Interactionist personality theory (IPT) posits that behaviors result from the relationship a person has with the situations they are confronted with (Reynolds, Turner, Banscombe, Mavor, Bizumic & Subasic, 2010). Characteristically, IPT is somewhat mechanistic as it concerns how personal factors combined with situational factors explain individual behavior. Personal factors include those related to psychology and physiology, while situational factors refer to environments and what may or may not be occurring within (Reynolds, et al., 2010). IPT may also be viewed as the interaction between individual needs or motives articulated within environments, which would include other people and in combination either assist or impair need satisfaction (Reynolds, et al, 2010).

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IPT may be viewed in terms of a social-cognitive perspective, where personality variables such as competencies, expectations, encoding strategies and planning interact with environmental factors which eventually determine personality and behavior (Reynolds, et al., 2010). IPT is sometimes closely associated with social-psychology, as the discipline continues to research personality traits in relation to situations and environments. However, Reynolds, et al., (2010) claim the theoretical inspiration for IPT comes from Gestalt psychology, where in Gestalt the theory of personality relates to the whole of a given situation, encompassing both internal and external aspects of the individual. In this example, factors related to the person are not independent of situational factors, or even the other way around; they are interconnected. Hence, IPT is concerned with a given situation psychologically and how the individual gives it meaning, which is most important towards understanding behavior (Reynolds, et al., 2010). What appears most interesting is how IPT concerns itself with the whole of a situation, or the environment, which is profoundly connected to the individual.

  • Reynolds, K. J., Turner, J. C., Banscombe, N. R. Mavor, K. I., Bizumic, B., & Subasic, E. (2010). Interactionism in personality and social psychology: An integrated approach to understanding the mind and behaviour. European Journal of Personality, 24(5), 458-482. doi:10.1002/per.782