Ambivalence about interpersonal problems and traits predicts cross-situational variability of social behavior

Thane M. Erickson, Michelle G. Newman, Jessica Peterson, Gina Scarsella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Multiple theoretical perspectives suggest that maladjusted personality is characterized by not only distress, but also opposing or "ambivalent" self-perceptions and behavioral lability across social interactions. However, the degree to which ambivalence about oneself predicts cross-situational variability in social behavior has not been examined empirically. Using the interpersonal circumplex (IPC) as a nomological framework, the present study investigated the extent to which endorsing opposing or "ambivalent" tendencies on IPC measures predicted variability in social behavior across a range of hypothetical interpersonal scenarios (Part 1; N=288) and naturalistic social interactions (Part 2; N=192). Ambivalent responding for interpersonal problems and traits was associated with measures of distress, maladaptive interpersonal tendencies, and greater variability of social behavior across both hypothetical and daily social interactions, though more consistently for interpersonal problems. More conservative tests suggested that ambivalence predicted some indexes of behavioral variability even when accounting for mean levels and squared means of social behaviors, vector length, gender, and depressive symptoms. Results suggest that processes theorized as typifying personality disorder may apply more broadly to personality maladjustment occurring outside of clinical samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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