Leary, Timothy - Interpersonal Circle Model of Personality

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

Timothy Leary conducted his research into personality as the head of the Kaiser Foundation Research Project in the 1950’s (Leary, 1957). His model of personality is interpersonal in the sense that personality is seen to manifest itself primarily in the context of dyadic relationships, rather than character traits or clusters of clinical symptoms. Leary worked in the tradition of Murray and Morgan, creators of the Thematic Aptitude Test. Murray’s categories of psychological needs (Murray, 1938) were reorganized and arranged in a circumplex fashion to make the relationships between them more obvious (Magnavita, 2002).

Leary’s model features eight divisions each with two subdivisions, forming a circle divided into sixteen categories characterizing patterns of interpersonal behaviour. However, two intersecting dimensions underlay the progression of patterns, a Dominance-Submission axis and a Love-Hate (or affiliation-aggression) axis. Similar axes would emerge in subsequent circumplex models of temperament and personality.


These gives rise to four quadrants, which Leary noted were similar to the temperaments described by the ancient Galenic doctrine of the four humours. The quadrants and their associated subcategories listed below:

P – Dominant-Hate: Competitive, Sadistic, Aggressive, Rebellious
A – Submissive-Hate: Distrustful, Self-Effacing, Masochistic, Docile
E – Dominant-Love: Narcissistic, Managerial, Autocratic
I – Submissive-Love: Responsible, Hyper-normal, Cooperative, Over-conventional, Dependent

Given the interpersonal focus of this model, a slightly heavier loading on the I factor is understandable (whereas personal decision making models sometimes exclude I considerations entirely). Both Leary’s work and Murray’s work would continue to serve as points of reference in the further development of circumplex models.

1. Leary, T. (1957). Interpersonal diagnosis of personality: A functional theory and methodology for personality evaluation. New York: Ronald Press.
2. Magnavita, J. J. (2002). Theories of Personality: Contemporary Approaches to the Science of Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
3. Murray, H. A. (1938). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License