Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yolles & Fink: Personality, Pathology and Mindsets (3 Parts)

I've only read the first part of this three-part series, but it seems interesting and somewhat aligned with some of my own views. There is little I can say about it that you can't read in the abstract and in the Introduction (included below).

Personality, Pathology and Mindsets: Part 1 – Agency, Personality and Mindscapes

Personality, Pathology and Mindsets: Part 2 – Cultural Traits and Enantiomers

Personality, Pathology and Mindsets: Part 3 – Pathologies and Corruption

  • Maurice Yolles - John Moores University - Centre for the Creation of Coherent Change and Knowledge (C4K)
  • Gerhard Fink - IACCM International Association for Cross Cultural Competence and Management

Kybernetes; 43(1): 92-112; 2014


Purpose – This paper aims to develop a new socio-cognitive theory of the normative personality of a plural agency like, for instance, an organisation or a political system. This cybernetic agency theory is connected to Bandura’s theory of psychosocial function. The agency is adaptive and has a normative personality that operates through three formative personality traits, the function of which is control. The cybernetic agency theory is presented as a meta-model, which comes from cybernetic "living systems" theory.

Design/methodology/approach – First, in this paper, the authors discuss the virtues of a normative cybernetic agency model in the light of issues related to normal states and pathologies of systems. Formative traits could be derived from Maruyama’s mindscape theory or Harvey’s typology.

However, Boje has noted that with four mindscape types Maruyama’s typology is constrained. Consequently, he projected the Maruyama mindscapes into a space with the three Foucault- imensions: knowledge, ethics and power.

Findings – The suggested cybernetic agency model with the three formative personality traits can provide a framing for a structural model that has the potential to distinguish between normal and abnormal personalities in the same framework.

Research limitations/implications – The constraints of the Maruyama mindscape space, as identified by Boje, are suggesting that further research is needed to identify a formative three-trait- ystem which is theory based, was empirically applied, and is permitting to create a typology with eight extreme types, yet to be identified.

Originality/value – The paper draws on earlier work undertaken in the last few years by the same authors, who in a new way are pursuing new directions and extensions of that earlier research.
Here is the Introduction to Part One of this article.


Our interest in this paper lies in coherent adaptable agencies having personalities that drive their behaviour, and the nature and consequences of the pathologies that they experience. These agencies may be individuals or social collectives, the distinction between them being that the latter operates through normative attributes that are created by the social collective of individuals, and are self-regulated and cohesive through their adhesion to the norms of a given culture. Yolles (2009) has examined the social collective in terms of its “collective mind”, thereby relating more closely psychology and social psychology. As such he has explored the social collective in relation to its ability to behave as a singular cognitive entity, and just like an individual person has collective social psychological conditions that are equivalent to, but will have additional mechanisms from, the psychology of individuals. Both are agents of behaviour with cognitive processes, the former being composed of a collection of individuals that operates as a coherent unit through norms, and the latter a unitary person.

Having related the individual with the social, our focus centres on more complex but more or less transparent plural agencies, i.e. social collectives (e.g. organisations and nations). They are durable and develop behaviour by virtue of their cognitive and existential attributes. In such an agency individuals and their empirical psychology create collective cognitive and existential processes, and as such there is a broad relationship between the social psychology of collectives and the psychology of the individual. Agencies also can respond to their environments and adapt, and are able to survive despite the fact they are likely to have pathologies that impact on their operative capabilities. Agency pathologies are conditions of organisational ill-health that:

  • may be constituted as faults in the interconnection between the parts of the organisation;
  • are inhibiters of organisational coherence; and
  • can prevent the parts from autonomously regulating their collective existence.
They limit an agency from operating in a way that enables it to:
  • be effective;
  • implement its wants and needs; and
  • behave effectively.
Pathology can create lacks in an ability to perform properly through poor: (a) management; (b) procedures; (g) communications; and (d) the development of aspirations and motivation. Pathologies can more easily arise in an authoritarian management style in which there is:
  • a high degree of central control;
  • little communication;
  • single voice (mono-vocal) top-down management;
  • limited scope for individual initiative with an orientation towards obedience and the provision of orders;
  • centralised decision-making process that tend to be repetitive;
  • reluctance to start innovative processes;
  • high degrees of conformity; and
  • high level of resistance to change.
Pathologies occur when individuals and groups in a social agency are prevented from autonomously regulating their collective existence in a way that opposes their capacity to operate successfully and adapt. The pathologies may be considered to cause varying degrees of dysfunction, the degree determining the intensity or density of the pathologies being experienced. Such dysfunctions affect not only and agency’s orientation, but the way in which it operates as a whole. So pathology can be important in the provision of an understanding of why particular types of behaviour are manifested, and how they may be dealt with where they represent important degrees of ill-health or unfitness or dysfunction. Following Yolles (2009), two orientations of pathology can be identified: internal directed or endogenous and externally directed or exogenous. Endogenous pathologies can cause social abnormalities like neuroses and dysfunctions (Kets de Vries, 1991) that can interfere with the way the agency performs its tasks, while exogenous pathologies, i.e. those directed towards the environment, can result in sociopathic behaviour. Having appropriate agency models can improve our ability to understand the nature of the social psychology and can provide an entry into how its pathologies may be “treated”. One of our interests in this paper is therefore to develop a modelling approach for the collective agency that can lead to explanations of how the pathologies of an organisation can be harmful not only to the collective itself, but also potentially to the social environments in which they exist.

Normative personalities are seen to be social psychological entities. They are embedded within an agency that can be connected with an intensity or density of pathologies. Ordered personalities have a low density of pathologies, and very disordered personalities have a high density, the latter traditionally being seen as the result of an unbalanced personality (Sane, 2012). Janowsky et al. (1998) have studied individuals with personality disorders – that is, personalities with a relatively high density of pathologies. They have used at least two approaches to model these. They adopted the atheoretic pathology oriented Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory (MMPI) to identify psychopathology and personality structure, an approach according to Eisenman (2006) that is inadequate for use with “normal” people since it is designed to highlight pathologies and personality disorder. Janowsky et al. (2002) also used the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) (Myers Briggs, 2000), normally referred to as MBTI, to profile the personalities of in-patient alcoholics/substance-use disorder patients in two classes: those with a concurrent affective disorder diagnosis as well as those not so diagnosed. They found that there were correlations between some disorders and the type classes used in MBTI to distinguish individual differences in personalities of introversion, sensing and feeling preference. This suggests that it might be possible, given appropriate theory, to associate different personalities with pathology densities, a proposition that we are theoretically interested in here. In line with this interest, Markon et al. (2005) note that there is increasing evidence that normal and abnormal personality can be treated within a single structural framework, and according to O’Connor and Dyce (2001) that abnormal personality can be modelled as extremes of normal personality variation. For Markon et al. (2005) a proposed framework has remained elusive, and instead they discuss personality disorder in terms of a hierarchical trait structure which they relate to the personality taxonomy of the Big Five (Schroeder et al., 1992; John and Srivastava, 1991). The situation is even worse than this according to Mayer (2005), who argues that current theory in personality promotes a fragmented view of the person, seen through such competing theories as the psychodynamic, trait, and humanistic. As an alternative, he promotes a systems framework for personality that centres on its identification, its parts, its organization, and its development. As such, Mayer (2005) may be considered to lay the foundations for the systemic approach adopted here.

In the same way that there is a need for a single structural framework for the personality of the individual, the social collective also has a need for one, and due to the relationship between them they would be expected to be broadly similar. So, in this paper our primary interest lies in modelling pathology densities of social agencies having normative personalities. To do this we shall take the following steps. We shall adopt a cybernetic agency model that is reflective of Bandura’s (2006) ideas on the adaptive agency, and which arises from “living system” theory (Yolles, 2006). That personality can be represented as a system is not new (Pervin, 1990), but representing it as a living system is. Such an approach can respond to the needs of complexity and uncertainty, and embed features of adaptation and autonomous self-control. In the modelling approach that we shall take, personality controls derive from formative traits. It is a cybernetic personality theory which has a frame of reference that related to Maruyama’s mindscape theory, which unlike the classificational MBTI, is relational in nature (Maruyama, 2001). The relationship between classificational and relational within the context of personality has been considered by various authors (Baldwin, 1992; Mayer, 1995). For Baldwin (1992), relational schemas can be usefully used to explore cognitive structures and their regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. For Mayer (1995), the power of relational approaches is partly exhibited through their ability to pose questions otherwise inaccessible through classificational approaches with respect to the development of personality and the connections between its components. Living system modelling approaches allow not only the classification of systems through their traits, but also the ability to make investigations through system dynamics by investigating the importance assigned to feed-forward and feed-back processes and the relations (and correlations) between processes. Myer also notes that relational approaches offers a meaning-structure for thinking about personality and its components, and that they also offer the possibility of the synthesis of a century’s work on personality components into a single representation of personality that is both multifaceted and whole.

While mindscape theory is essentially superior to classificational approaches, in Maruyama’s mindscape theory the development of personality types is even less transparent than are the types of MBTI. Nor do pathologies play a part in mindscape theory, a particular interest in this paper. Since both transparency and pathology will be requirements for an understanding of normative personality, we shall propose a new formative trait basis for mindscape theory. This will come from a study by Sagiv and Schwartz (2007) capable of explaining social agency behaviour, and which will result in a class of Sagiv-Schwartz mindscape theory that will be called mindset theory. We shall then in brief explore the spectrum of pathology densities, relating them to social contexts, and differentiating, for instance, between ethical and sociopathic organisations. This approach allows us to redefine the “mindscape concept” in slightly different broader terms than adopted by Maruyama. Adopting the idea of epistemological structures, Maruyama’s theory of mindscapes is cognitive in that it refers to the way in which people interpret and process information. Mindscapes exist as a set of distinct epistemological orthogonal typologies, and which can be constituted through a set of culturally connected dimensions that include cognitive uncorrelated bi-polar traits. Such a typology can be theoretically founded in a different way from that developed by Maruyama, by adopting bi-polar traits that can be derived from a coherent “living system” meta-model of a social agency having a “personality system”. We integrate empirical constructs from social psychology and social values research into the meta-model and transpose it into a mindscape framework. This allows one to visualize the set of personality types that can emerge, and further allows one to discuss typology formation from a coherent platform that can integrate different mindscape concepts. Such a meta-model will be useful for understanding the nested levels of investigations from top down (society, organizations, teams, individuals) and bottom-up (from individual personalities, through normative organisational personality, to socio- and economic-political personality at society level).

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