The Personality Systems Framework

 

Some Brief History 

The  personality systems framework  (PSF) is an outline of the study of human personality. It includes offshoots that indicate the position of  personality amidst its neighboring systems such as a person's situations and group memberships, and diagrams of the key, inner parts of personality as well.

The framework has been featured in many important journals of personality psychology and psychology more generally, including the American Psychologist (2008), Psychological Inquiry (1998), and Journal of Research in Personality (2015)--as well as others--often as the lead article. It is also the foundation for the 2018 textbook Personality: A Systems Approach (2nd ed).

Overview of the Personality Systems Framework (PSF)

The Personality Systems Framework (PSF) Outline for the Discipline of Personality Psychology

Most fundamentally, the PSF divides the field into four topics as illustrated in the diagram below:

The topics of the personality systems framework

 

The Personality Systems Framework (PSF) Locational Model for Personality

The framework further positions  personality in a two-dimensional framework, from smaller (molecular) to larger (molar) systems, and from within the person to outside the person, as is illustrated in the accompanying figure from the American Psychologist (2005).

Figure 1. A view of the key functional areas of personality. From: Mayer, J. D. (2005). A tale of two visions: Can a new view of personality help integrate psychology? American Psychologist, 60, 294-307. Reprinted in accordance with the copyright permissions and rules of the American Psychological Association.

The Areas Surrounding Personality (Drawn from the PSF Locational Model)

The locational model of the PSF (above diagram reprinted from the American Psychologist) indicates that there are four key areas surrounding personality. These are depicted in Figure 2, which also includes a breakdown of more detail about each area.

 

Figure 2. A view of the key functional areas of personality. [Please cite as Mayer, J. D. (2018). Figure 1. The Areas Surrounding Personality. Downloaded from https://mypages.unh.edu/jdmayer/personality-systems-framework] Figure 1 is based on a similar outline for personality's surrounding areas, found in Brackett & Mayer (2006).

 

Figure 3. . A view of the key functional areas of personality. [Please cite as Mayer, J. D. (2020). Figure 1. The Areas Surrounding Personality. Downloaded from https://mypages.unh.edu/jdmayer/personality-systems-framework]

personality and its surroundings

The Personality Systems Set

Among the personality systems framework's  key models is its division of personality into between four and seven areas based on their function. The first, most general, division are into the following four areas:

  1. energy development—which includes motivational and emotional systems
  2. knowledge guidance—including intelligences, knowledge, and technical skills
  3. action implementation—including preferred social styles in interacting with others, and social roles and skills, and
  4. self-management—including consciousness, attention, and defense and coping mechanisms.
Personaltiy Systems Set Functions
Figure 3. A view of the key functional areas of personality. [Please cite as Mayer, J. D. (2018). Figure 3. The functional areas of personality. Downloaded from https://mypages.unh.edu/jdmayer/personality-systems-framework]

The Personality Systems Set with Functions from Development

A variation of the Personality Systems Set includes functions of development. As before,  the first, most general, division is into the following four areas:

  1. energy development—which includes motivational and emotional systems
  2. knowledge guidance—including intelligences, knowledge, and technical skills
  3. action implementation—including preferred social styles in interacting with others, and social roles and skills, and
  4. self-management—including consciousness, attention, and defense and coping mechanisms.

The added branch at the bottom indicates Dynamics of Growth and their functional areas, with specific examples. 

Personality Systems Set Functions w. Development

 

Figure 4. A view of the key functional areas of personality with dynamics of development. [Please cite as Mayer, J. D. (2018). Figure 4. The functional areas of personality with functions of development. Downloaded from https://mypages.unh.edu/jdmayer/personality-systems-framework]

 

Two Key Dynamics of the Personality Systems Set

Using the elements of the Personality Systems Set, one also can demarcate two broad dynamics of personality: Dynamics of Action and Dynamics of Self-Control. These are depicted in the figure below in relation to the systems set.

(See also Allen, J. L., Sylaska, K. & Mayer, J. D. (2020). Dynamic pathways of personality: A further development of the personality systems framework. In J. Rauthmann (Ed.). The Handbook of Personality Dynamics and Processes. Elsevier). See https://www.elsevier.com/books/the-handbook-of-personality-dynamics-and-...)
 

Personality  Dynamics Using the Systems Set

    The following diagram also depicts the four parts of the Personality Systems Set, but allowing for bidirectional  influences among the various key elements.

    Personality Systems Set

     

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