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Clinical Application of Social Cognitive Theory: A Novel Personality Assessment Procedure and a Case Study of Personality Coherence

Walter D. Scott, Stephen Paup, Cornelia Kirchhoff
Published: 1 July 2021

Abstract: We present a novel personality assessment method that applies social cognitive personality theory, and more specifically, the Knowledge and Appraisal Personality Architecture model (KAPA; Cervone, 2004 ; 2021 ; see Scott & Cervone, 2016 ). Our assessment method generates descriptions of how personality structures, including temperament, beliefs, goals, and evaluative standards, are activated in “functionally equivalent” situations to generate if–then personality signatures ( Mischel, 2004 ). These descriptions represent models of personality coherence, which we characterize as strong attractor states. We define personality incoherence as nonexistent or perturbed attractor states, in which the situational “if” does not consistently produce a coherent “then” pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving. We provide a step-by-step description of our personality assessment method, and include lists of measures that can be used to assess temperament, beliefs, goals, and standards. To illustrate our personality assessment method, we present a case study of a man in his forties who met criteria for persistent depressive disorder, with intermittent major depressive episodes, with current episode and generalized anxiety disorder. For this client, we describe two “attractor states,” one maladaptive and one adaptive, each providing an example of personality coherence. We conclude by discussing potential future directions and limitations of our personality assessment method.
Keywords: Social cognitive / KAPA model / personality assessment / personality coherence / personality incoherence

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