Mehrabians PAD Pleasure ArousabilityDominance Temperamen t Model

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At the beginning of the 1980s, when Goldsmith and Campos introduced their emotion-centered theory of infant temperament, there already existed in the United States a broadly elaborated emotion-based theory of adult temperament developed in the 1970s by Mehrabian. It is strange that Mehrabian's contribution to studies on temperament was not cited by Goldsmith and Campos. Furthermore, temperament researchers, including those who deal with adults, have very rarely referred to Mehrabian's work. No review of temperament theories in which Mehrabian's important contribution to the understanding of human temperament is not taken into account can be considered adequate.

Mehrabian's theory of adult temperament is a descriptive, multidimensional and emotion-centered conceptualization (see Table 3.1). A broadly summarized review of his theorizing and findings in the domain of temperament has been published in an extensive monograph (Mehrabian, 1980) mainly comprised of his papers and those of his coworkers written in the 1970s.

Theoretical Background

For a proper understanding of Albert Mehrabian's contribution to temperament note should be taken of the fact that his first period of psychological research was apparently far from temperament issues. During the first decade of his academic career he was mainly interested in problems of communication, especially nonverbal (e.g., Mehrabian, 1965, 1972), attitudes, achievement, affiliation, and other social-behavior characteristics (e.g., Mehrabian, 1968, 1969; Mehrabian & Ksionzky, 1974). Those studies directed his attention to the importance of situations and environment in human behavior (e.g., Mehrabian, 1976b; Mehrabian & Ksionzky, 1972). In his studies on human-environment interaction he arrived at the conclusion that emotions, understood as states, play an important role in this interaction. They are also the phenomena by means of which the individual categorizes environments (Mehrabian & Russell, 1974a, 1974b).

A search for the roots ofMehrabian's theory oftemperament reaching beyond his own experience shows that the contribution of a number of scholars was of particular importance for his research. His temperament theory takes off from studies based on the concept of semantic differential as developed by Osgood (Snider & Osgood, 1969). The three dimensions (evaluation, activity, and potency) by means of which Osgood described human responses to social and physical situations were viewed in Mehrabian's theory from an emotional perspective.

As we see in the next section, influential in the development of Mehrabian's emotion-based theory of temperament were studies that demonstrated the existence of individual differences in the intensity and duration of orienting reflexes (see Maltzman & Raskin, 1965). Also of importance was the neo-Pavlovian approach to investigating the CNS properties, especially strength of excitation (see Nebylitsyn, 1972a), and its interpretation by Gray (1964c) in terms of arous-ability, The construct of arousal, which plays an important role in Mehrabian's theory, was taken from Berlyne ( 1960), to underline the behavioral components of arousal.

Emotions as the Basisfor Three Temperament Dimensions

Mehrabian's (1972) extensive studies on nonverbal communication led him to the conclusion that the diversity of motoric expressions and movements by means of which the individual interacts with others can be described in terms of communicative meanings, at the core of which are emotions. Emotions constitute the primary referents of nonverbal and implicit verbal messages. They "serve as mediating variables between situational and personality variables on the one hand and specific behavioral variables (e.g., actions, verbalizations) on the other" (Mehrabian, 1991, p. 75). Extensive studies, based mainly on the semantic differential type of measure, enabled Mehrabian and Russell (1974a, 1974b) to identify three independent and basic bipolar dimensions of emotion states: pleasure-displeasure, arousal-nonarousal and dominance-submissiveness (PAD Emotion Model). Russell and Mehrabian (1977) demonstrated that all kinds of emotion states may be described in terms of these three dimensions. Different configurations of the three basis emotion states play an important role in human adaptation and they are important concepts for understanding the phenomena of anxiety and depression (Mehrabian, 1995-1996).

There are individual differences in habitual emotional reactions to a variety of stimuli, and a comprehensive evaluation of averages of emotional states leads directly to the description of temperament.

"Temperament" is defined here as "characteristic emotion state" or as "emotion trait." In accordance with standard usage, "state" refers to a transitory condition ofthe organism, whereas "trait" refers to a stable, habitual, or characteristic condition ofthe organism. (Mehrabian, 1991, p. 77)

According to the three emotion factors, three basic bipolar temperament variables were distinguished: trait pleasure-displeasure, trait stimulus screening-arousabil-ity, and trait dominance-submissiveness.

Pleasure-Displeasure. The temperament dimension of pleasure-displeasure has been defined as a characteristic (typical for an individual) feeling state with such behavioral indicators as smiles and laughter, or, more generally, in terms of positive versus negative facial expressions especially during social interaction (Mehrabian,1980). One pole of this dimension is characterized by pain and un-happiness, and the opposite pole by ecstasy and happiness (Mehrabian, 1978b).

Dominance-Submissiveness. Dominance is a characteristic feeling state be-haviorally expressed in postural relaxation. This feeling is a function of the extent to which an individual feels unrestricted or free to act in a variety of ways (Mehra-bian, 1980). At one extreme this dimension refers to feelings of lack of control or influence on the surroundings, and at the other, to feelings of being influential, powerful, and in control over the situation (Mehrabian, 1978b).

Stimulus Screening-Arousability. Of the three dimensions of temperament the most attention was paid to the trait stimulus screening-arousability. Several findings contributed to the identification of this temperament dimension. Studies have shown that there are individual differences in the amplitude of the orienting reflex to strong and novel stimuli, in habituation to this reflex, and in the degree to which individuals are behaviorally aroused by the acting stimuli. Pavlovian ty-pologists have argued that individual differences in these characteristics are mediated by "strength-weakness" of the nervous system. Mehrabian and Russell (1974a) used an information theory approach to develop a hypothesis according to which aspects of stimulation such as variety, complexity, and novelty comprise an "information rate" which determines the level of arousal. The more complex, variegated, and novel the acting stimuli, the higher the information rate. The level of information rate may be regulated by means of screening considered as an information-processing state. There are individual differences in screening of irrelevant stimuli and rapidity of habituation to distracting and irrelevant cues. Stimulus screening is an automatic, not intentional, information-processing state and indi viduals differ in the degree to which they habitually process information (Mehra-bian, 1991). These speculations and observations led Mehrabian (1977b) to the following definition of arousability.

"Arousability," then, may be defined as an individual difference dimension that subsumes the following intercorrelated qualities: the initial amplitude of the orienting reflex; number of trials for GSR habituation; various indexes of arousal response to increases in information rate of stimulation; and "weakness" of the nervous system. (p. 91)

Arousability is inversely related to stimulus screening. Arousable individuals (non-screeners) screen less of the irrelevant stimuli and, as a consequence, experience a higher information rate of acting situations, which leads to higher arousal levels and slower declines in arousal as compared with screeners (unarousable individuals). In turn, screeners are able to screen irrelevant stimuli and thus reduce their random character, leading to a lower level of arousal and a more rapid decrease of arousal in comparison with nonscreeners. Mehrabian (1977b, p. 92) emphasized that it is the temporary spikes in arousal rather than the chronic level of arousal over time and across situations that is most relevant to the differences in behavioral arousal between screeners and nonscreeners.

According to Mehrabian (1978b, 1991), temperament traits are among the most stable behavior characteristics. They are related to behaviors expressed in a wide range of situations, thus satisfying the criterion of generality. Temperament refers to genetic predispositions rather than to learned patterns of behavior; at least 50% of temperament traits are determined by genetic factors. Since temperament traits are classed among the most general and stable individual characteristics, modification of behavior can be achieved mainly through changes in the environment (Mehrabian, 1991).

Mehrabian viewed his temperament dimensions as fundamental for personality description. In a study in which the three temperament dimensions: pleasure (+P)-displeasure (-P), arousability (+A)-stimulus screening (-A), and dominance (+D)-submissiveness (-D),were dichotomized, Mehrabian and O'Reilly (1980) described, by means of regression analysis, the following eight personality types: exuberant (+P+A+D) versus bored (-P-A-D), relaxed (+P-A+D) versus anxious (-P+A-D), hostile (-P+A+D) versus docile (+P-A-D), and disdainful (-P-A+D) versus dependent (+P+A-D).

Measures of Temperament

At the beginning of the emotion-centered studies on temperament, Mehra-bian and Russell (1974a) constructed semantic differential scales under the lengthy heading "Semantic Differential Measures of Emotional State or Characteristic (Trait) Emotions" (SDMESCTE). Depending on the instruction given to subjects, this technique allowed the assessment of any of the three basic emotion states or traits: pleasure, dominance, and arousal. Each of the three scales was composed of 6 pairs of antonymic adjectives (e.g., happy-unhappy in the Pleasure scale). Used as a temperament measure, these adjectives were rated in terms of general feelings on a 9-point rating scale. It turned out, however, that these three scales, when used as measures of traits, were not sufficiently reliable.

Taking the SDMESCTE as a starting point, Mehrabian (1978b) developed, in four consecutive studies conducted on undergraduate students, a new semantic differential format for assessing the three temperamental traits. This method is currently known as the Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance scales (PAD; Mehrabian, 1995a). The PAD scales developed in 1978, which I labeled the Mehrabian Temperament Scale (MTS: Strelau, 1991b). are composed of47 pairs of adjectives, 24 for the Trait-Pleasure scale, 8 for the Trait-Arousal scale, and 15 for the Trait-Dominance scale. Like the former semantic differential format, adjective pairs were rated on a 9-point scale with emotionally reversed adjectives at the two poles [e.g., tired (1) versus inspired (9)]. The MTS has appropriate Trait-Pleasure and Trait-Dominance scales with reliability coefficients .91 and .84 respectively. The reliability of the Trait-Arousal scale, the construction of which afforded the greatest difficulty, was still not satisfactory (.60). This led Mehrabian to conclude that trait-arousal is a difficult concept to measure because of the unreliability of subjects're-ports. The revised 1995 version of PAD is composed of 34 items. The scales are orthogonal to each other and they contain 16 Pleasure items, 9 Arousal items and 9 Dominance items, with reliability coefficients of .97 (P), .89 (A) and .80 (D).

Since in the 1970s the semantic differential approach did not make it possible to develop a satisfactory Trait-Arousal scale, Mehrabian (1976a, 1977a, 1977b) constructed an inventory aimed at measuring the temperament dimension of stimulus screening-arousability and known as the Trait Arousability Scale (TAS; also labeled the Stimulus Screening Scale, SSS). TAS is a measure of an emotional predisposition to be aroused. This inventory consists of 40 items balanced for direction of wording and scored on a 9-point rating scale. The construct of stimulus screening is represented in the TAS by the nine following intercorrelated factors: low general arousability, rapid habituation, low arousability to sudden changes and events, thermal screening, low arousability in novel or changeable settings, auditory screening, tactual and kinesthetic screening, olfactory screening and low arousability in multicomponent or complex settings. A high score on the TAS is indicative for screeners (unarousable individuals) whereas a low score indicates non-screeners (high arousability).

The TAS yields high reliability scores (.92) and adequate convergent as well as discriminant validity characteristics. Curiously, the Stimulus Screening Questionnaire did not correlate with scales that also refer to the concept of arousal and arousability, such as Extraversion and Arousal Seeking Tendency (Mehrabian, 1976a, 1977a). In a recent review of studies in which TAS was applied Mehrabian

(1995b) presented data that support high reliability and validity (construct, convergent, and divergent) of this inventory.

Mehrabian and Falender (1978) also developed a psychometric measure of stimulus screening-arousability in children as a questionnaire based on maternal report. The Child Stimulus Screening Scale (CSSS; so labeled by Strelau) is a 46-item inventory with a 9-point rating scale (from very strong agreement to very strong disagreement). The Kuder-Richardson formula 20 reliability coefficient, used by Mehrabian in all his psychometric studies as a measure of reliability, was very high for the CSSS (.92).

Mehrabian and Hines (1978) also developed a questionnaire aimed at measuring the third temperament dimension: dominance-submissiveness.This questionnaire, also composed of 40 well-balanced items and with very satisfactory reliability (.95) was considered a more effective measure of dominance than the SDMESCTE-Trait Dominance Scale (Mehrabian, 1978b).

In sum, it may be noted that the only assessment technique that succeeds in measuring all three emotion-centered temperament dimensions involves the PAD scales. However, for a reliable measure of stimulus screening-arousability, which is the most interesting of Mehrabian's temperament dimensions, the TAS is recommended.

Temperament as Related to Behavior and Environment

The emotion-centered theory of temperament is based on assumptions that allow a search for a variety of links between temperament and other behaviors and behavior disorders in a diversity of situations and environments. A series of studies has been conducted by Mehrabian (1980) and his associates to illustrate the links between temperament and such phenomena as eating characteristics and disorders (Mehrabian, 1987; Mehrabian & Riccioni, 1986; Mehrabian, Nahum, & Duke, 1985-1986), chronic stimulant use (Mehrabian, 1986; 1995b), sexual desire and dysfunction (Mehrabian & Stanton-Mohr, 1985), illness (Mehrabian, 1995b; Mehrabian & Bernath, 1991; Mehrabian & Ross, 1977), emotional empathy (Mehrabian, Young, & Sato, 1988), and environmental preferences (Hines & Mehrabian, 1979; Mehrabian, 1978a). It is impossible to refer to all these studies; however, two lines of research mentioned in the following paragraphs illustrate Mehrabian's approach to the study of temperament characteristics as related to behavior and environment.

Mehrabian and his associates gave much attention to the search for links between eating-related characteristics, including such disorders as obesity and anorexia, and temperament. There was no specific and theoretically grounded rationale behind these studies except for the fact that up till then most research in this domain had been conducted using a clinical approach and/or referred to inadequate personality traits assumed to mediate eating characteristics. In Mehrabian and his coworkers' studies (Mehrabian, 1987; Mehrabian & Riccioni, 1986; Mehrabian etal., 1985-1986) eating-related characteristics were measured in normal populations (always undergraduate students) by means of specially constructed questionnaires, and related to the three basic temperament factors. In general, the findings suggested several conclusions, which include the following. Three factors of eating-related characteristics—predisposition to obesity, uncontrollable urges to eat, and predisposition to anorexia, were significantly correlated with trait arousability. Most striking, predisposition to obesity was associated with arousability and submissiveness. Persons engaged more in joyless eating tended to have more unpleasant temperaments, and so on. In general, the association between eating-related characteristics and emotions was stronger when the latter were measured not as traits (temperament) but as states.

Mehrabian's studies on the relationship between temperament and environment were theoretically grounded. Referring to the Yerkes-Dodson law, Mehrabian ( 1977a) developed a pleasure-arousal hypothesis directly related to the screener-nonscreener temperament dimension. According to this hypothesis, "a high rate of information in a setting maximizes approach versus avoidance as a function of the pleasure versus displeasure elicited" (Mehrabian, 1977a, p. 247). This hypothesis is based on an assumption that in pleasant situations approach behavior is a direct correlate of arousal, whereas in unpleasant situations it is avoidance behavior that directly correlates with arousal. Mehrabian's theory postulates that screeners are less arousable in situations of high information rate than non-screeners. If this is the case, one may assume that nonscreeners, more than screen-ers, will approach a pleasant environment and avoidance of an unpleasant environment will also be more strongly expressed in nonscreeners than in screen-ers (see Figure 3.3); both tendencies should be most strongly expressed under a high information rate of stimulation.

In several studies where approach was operationalized in terms of situation preferences, desire to work or socialize, and avoidance was scored by measuring physical avoidance of the surroundings, avoidance of work and social interaction, the pleasure-arousal hypothesis as applied to screeners and nonscreeners was partially confirmed (Hines & Mehrabian, 1979; Mehrabian, 1978a, 1980, 1995b).

Final Remarks

In spite of Mehrabian's assumption that individual differences in temperament are essentially determined by the genetic factor, to the extent of my knowledge, none of the studies conducted by him or his coworkers can be treated as evidence for his claim. Mehrabian's conceptualizations although pertaining to such biologically rooted concepts as arousal and arousability, did not refer to any specific biological mechanisms or correlates of the three emotion-based temperament dimensions.

FIGURE 3.3. The plesasure-arousal hypothesis for screeners and nonscreeners. Note. From "A Questionnaire Measure of Individual Differences in Stimulus Screening and Associated Differences in Arousability," by A. Mehrabian, 1977, Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior 1, p. 248. Copyright 1977 by Duke University Press. Reprinted with permission.

FIGURE 3.3. The plesasure-arousal hypothesis for screeners and nonscreeners. Note. From "A Questionnaire Measure of Individual Differences in Stimulus Screening and Associated Differences in Arousability," by A. Mehrabian, 1977, Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior 1, p. 248. Copyright 1977 by Duke University Press. Reprinted with permission.

In using the construct of arousability in his writings, Mehrabian made mention of Gray (1964c) who introduced this concept, but ascribed to it a different meaning. For Gray, arousability was considered to be a chronic (more or less stable) level of arousal on which individuals differ, while for Mehrabian (1977a) this term referred to the temporary states (spikes) of arousal. The application of the construct "arousability" to refer to phasic arousal is unusual in personality or temperament research (see Chapter 5).

Most interesting, however, is the fact that Mehrabian differs from all other scholars in his view regarding the basis of individual differences in arousal. Other authors, in interpreting the sources of individual differences in arousal or in using the concept of arousability, refer to different anatomic structures of the nervous system, to physiological or biochemical mechanisms or both (for a detailed discussion see Chapter 5). In contrast, Mehrabian (1995b) discerns the causes of individual differences in behavioral arousal as automatic information-processing phenomena, which he identifies as habitual screening of irrelevant stimuli. Mehra-bian did not develop any hypothesis which allows for assumptions as to the kinds of biological determinants expected to mediate these automatic and habitual information-processing states.

In analyzing the construct of dominance-submissiveness, "one has the feeling" that this temperament dimension, as defined by Mehrabian, does not correspond with the understanding of the term "feeling" as applied by most researchers of emotions. In defining dominance Mehrabian uses the term "feeling" as I have used it in the preceding sentence. Dominance is characterized as "Feelings of being influential and powerful" (Mehrabian, 1978b, p. 1107). In this context, feeling is rather a synonym of consciousness, for example, in the context "feeling safety." This has not much in common with feelings as the content component of basic emotions.

However interesting Mehrabian's theory oftemperament is, one has to bear in mind that all of his findings as well as the data collected during the two decades are based exclusively, or more cautiously, almost exclusively, on undergraduate student samples. From this point ofview, Mehrabian's theory is a biased one, since in fact it is a theory of university students' temperament. Only recently studies have been extended to other populations (Mehrabian, 1995 a, 1995b) as well as to other personality traits throwing some light on the relationship between Mehra-bian's PAD constructs and other conceptualizations regarding adult temperament.

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