a major question to be answered. We were especially interested in the consistency of individual reactions across different situations. To that effect for each dimension we analysed the reactions of our Ss during seven different films and tested for consistency across situations. Intraclass correlations were 0.80 for arousal, 0.84 for effort, and 0.84 for activation indicating high levels of consistency across situations (Hettema et al., 2000). These results suggest that in each dimension the ordering of subjects remains about the same no matter the situation in which testing is done. It should be stressed here that situations have sizable overall effects upon reactivity as well so that reactions actually observed within the same subject tend to show variation across situations as well.
Thus far the emphasis was on social information-processing models. The focus of this chapter is the identification and testing of biological systems on which social information processing is based. As Zuckerman (1993) argued, most previous attempts to identify biological structures underlying personality have been of the top-down type. In a topdown approach research starts with some personality trait. Subsequent research is aimed at the identification of neurological, biochemical and physiological processes underlying them. Finally, behaviour genetic studies are used to identify the contribution of genetics to the trait. Our approach has been different using a bottom-up rather than a top-down strategy. First, on theoretical grounds we identified biological systems presumably underlying social information processing. Subsequently, we addressed the behaviour genetics of information processing using the MZ-DZ design to test the genetical basis of the physiological systems involved. Finally, we studied the connections between the biological systems and some major elements derived from the social cognitive tradition of information processing.
Several biological models of information processing have been proposed. Those models have a common focus emphasizing formal aspects rather than cognitive contents of information processing. A major class of formal models are energetic models. Those models are based on the idea that the processing of information requires energetic resources, mental or attentional capacity. Most current energetic models are multiple resource models according to which the human processing system is composed of several relatively independent resources. Relatively early in the study of information-processing energetics the attention was confined to the output regulating activation system (Duffy, 1957). Later on, research of the orienting reflex emphasized the input regulating arousal system (Sokolow, 1960). Finally, studies of the coordination between input and output drew the attention to a third system: effort (Kahneman, 1973). Accordingly, in several current models three kinds of processing systems are proposed. Examples are Pribramand cGuinness (1975, 1992), Wickens (1984) and Gray (1991). The model used in this study is based on one of them: the Pribram and McGuinness (1975, 1992) model of attentional control. In this model one control system is connected with arousal regulating input processes. The arousal system is particularly sensitive to novelty. With increasing novelty arousal tends to become more controlled, with increasing familiarity arousal becomes more automatic. A second system regulates the preparation of actions through activation. Controlled activation underlies tonic readiness, i.e. maintaining a set to continue ongoing behaviour. A third system co-ordinates the arousal and activation systems through effort. A major activity of the effort system is to uncouple output processes from input processes. The arousal, activation and effort systems are independent processing systems. They may act serially or in parallel and there is no fixed order in their functioning. Each system may be represented as a bipolar dimension ranging from controlled processing to automatic processing (Hettema et al., 2000). The dimensions should not be taken to represent merely affectively neutral processing systems underlying intellectual task performance. Instead, intimate connections are assumed of the processing systems with emotion, motivation and volition (McGuinness and Pribram, 1980; Hettema, 1991). Recent developments in the study of emotions and volition suggest that the distinction between automatic and controlled processing may be connected (Kuhl, 1994; Ledoux, 1996). Summarizing then, the Pribram-McGuinness model proposes different processing
systems for input, output and input-output co-ordination. Each system has the capacity to
process information in a more automatic or more controlled way, suggesting that emotional and volitional processing may be involved in each.
One may wonder why most classical approaches to information processing in personality are abandoned nowadays. A major reason can be found in the dominant tendency to study information processing in the laboratory and trying to connect the outcomes with traits like field dependence. Information processing was studied apart from the environment supplying the information in the first place. For most current approaches to personality based on information processing this is not very well possible. The modern informationprocessing approach can best be understood as a reaction against dispositional theory. In the late 1960s dispositions became discredited as major personality units because accumulating evidence indicated that one of their main features—consistency across situations—could not be warranted (Mischel, 1968). As a reaction personality theorists started to work with interactionist models based on the assumption that an individual’s behaviour can only be properly explained as a result of complex interactions between the person and the situation. Between the person, the situation and behaviour so-called triadic reciprocal causality was assumed to be present: the person affects behaviour, behaviour affects the situation and vice versa. Clearly, this picture needed further elaboration before the interactionist position could provide a basis for the study of personality. The reciprocal relationship between situation and behaviour has obtained special attention in learning. The other two are assumed to be the province of personality psychology. Accordingly, special attention is paid to the reciprocal relationships of persons with situations and with behaviours. Most current approaches are based on the assumption that information processing plays a crucial role in person-environment relationships. In those relationships the part of the person is an active-structuring one. Individual thoughts and actions are to a considerable extent based on social considerations, thus closely reflecting the concrete circumstances of daily life. Bandura (1986) argued that people no longer need to be viewed as responders to environmental stimuli but as causal agents whose personal agendas and capabilities shape the conditions of their lives and the course of their development. Person-environment relations are governed by the person’s intention to exert a certain amount of control over the environment. People select and shape their environments and give meaning to events by interpreting them according to their personal beliefs. In dealing with their environment people not only perform responses but also notice the effects they produce. If the effects confirm pre-existing goals or expectancies, the person experiences competence, self-efficacy, or control. What people think, believe and feel affects how they behave. A comprehensive framework with the capacity to study all the relations mentioned is information processing. Cognitive information processing is the cornerstone of many current approaches to personality (like e.g. Carver and Scheier, 1981; Bandura, 1986; Cantor and Kihlstrom, 1987; Dweck and Leggett, 1988; Cervone, 1991; Mischel and Shoda, 1995). Cognitive information-processing models are mediating process models including hypotheses about the mental activities or decisions regulating behaviour in the context of daily life. Those mental activities rest on knowledge acquired through modelling, observation, upbringing, education, learning, i.e. social conditions enhancing learning. Central concepts used in social information-processing theories include, e.g. declarative and procedural knowledge concerning the world and the self, expectancies, schemas, constructs, attributions, encoding strategies, values, appraisals, plans, scripts,intentions, goals, beliefs, self-efficacy and control. Although there is no complete consensus on the major elements of information processing, three major classes are usually acknowledged. First there are knowledge structures including a person’s beliefs about the world and the situations in it. Second, there are goals and intentions providing direction to a person’s behaviour. Finally, there are self-regulatory mechanisms helping the person to maintain control over himself and the world around him. Individuals can and will usually differ in the ways in which the different structures and mechanisms are organized. Within this framework personality may be defined as an individual’s ways to process information in the context of different situations.
personality is explored at different levels of inquiry. The major contention is that individual differences in social information processing are based on biological structures that, ultimately, are rooted in the individual’s genotype. First, a biological model is proposed emphasizing the energetic rather than the cognitive aspects of information processing. In this framework energetics can be described as three independent bipolar dimensions, each opposing emotional and volitional processing. Some major findings with this model include conceptualization, measurement, consistency across situations and construct validation of the dimensions. Behaviour genetics research has indicated a high degree of genetic contribution in each of the dimensions. Subsequently evidence is provided suggesting direct links between scores on the three dimensions and some major elements (goals, beliefs) proposed in social information processing. The conclusion is drawn that thoughts and actions have biological as well as social foundations. As a second major conclusion, on the basis of the energetical patterns identified a limited number of information-processing types are proposed. Each type can be characterized with specific goals and beliefs. At the behavioural level information-processing types may provide a basis for explaining different styles identified earlier in teaching, designing, and leadership. Our findings are discussed in the general framework of multilevel research as well as the study of information processing.A recent development affecting personality theory and research comes from behaviour genetics. Overwhelming success in the behaviour genetic analysis of personality traits has urged personality psychologists to redefine their object as well as to reconsider the most expedient ways to study it. Particularly the assessment and explanation of individualdifferences may benefit from the new frame of reference offered by behaviour genetics.
Considerable genetic contributions in several personality traits including altruism, empathy, nurturance, aggression and assertiveness the Big Five personality dimensions, interest patterns, vocational interests, religious interests, work values , and special mental abilities.From a behaviour genetics point of view, traits are to be seen as phenotypes, i.e.manifestations of genotypic propensities. Underlying traits are physiological, biochemical and neurological processes, ultimately genes at the most distal level. Classical biological approaches to personality have proposed a rather direct relationship between biological structures and processes on the one hand and traits like neuroticism, extraversion , or impulsivity and anxiety on the other. Those approaches have been among the foremost exponents of the hypothesis that personality traits provide a window on individual differences in brain functioning. However, recent comments have concluded that the assumptions of the biological approach to personality are in need of reassessment. In particular it has been suggested that trait research should place more emphasis on the social-cognitive bases of personality.
A more systematic ordering of the diverse conditions underlying personality has been proposed in Zuckerman’s (1993) seven turtles model. According to this model personality traits are based on social behaviour that, in turn, is the fruit of learning. Physiological conditions underlie learning but are based on biochemical processes that rest on neurological conditions themselves. Finally, the major foundations of neurology are genes, controlling the production of proteins, which in turn exert profound effects on behavioural structures and processes via the nervous system and production of behaviourally relevant hormones and neurotransmitters. Thus, summarizing, traits, social behaviour, learning, physiology, biochemistry, neurology and genes are the stations along which genotypes are translated into phenotypes. To explore the ways in which the different levels exert their influence is a major task for current personality psychology.
A series of negative events that an individual accepts blame for may not lead to depression if that individual has a high physiological threshold for depression. Antisocial individuals are not very likely to experience depression under anycircumstances, while some individuals experience depression at the drop of an unkind
word. Simon (1992) assumes that for psychology as for other sciences it is essential to explain complex phenomena at different levels. First of all, different levels should be defined and conceived as complementary rather than competing. Different levels of resolution use different constructs or units emphasizing different processes along which they operate. Units will have to be defined at the different levels. While defining units it should be kept in mind that units with optimal explanatory power at one level of inquiry may be less relevant at another level. As Simon proposes, higher level theories may use aggregates of the constructs at lower levels to provide parsimonious explanations of phenomena. However, it would be naive to assume that the units at one level exhibit a strict isomorphism with the elements studied at another level. Instead, for each level separate rules will have to be specified for connecting its elements to the elements at a higher level. Finally, each level should be connected with the lowest level: genes. Only if a level exhibits higher genetic influence can it be taken to provide an explanation of the higher levels.
Problem in any multilevel approach to personality is the question where biological and social determinants meet. The classical biological approaches to personality have particularly emphasized conditioning and motivation. However, as yet the results have not been unequivocal. A viable alternative may be to look for information processing as the most likely place where biological and social determinants meet. The information-processing approach assumes that in the same environment individuals may show different behaviours to the extent that they differ in the way they process the available information. Not only are most current multilevel approaches centred on information processing, but for this choice there are historical reasons as well. In the study of personality and individual differences, information processing has always occupied a special position. Explanations based on information processing may be found already in Freud’s defence mechanisms and Jung’s archetypes.
Other approaches have used information-processing concepts to explain differences in performance (Broadbent) and problem solving (Newell and Simon). The information-processing approach has obtained special urgency in the context of recent developments in evolutionary psychology. David Buss (1991) defined the major aim of evolutionary psychology as: To identify psychological mechanisms and behavioural strategies as evolved solutions to adaptive problems our species has faced over millions of years’. In the same context Tooby and Cosmides (1990) outlined a modern adaptationist framework proposing the view that the mind consists of a collection of evolved functionspecific, information-processing mechanisms organizing actions appropriate to situations. At the core of this approach are tangible and inheritable ways to process the information available in our habitat, existing currently as well as many years ago.
The idea that personality is the cause of somatic illnesses such as coronary heart disease (CHD) or cancer for many researchers seems to be humorous. Among the determinants of the diseases, which may be interpreted as consequences of interactions between a variety of factors such as immune system regulation, neuroendocrine and biochemical factors, genetically determined vulnerability and environmental risk factors, an important role was found for temperament and other personality dimensions. Three independent prospective studies were
conducted over a ten-year period. Subjects in all three samples were diagnosed by means
of inventories into four different personality types:
• Type I (equivalent to Type C)—cancer-prone, over-cooperative, unassertive,
unexpressive of negative emotions, avoiding conflicts, over-patient and defensive in
response to stress
• Type II (equivalent to Type A)—CHD-prone, chronically irritated and angry, failing to
establish stable emotional relations, showing aggression and hostility responses
• Type III—hysterical, oscillating between inadequacy and anger
• Type IV (equivalent to Type B)—mentally healthy.
At the end of the ten-year period, mortality and cause of death were recorded. The results
disclosed that in all three samples cancer mortality was highest in Type I and CHD mortality in Type II. It was also shown that a group of subjects diagnosed by relatives and friends as being permanently stressed showed significantly higher mortality rates (cancer and CHD) as compared with the non-selected (normal) group. The individuals representing Type IV reported significantly less heart disease as compared with Types I and II. There were, however, no significant differences between the three types as regards cancer. The relationship between heart disease and personality type was blurred by such variables as age, smoking, diet and exercising. Types I and II were older and smoked more, and Type IV persons had a healthier diet and exercised more. The literature also reports plenty of research in which CHD has been related to the Eysenckian temperament dimensions. Findings from several studies .The high neuroticism and high psychoticism (in terms of hostility and aggressiveness) interact with stressors to raise the risk of developing CHD. In a review comprising over 40 years of studies, Whiteman, Deary and Fowkes (2000) when searching for personality cardiovascular disease relationships found that Type A and hostility-related traits account for approximately 2 per cent of the variance in this disease. A five-year follow-up study was conducted by Whiteman and coworkers (2000) in which two categories of incident CHD—angina and myocardial infarction—were related to submissiveness and hostility. It turned out that submissiveness is protective against myocardial infarction but not angina. Increased dominance, the opposite pole to submissiveness, considered as a component of Type A behaviour was associated with higher risk of coronary disease. Curiously enough, hostility was not related to any of the two categories of CHD. In this study a variety of demographic and SES variables were under control.
The meta-analytic studies suggest that certain personality traits seem to be a common risk factor for both CHD and cancer, but some of them may be illness specific. We hypothesized thatdepression (depressiveness) is a general risk factor for many different illnesses (including lung cancer and myocardial infarction). Hostility may be treated as a myocardial infarction risk factor, but submissiveness as a risk of lung cancer. Regarding the temperamental traits, it was expected that emotional reactivity may be considered a common risk factor, strongly related to depressiveness. In turn, activity is illness specific: high activity is related to hostility and myocardial infarction; low activity is related to submissiveness and lung cancer. Additionally, temperamental traits are regarded rather as an indirect risk factor of both illnesses with direct effects of personality factors (and direct relationships between temperament and other personality traits). It was assumed also that smoking is influenced by temperament.
Temperamental traits play a role of moderators in respect to the consequences of the state of extreme stress by increasing or decreasing the risk of PTSD.
Temperament traits were related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Among the candidates that may be regarded as predictors of PTSD such traits as anxiety, introversion and neuroticism have been mentioned . PTSD is a function of the intensity of experienced trauma as measured by objective indicators. Emotional reactivity is positively related to PTSD whereas activity correlates negatively with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Additionally, emotional reactivity and activity moderate the trauma-PTSD relationship.
Deprivation of stimuli and excessive stimulation are both accompanied by an increase in stress, sometimes to the point of distress.’ All the events in one’s life that can be interpreted in terms of intensity of stimulation and, as a consequence, in terms of arousal effects, regarded as factors subject to moderation by different temperamental traits. Which of the specific temperament characteristics plays the role of moderator, by elevating or reducing the stimulative value of life events, depends on the kind of event. Under a high level of arousal, the tolerance to life events of high intensity is lowered. This is caused by the process of augmentation of acting stimuli. Under a low level of arousal there is a decrease in tolerance to life events of low stimulative value (e.g. deprivation, isolation), resulting from suppression processes in relation to acting stimuli. Without going into the specificity of the different arousal-oriented temperamental traits, one may predict that temperamental traits that refer to low arousability as, for example, extraversion, high sensation seeking, or strong type of nervous system, when in interaction with life events characterized as demands of low stimulative value, such as deprivation or isolation, act as moderators that increase thestate of stress, leading in extreme cases to excessive stress. In turn, temperamental traits characterized by high arousability interacting with highly stimulating life events as, for example, death, disaster, or traumatic stressors, act as moderators to increase the state of stress, again leading in extreme cases to excessive stress expressed in behaviour disorders. Introversion, low sensation seeking, or a weak type of nervous system are examples of such traits.
A life event that induces a state of stress of low intensity may be moderated by emotionality or other temperamental traits in such a way as to increase the state of stress, which has an impact on health status. The same state of stress, in terms of intensity, may result from low intensity life events interacting with high emotionality, as well as from high intensity life events interacting with low emotionality. Taking into account these considerations we hypothesized that life events result in changes of psychological health measured by psychological distress and well-being. However, the relationship life events-psychological health will be, modified by emotional reactivity and activity. It was expected that emotional reactivity increases psychological distress whereas activity enhances well-being. Also interaction between life events, ER and AC, was expected to predict psychological health status.
It was already the ancient Greek typology of temperament that developed, as a result of observations, that inappropriate activity combined with the amount and mixture of the four hormones constituting the physiological basis of temperament, leads to different kinds of illnesses. Thus Hippocrates and his follower, Galen, were the first to show that temperament plays an important role in human functioning. The significance of temperament as a factor that accelerates, or is conducive to, psychiatric disorders has been strongly emphasized by constitutionally oriented researchers, was probably one of the first to show that temperamental traits, when in interaction with an adverse environment, result in behaviour disorders. His experiments conducted on dogs demonstrated the functional significance of temperamental traits, especially the strength of the central nervous system (CNS), in the individual’s adaptationto environmental demands, such as strong stimulation, deprivation, and radical changes in the surroundings.
Independently of age-specific activity and situations, many researchers agree that the functional significance of temperamental traits comes to the fore when individuals are confronted with difficult situations, extreme stressors or demands that exceed their capacities to cope. Based on this point of view, different approaches have been developed, depending on whether these situations and demands refer to children or to adults. In research on children, specific concepts, such as ‘difficult temperament’ and ‘goodness of fit’ have been constructed, whereas in studies on adults concepts referring to different aspects of stress have gained widest popularity. This distinction, however, is not exclusive since both approaches can be found in studies on children and adults. In several temperament theories the assumption that temperament plays an important role in moderating stress is incorporated as one of the most important postulates. For example, Kagan (1983, 1994) considered the two types of temperament distinguished by him—inhibited and uninhibited temperaments—as representing different vulnerability to experience stress under situations of unexpected or unpredictable events. According to Nebylitsyn (1972) and Strelau (1983) the functional significance of temperament is evident when individuals are confronted with extreme situations or demands. In arousal-oriented theories of temperament, which refer to the concepts of optimal level of arousal or stimulation, temperamental characteristics are regarded as moderators in experiencing the state of stress under extreme levels of stimulation, as exemplified in the domain of extraversion
The question arises as to why temperamental traits should be considered as important variables moderating stress phenomena. Temperamental traits have a moderator status, by which we mean, after Folkman and Lazarus (1988), that they constitute antecedent conditions that influence other conditions. The individual has a given temperament since birth and it is present before stressors and states of stress occur.From the point of view of the studies the following three are of special importance:
• the impact of temperament in determining the intensity of stressors
• the role of temperament as a co-determinant of the state of stress
• the contribution of temperamental traits to the psychophysiological and/ or psychological costs of the state of stress.
Psychological stress is understood here in a different way. It is characterized by strong negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, anger, hostility, or other emotional states evoking distress, accompanied by physiological and biochemicalchanges that evidently exceed the baseline level of arousal (see Strelau, 1995). Such an understanding of the state of stress, encountered among many researchers in the domain of stress (see Strelau, 1995), underlines the importance of both emotions and arousal as inseparable components of the state of stress. Both emotions and arousal are regarded as core concepts in temperament research, and thus constitute a good rationale for searching for links between the phenomena being studied here—temperament and stress. Excessive stress, resulting from demands with which the individual is unable to cope, consists of extremely strong negative affects accompanied by unusually high elevation of the level of arousal. As consequence changes in the organism occur, which may result in variations in psychological functioning such as an increased level of anxiety and depression, or in physiological or biochemical disturbances expressed in psychosomatic diseases or other health problems. Stress should be regarded as one of the many risk factors (external and internal) contributing to maladaptive functioning and disorders. When the state of stress interacts with other factors that decrease or dampen the consequences of stress, maladjustment or behavioural disturbances may not occur. Temperament determines individual arousability and constitutes the domain of personality that more than any other increases or decreases the probability of developing the state of stress, and as a consequence the psychologicalor psychophysiological costs of stress. This justifies the introduction of the concept of temperament risk factor (TRF), by which we mean any temperamental trait or configuration of traits that by itself and most probably in interaction with other factors acting excessively, persistently or recurrently, increases the risk of developing behaviour disorders or pathology, or that favours the shaping of a maladjusted personality .Our own studies aimed at testifying the functional significance of temperamental traits are based on the Regulative Theory of Temperament (RTT; see Strelau, 1998). In short, RTT can be described by ten postulates. The following four served as a starting point for formulating hypotheses:
1 Temperament reveals itself in formal characteristics of behaviour, it can be described in terms of energy and time.
2 Temperament characteristics are in their primary (inborn) form a product of biological
evolution and there must exist some genetic bases as well as physiological mechanisms regulating the individual-specific level of arousal that co-determine individual differences in temperament.
3 Temperament plays a regulatory function consisting in modifying (moderating) the stimulative and temporal characteristics of situations and behaviour adequately to the individual’s temperamental traits.
4 The role of temperament in regulating the relationships between persons and their environment becomes evident in difficult situations and maladaptive behaviour.
Two temperamental traits were selected—emotional reactivity and activity— regarded according to RTT as moderators taking part in regulating the energetic aspects of situations and/or behaviours. The structure of temperament as postulated by RTT comprises six traits that refer to the formal characteristics of behaviour and includes, in addition to the two mentioned above, briskness, perseveration(both refer to the temporal characteristics of behaviour), sensory sensitivity and endurance.
• emotional reactivity (ER): tendency to react intensively to emotion-eliciting stimuli, expressed in high emotional sensitivity and in low emotional endurance;
• activity (AC): tendency to undertake behaviour of high stimulative value or to supply by means of behaviour strong stimulation from the surroundings.
Considering these traits as dimensions, the definitions refer to one of the two poles characterizing high intensity of both emotional reactivity and activity.
The evidence discussed so far has indicated that individuals high in trait anxiety have attentional and interpretive biases for external stimuli, that repressers have opposite attentional and interpretive biases for external stimuli, and that individuals low in trait anxiety do not have cognitive biases for external stimuli. All of these findings are consistent with the predictions of the four-factor theory. However, the theory also predicts that the same pattern of cognitive biases will be present when internal stimuli are considered. Accordingly, there will now be a brief consideration of some of the relevant findings.
Evidence that individuals high in trait or social anxiety have an interpretive bias for their own social behaviour has been obtained in a number of studies. The individuals high in social anxiety rated their overall level of social skill in two social situations as significantly lower than did independent judges. In contrast, those low in social anxiety showed no discrepancy between their own assessment of their level of social skill and the judges’ ratings.Socially anxious individuals’ level of self-reported anxiety was much higher than judges’ ratings of their level of anxiety in two different stressful social situations. However, self-reported and rated anxiety were comparable across all situations for those low in social anxiety.
The repressers showed an opposite interpretive bias for their own behaviour, in that their ratings of their own behavioural anxiety were significantly lower than the judges’ ratings of their behavioural anxiety. In contrast, individuals high in trait anxiety showed an interpretive bias, since they rated their own behavioural anxiety as significantly greater than it appeared to the judges. Evidence relating to opposite interpretive bias for future cognitions was reported by Eysenck and Derakshan (1997). The university students who were the participants in their study were asked to provide information about the negative expectations they had concerning their likely performance in important examinations due to be held a few weeks thereafter. They were also asked to provide the same information with respect to a typical student. One key finding was that repressers had an opposite interpretive bias, in that they had fewer negative expectations about themselves than about a typical student.
This difference reflected an opposite interpretive bias rather than an accurate appraisal,because the actual examination performance of the repressers did not differ from that of other students. The other key finding was that individuals high in trait anxiety showed an interpretive bias, in that they had more negative expectations about themselves than they did about a typical student. This was a genuine interpretive bias, because the actual examination performance of the high-anxious students was comparable to that of the lowanxious and represser groups. It is relatively difficult to assess interpretive bias for one’s own physiological state.
The main reasons are that it is not possible to control an individual’s internal state in more than a very approximate fashion, and it is also hard to assess accurately an individual’s internal physiological state. Preliminary evidence was reported by Derakshan and Eysenck (1997) in a study described above. They measured heart rate while their student participants were giving a public talk, and found that there were no group differences between the groups of repressers, high-anxious, and defensive high-anxious individuals. However, there were substantial group differences in the interpretation of their increased heart rate during the talk when the participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they attributed it to the situation being stressful and threatening versus exciting and challenging. The high-anxious and defensive high-anxious groups attributed their elevated heart rate mainly to the situation being stressful and threatening. In contrast, the repressers argued that their elevated heart rate was mainly attributable to the situation being exciting and challenging. These findings may indicate that the highanxious and defensive high-anxious groups had an interpretive bias for their ownphysiological state, whereas repressers exhibited an opposite interpretive bias for their internal state.
It is assumed within most theories of trait anxiety (including those of H.J. Eysenck and Gray) that low scorers on trait anxiety form a homogeneous group. However, this assumption is not incorporated into the four-factor theory. According to that theory, individuals scoring low on trait anxiety should be divided into two groups on the basis of their level of defensiveness. Individuals who are low in trait anxiety but high in defensiveness are categorized as repressers or as having the repressive coping style, whereas individuals who are low in trait anxiety and low in defensiveness are categorized as low-anxious. These categories were first popularized by Weinberger, Schwartz and Davidson (1979), who used the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale as a measure of defensiveness. They found substantial differences between repressers and low-anxious individuals when placed in a moderately stressful situation. For example, they found that repressers’ physiological and behavioural responses indicated much higher levels of anxiety than did those of low-anxious individuals.. all three types of measure in a moderately stressful situation in which the participants were videotaped. All of the data were then converted to standard scores for purposes of comparison. As had been found in previous research, repressers had relatively high physiological anxiety but low self-reported state anxiety. In contrast, the low-anxious participants had relatively low levels of physiological anxiety and/or self-reported state anxiety. The pattern was similar when behavioural anxiety (based on ratings of the videotape evidence by independent judges) was considered.
Repressers had relatively high levels of behavioural anxiety, whereas the low-anxious had a low level of behavioural anxiety. Most theoretical interest from the evidence discussed in this section so far is the fact that the repressers showed large discrepancies between their self-reported anxiety on the one hand and their physiological and behavioural anxiety on the other hand. One possible explanation of these discrepancies is simply that repressers deliberately distort their self-reports to claim low levels of experienced anxiety even though they actually experience high levels. If that were the case, then the discrepancies would be illusory rather than genuine. This issue has been addressed in several studies. Levels of trait anxiety on the Spielberger State- Trait Anxiety Inventory on two occasions separated by approximately two months: (a)standard conditions; (b) bogus pipeline conditions. In the second condition, the participants were wired up to an impressive-looking piece of equipment (known as the ‘bogus pipeline’) which they were led to believe could detect lying. The bogus pipeline has proved effective in numerous studies in social psychology in increasing honesty. It has been found that participants admit to much more prejudice under bogus pipeline than under standard conditions. The trait-anxiety scores of repressers were slightly higher under bogus pipeline than under standard conditions, but the difference was not statistically significant. This finding suggests that repressers do not deliberately distort their scores when completing measures of trait anxiety under standard conditions. It is extremely difficult to decide whether repressers’ self-reported levels of state and trait anxiety are genuine or subject to distortion. Accordingly, they devised an indirect approach to the issue, using a paradigm which did not involve obtaining self-report data. In their study, the participants had to perform a verbal reasoning task which was combined with a high or low memory load. It is known that the adverse effects of the high memory load on performance of the verbal reasoning task are much greater for individuals high in trait anxiety than for those low in trait anxiety. It is generally accepted that the main reason for this pattern of findings is that individuals high in trait anxiety engage in more task-irrelevant negative thoughts about themselves and about their inadequate level of performance. Such task-irrelevant thoughts interfere with task performance, and such interference effects are especially strong when there is a concurrent memory load. The key finding obtained by Derakshan and Eysenck (1998) was that the negative effects of high memory load on verbal reasoning performance in repressers were relatively modest, resembling the effects on low-anxious individuals much more than those on high-anxious individuals. These findings support the view that repressers genuinely experience low levels of anxiety when confronting complex tasks.
According to Eysenck’s four-factor theory, the two groups differ in terms of important aspects of cognitive functioning. It is assumed that low-anxious individuals do not have cognitive biases relating to the processing of external and internal stimuli. The absence of cognitive biases helps to explain why low-anxious individuals show minimal discrepancies among measures of self-reported, behavioural and physiological anxiety. In contrast, it is assumed that repressers have opposite cognitive biases with respect to the processing of both external and internal stimuli. More specifically, repressers have opposite attentional and interpretive biases. This means that they tend systematically to avoid attending to threat-related stimuli, and they also tend to interpret ambiguous stimuli and situations in a nonthreatening way. As a result, repressers tend to minimize the threateningness of their own physiological state and behaviour, and this helps to produce discrepancies between self-report, physiological and behavioural measures of anxiety (Derakshan and Eysenck, 2001b). More specifically, repressers’ opposite attentional and interpretive biases lead them to ignore and/or misinterpret the evidence of their own physiological state, future cognitions and behaviour. The trait-anxiety scores of repressers were slightly higher under bogus pipeline than under standard conditions, but the difference was not statistically significant. This finding suggests that repressers do not deliberately distort their scores when completing measures of trait anxiety under standard Fox (1993) used the dot-probe paradigm with participants who were repressers, low-anxious, and high-anxious in order to assess attentional biases for social and physical threat words. For present purposes, the key finding was that the repressers showed an opposite attentional bias for the social threat stimuli, whereas the low-anxious individuals did not exhibit either an attentional bias or an opposite attentional bias. There is relatively little direct evidence that repressers possess an opposite interpretive bias (see Eysenck, 2000). However, potentially important findings were reported by Calvo and Eysenck (2000), who assessed interpretive biases by measuring the speed of naming target words which confirmed or disconfirmed the consequence implied by previous ambiguous sentences. Various time intervals between sentence and target were used in order to plot the time course of activation of threat-related and neutral target words. The low-anxious participants showed no attentional or opposite attentional bias at any time interval. In contrast, the repressers had an interpretive bias when there was a short interval between sentence and target word, but this bias totally disappeared at a longer interval. It could be argued that this reversal (which was not found in the data of the low-anxious participants) reflects the operation of an opposite interpretive bias.
Eysenck put forward a four-factor theory of trait anxiety which incorporated some of the theoretical ideas and empirical research discussed in the previous section. However, the theory is intended to be much more comprehensive in scope than previous theoretical models, and some of the assumptions on which it is based differ from those of other theories in the area. The four-factor theory of trait anxiety is based on the assumption that the following question is of fundamental importance to an understanding of trait anxiety: What are the major sources of information which jointly determine an individual’s level of experienced anxiety? In other words, it is assumed that we need to have a theory of anxiety as an emotional state as a prerequisite for developing an adequate theory of trait anxiety as a personality dimension. The theory is called the four-factor theory because it is assumed within the theory that there are four main sources of information which influence experienced anxiety. First, and most important, is the external environment. As Lazarus (1991) has emphasized, the experience of most emotional states is heavily dependent on the cognitive appraisal of the immediate situation. Second, there is attention to, and interpretation of, one’s own physiological activity. The importance of this source of information in producing the experience of anxiety is revealed most clearly in patients suffering from panic disorder. Such patients are far more likely than normal controls to experience extreme anxiety and a panic attack under biological challenge (e.g. lactate infusion), even though the physiological responses of both groups are typically rather similar .The third source of information is one’s own behaviour. At an anecdotal level, it is often reported by public speakers that they experience much more anxiety when they become self-conscious and start attending to their own behaviour. More direct evidence was reported by Derakshan and Eysenck (2001a). In their study, the participant remained silent while a confederate of the experimenters either spoke about his own behaviour in the situation, or he spoke about the behaviour of the participant. The key finding was that the participants’ level of experienced anxiety was substantially higher when their behaviour was the focus of discussion than when it was not.The fourth source of information consists of negative cognitions about possible threatening future events (e.g. worries). the effects of worrying on emotional state. Generalized anxiety disorder patients and normal controls relaxed for some time and then engaged in worrying. Both groups exhibited large increases in rated anxiousness and unpleasantness between the relaxation and worry time periods. Similar findings were reported subsequently by East and Watts (1994) in a study on normal individuals who rated themselves as chronic worriers and by Wells (2002) in research on patients with generalized anxiety disorder.
The individual differences in the personality dimension of trait anxiety can be understood in part within a cognitive framework. The individuals high in trait anxiety possess various cognitive biases (e.g. attentional bias; interpretive bias) which lead them to exaggerate the threateningness of external and internal stimuli. These cognitive biases have recently been shown to have causal effects on individuals’ level of experienced anxiety. The original cognitive approach to trait anxiety was limited, because no distinction was drawn between two types of individuals scoring low on trait anxiety: (a) the truly low-anxious, who are non-defensive; (b) repressers, who are defensive. There is accumulating evidence that repressors possess opposite attentional and interpretive biases leading them to minimize the threateningness of external and internal stimuli. In contrast, the truly low-anxious do not possess cognitive biases or opposite cognitive biases. The represser group is of particular theoretical significance, because repressers show large discrepancies across the three major domains in which anxiety is assessed: self-report; behavioural; and physiological. These discrepancies depend on repressers’ opposite cognitive biases. It will be important in future research to integrate the cognitive approach to trait anxiety with a biological approach emphasizing the role of genetic factors in producing individual differences in trait anxiety.
There are five main personality factors, often referred to as the ‘Big Five’. The research of Goldberg was influential in establishing five major factors, but the most influential theorists to emphasize the Big Five have probably been. According to their approach, the five factors are neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience. Five personality factors, which has been variously described as neuroticism or trait anxiety. Neuroticism and trait anxiety overlap substantially with each other, as a result of which measures of the two dimensions typically correlate about +0.7 with each other .The key difference between them is that trait anxiety correlates negatively with extraversion, whereas neuroticism typically does not.. More generally,there is convincing evidence that most measures of trait anxiety and neuroticism (as well as measures of depression) correlate highly with a personality dimension sometimes labelled negative affectivity (Watson and Clark, 1984).
The approach adopted by most advocates of the Big Five factor approach to personality has focused on description rather than explanation. In general, there has been more progress in terms of identifying the structure of human personality than there has in terms of understanding the underlying mechanisms associated with individual differences along each of the dimensions identified.
The biological approach adopted by H.J.Eysenck and by Gray has received inconsistent support from psychological research. So far as the hypothesis that two-thirds of individual differences in neuroticism or trait anxiety are attributable to heredity is concerned, one of the most thorough studies (with many twins brought up apart) was the one reported by Pedersen et al. (1988). They assessed neuroticism in 95 monozygotic twin pairs brought up apart, 150 monozygotic twin pairs brought up together, 220 pairs of dizygotic twins brought up apart, and 204 pairs of dizygotic twins brought up together. They found that monozyotic twins brought up together had a correlation of +0.41, against +0.24 for dizygotic twins brought up together. For twins brought up apart, the correlations were +0.25 for monozygotic twins and +0.28 for dizygotic twins. These figures suggest that about 31 per cent of individual differences in neuroticism depend on genetic influences. However, the mean age of Pedersen et al’s sample (58.6 years) was higher than in most other studies, and a recent review has suggested that about 40 to 50 per cent of individual differences in neuroticism depend on genetic influences (Bouchard and Loehlin, 2001). The findings from twin studies indicate that genetic influences account for half (or a little less than half) of individual differences in neuroticism or trait anxiety. Thus, it is clearly important to consider environmental factors in order to achieve a good understanding of neuroticism or trait anxiety. a review of all of the available evidence, and came to the following pessimistic conclusion: ‘Over many decades research has failed to substantiate the physiological correlates that are assumed for emotionality and trait anxiety. There is virtually no distinct finding that has been reliably replicated across studies and laboratories.’ The evidence from empirical research demonstrating the limitations of the biological approach produced a situation in which there was no overall theory of trait anxiety and neuroticism which appeared adequate. However, the situation has changed to some extent in recent years. One of the main themes of this chapter is to argue that many of the limitations of the biological approach stem from its failure to consider seriously the role played by the cognitive system. It is increasingly recognized by personality researchers that an understanding of cognitive processes and structures can serve to enrich theories of personality (McCann and Endler, 2000). As will be seen, there is compelling evidence that there are systematic differences in cognitive functioning between individuals high and low in trait anxiety. More speculatively, these individual differences in cognitive functioning can be regarded as providing a partial explanation for the limitations of the biological approach. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to a consideration of cognitive approaches to trait anxiety, with the ultimate goal being to combine such approaches with the earlier biological approach.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Aspartate and glutamate are the most abundant amino acids in the mammalian brain. While the precise role of aspartate in brain function is obscure, the importance of glutamate as an excitatory transmitter and as a precursor of GABA is well recognized. Despite the many roles which glutamate has been shown to play in intermediary metabolism and transmitter function, studies on the dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation, where glutamate has been established as a transmitter, have shown that the synthesis of glutamate is regulated by feedback inhibition and by the concentration of its precursor glutamine. Thus the neuronal regulation of glutamate synthesis would appear to be similar to that of the ‘‘classical’’ transmitters. In the brain, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the concentration of glutamate and of GABA, apart from the context where both amino acids are present in low concentrations.
GABA is also present in very high concentrations in the mammalian brain, approximately 500mg/g wet weight of brain being recorded for some regions! Thus GABA is present in a concentration some 200–1000 times greater than neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, noradrenaline and 5-HT. GABA is one of the most widely distributed transmitters in the brain and it has been calculated that it occurs in over 40% of all synapses. Nevertheless, its distribution is quite heterogeneous, with the highest concentrations being present in the basal ganglia, followed by the hypothalamus, the periaqueductal grey matter and the hippocampus; approximately equal concentrations are present in the cortex, amygdala andthalamus. GABA is present in storage vesicles in nerve terminals and also in the glia that are densely packed around nerve terminals, where they probably act as physical and metabolic ‘‘buffers’’ for the nerve terminals. Following its release from the nerve terminal, the action of GABA may therefore be terminated either by being transported back into the nerve terminal by an active transport system or by being transported into the glia. The rate of synthesis of this transmitter is determined by glutamate decarboxylase, which synthesizes it from glutamate. A feedback inhibitory mechanism also seems to operate whereby an excess of GABA in thesynaptic cleft triggers the GABA autoreceptor on the presynaptic terminal, leading to a reduction in transmitter release. Specific GABA-containing neurons have been identified as distinct pathways in the basal ganglia, namely in interneurons in the striatum, in the nigrostriatal pathway and in the pallidonigral pathway.