Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology: Theory, Research, Assessment and Therapeutic Interventions

By Leonard M. Horowitz; Stephen Strack | Go to book overview

18
CIRCULAR REASONING
ABOUT CIRCULAR ASSESSMENT

Michael B. Gurtman

There are a number of strong geometric and substantive assumptions involved when assessment instruments are used to classify persons into typological categories defined by the coordinates of the Interpersonal Circle ([IPC]; Wiggins, Phillips, & Trapnell, 1989, p. 296). In an article likely familiar to many readers (and nearly all contributors to this volume), Jerry Wiggins and his coauthors set forth some of the basic assumptions—or as they described it, the “circular reasoning”—behind the “diagnostic use” of the IPC for personality assessment. These assumptions were largely in the form of predictions about the diagnostic implications of certain structural and substantive products of IPC-based assessments. At the same time, the article provided a set of principles and demonstrations for how such products could be incorporated into personality assessment.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide what is best described as an amplification and extension of some of the circular reasoning—the principles and themes of circular assessment—that are presented in this essential work. Several newer ideas and developments will be introduced, but, at the same time, I will try to stay grounded in the approach that Wiggins and his colleagues so effectively and persuasively advocated in this article and in related works. I will begin by describing the features of the circular model, its relation to the interpersonal circumplex (Wiggins, 1979), and then present the derivations and implications of the model for the assessment of individual differences, including circular profiles, vector scoring, and circular distributions. Both the statistics and the graphics of circular assessment will be illustrated. As I have noted in previous places (e.g., Gurtman, 2009, Gurtman & Balakrishnan, 1998; Gurtman & Pincus, 2003), circular-based assessments offer new ways—and opportunities—for analyzing, representing, and construing interpersonal data. These methods, as Wiggins et al. (1989) noted, offer “exciting possibilities” that help further the potential and creativity of our interpersonal assessments and research activities.


WHAT IS THE CIRCULAR MODEL?

In a history well-covered elsewhere (e.g., Freedman, 1985; Kiesler, 1996; LaForge, 2004; Wiggins, 1996), the circular model of interpersonal behavior can be traced to the pioneering work of the Kaiser

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