interpersonal theory

Interpersonal Circumplex

The interpersonal circle or interpersonal circumplex is a model for conceptualizing, organizing, and assessing interpersonal behavior, traits, and motives (Wiggins, 2003). The interpersonal circumplex is defined by two orthogonal axes: a vertical axis (of status, dominance, power, or control) and a horizontal axis (of solidarity, friendliness, warmth, or love). In recent years, it has become conventional to identify the vertical and horizontal axes with the broad constructs of agency and communion (Horowitz, 2004). Thus, each point in the interpersonal circumplex space can be specified as a weighted combination of agency and communion.

Placing a person near one of the poles of the axes implies that the person tends to convey clear or strong messages (of warmth, hostility, dominance or submissiveness). Conversely, placing a person at the midpoint of the agentic dimension implies the person conveys neither dominance nor submissiveness (and pulls neither dominance nor submissiveness from others). Likewise, placing a person at the midpoint of the communal dimension implies the person conveys neither warmth nor hostility (and pulls neither warmth nor hostility from others).

The interpersonal circumplex can be divided into broad segments (such as fourths) or narrow segments (such as sixteenths), but currently most interpersonal circumplex inventories partition the circle into eight octants. As one moves around the circle, each octant reflects a progressive blend of the two axial dimensions.

There exist a variety of psychological tests designed to measure these eight interpersonal circumplex octants. For example, the Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS; Wiggins, 1995) is a measure of interpersonal traits associated with each octant of the interpersonal circumplex. The Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP; Horowitz, Alden, Wiggins, & Pincus, 2000) is a measure problems associated with each octant of the interpersonal circumplex. The Circumplex Scales of Interpersonal Values (CSIV; Locke, 2000) is a 64-item measure of the value individuals place on interpersonal experiences associated with each octant of the interpersonal circumplex. The Person's Relating to Others Questionnaire (PROQ), the latest version beng the PROQ3 is a 48-item measure developed by the British doctor John Birtchnell. Finally, the Impact Message Inventory-Circumplex (IMI; Kiesler, Schmidt, & Wagner, 1997) assesses the interpersonal dispositions of a target person, not by asking the target person directly, but by assessing the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that the target evokes in another person. Since interpersonal dispositions are key features of most personality disorders, interpersonal circumplex measures can be useful tools for identifying or differentiating personality disorders (Kiesler, 1996; Leary, 1957; Locke, 2006).


• Horowitz, L. M. (2004). Interpersonal foundations of psychopathology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

• Horowitz, L.M., Alden, L.E., Wiggins, J.S., & Pincus, A.L. (2000). Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Manual. Odessa, FL: The Psychological Corporation.

• Kiesler, D. J. (1996).Contemporary interpersonal theory and research: Personality, psychopathology and psychotherapy. New York: Wiley.

• Kiesler, D. J., Schmidt, J. A. & Wagner, C. C. (1997). A circumplex inventory of impact messages: An operational bridge between emotional and interpersonal behavior. In R. Plutchik & H. R. Conte (Eds.), Circumplex models of personality and emotions (pp. 221—244). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Leary, T. (1957). Interpersonal diagnosis of personality. New York: Ronald Press.

• Locke, K.D. (2000). Circumplex Scales of Interpersonal Values: Reliability, validity, and applicability to interpersonal problems and personality disorders. Journal of Personality Assessment, 75, 249-267.

• Locke, K.D. (2006). Interpersonal circumplex measures. In S. Strack (Ed.), Differentiating normal and abnormal personality (2nd Ed., pp. 383-400). New York: Springer.

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