Nash, William P. - Personality as Information Gating

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.

On Nash’s account, personality “evolved specifically to make human culture possible by managing the flow of information within the culture, especially by mediating teaching and learning, competition and cooperation, and leading and following.” (Nash, 1998) All of these transactions are predicated upon a basic function of information gating that directs attention and determines openness for the bidirectional flow of information and interaction between internal self and external social systems, as the situation demands. In this model, personality disorders are maladaptive gating rhythms that chronically admit and release too much or too little social information and interaction.

Crossing the dimensions of relative openness to incoming information and relative openness for outgoing information gives us the follow expression of the structure of concern.

P – Influence (Closed to incoming, Open for outgoing): Leading, teaching, selling
A – Isolation (Closed to incoming, Closed for outgoing): Waiting, exercising, meditating
E – Incorporation (Open to incoming, Closed for outgoing): Following, learning, empathizing
I – Intimacy (Open to incoming, Open for outgoing): Love relationships, friendships, psychotherapy

It may be worth mentioning that Nash is a US Navy psychiatrist, in a stronger command-and-control culture than civilian or free-enterprise contexts. His PAEI roles thus take their shape in a P-dominant environment. In entrepreneurial business contexts, E is more typically associated with leadership, and P with followership.

All four gating styles are functional in the right situations, and dysfunctional outside of them. Nash speculates that the movement of self information out into the cultural environment, along with the movement of cultural information into the self, “has the effect of bringing the inner and outer worlds into closer approximation.” The goal of personality may thus be a sort of equilibrium, deploying information gating as a way of monitoring the gap between inner and outer worlds. Motivation to establish a new inner-outer equilibrium by enabling information and interaction to flow between them would be proportional to the severity of mismatch detected.

Nash lines up information gating with DSM-IV personality disorder clusters as follows: P – Antisocial, A – Schizoid, E – Dependent, I – Borderline. In many civilian-based accounts the E and I roles would be reversed. However on the timescale of military functions, E would constantly need to be told what to do (dependent), and the I profile of preferred interaction values would be continuously disrupted (distressed).

1. Nash, W. P. (1998). “Information Gating: An Evolutionary Model of Personality Function and Dysfunction.” Psychiatry, 61, 46-60.
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