Personality as an Affect-Processing System: Toward an Integrative Theory

Personality as an Affect-Processing System: Toward an Integrative Theory

Personality as an Affect-Processing System: Toward an Integrative Theory

Personality as an Affect-Processing System: Toward an Integrative Theory


At least since Hippocrates, human beings have been trying to describe and analyze the behavioral and cognitive consistencies now referred to as personality. And in recent decades, no less than in the preceding centuries, they have generated a bewildering variety of construals and constructs.

In this landmark book, Jack Block, who has spent more than 50 years studying the many facets of personality, takes a long look at current debates and finds common ground on which to construct an integrative model. Perceiving more congruence among disparate formulations than has hitherto been appreciated, he elaborates his vision of personality as an adaptive system that enables the individual to maintain equilibrium in an environment that is both threatening and engaging.

Taking in and organizing information and maintaining nondisruptive levels of anxiety while responding to outer and inner demands are the tasks of this system, which consists of a perceptual apparatus and a control apparatus operating in delicate balance.

After presenting his model of personality, Block discusses its intellectual history and its connections to major current alternatives. He lays out some implications for practitioners confronted by dysfunction. Finally, he traces the developmental origins of personality.

Provocative, innovative, and analytical, Personality as an Affect-Processing System: Toward an Integrative Theory points to new directions for all those who seek to understand human psychological functioning.


The field of personality psychology continues inchoate in this new millennium. It is lively, conceptually multilingual, empirically prolific, contentious, ambitious, and unsatisfying. the reasons are many, most recently having to do primarily with the different paths by which psychologists attempt to explore the domain of personality psychology. Inevitably, rather different cartographies of the field have been offered up as guides to the terrain. Correspondences among these various maps are difficult to establish: Borders are differently placed by the different surveyors, mountains according to one topographer are valleys or no more than hillocks to another, the place-names or routes accorded by one mapmaker arouse anathema in other assayers of the personality field.

Quite separately, and dating back to at least Hippocrates, various speculations have been offered regarding personality-manifesting behavior. However, the theoretical underpinnings of personality, their origin, and their development over time are largely ignored systematically; much is insufficiently recognized or acknowledged; crucial areas continue unexplored.

In the busy marketplace of personality research, alternative, disparate, and competing visions and versions of the field continue to be actively promulgated by appeal, selectively, to subjectively resonant speculation, particular bodies of empiricism, or seemingly paramount methodological approaches. Scientific fragmentation remains.

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