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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 14


By R.J. Rummel

The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.
----George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

The inner logic of the dynamic field has yet to be completed, and basic terms like relationship must be defined. How are behavioral alternatives related to expectations, how is i's personality related to situations, and how are they all related to behavioral choices? As anyone knows, the term relation covers a multitude of meanings, and without specification what I have said so far can satisfy contradictory interpretations. Clearly, however, I have been heading toward a certain perspective, and all that remains now to surface this is to explicitly link the two spaces shown in Figures 13.3a-b.

When a person is responding to or deciding how to act regarding some situation, his personality characteristics, in effect, are weighted by that situation. Moreover, in respect to that situation, the person's behavioral dispositions themselves are weighted by his expectations about the outcome of his manifest behavior. Some examples may clarify this. Imagine a teacher who is visited by a student distraught about a failing grade. Now, this situation is perceived and apprehended by the teacher according to his particular personality (which, remember, includes roles)--his perspective. If he, for example, is hardheaded, professionally motivated, inward-directed, and temperamentally aloof, the situation comprising the student and his problem will weight these particular personality components. That is, in the teacher's dynamic field there is a relationship between the student and his problem on the one hand and the teacher's personality components on the other.

Moreover, the teacher has a reservoir of responses, such as playing a fatherly role and good guy, giving the student professional advice, or unsympathetically telling him to consider the grade a lesson. Now toward which of these alternatives the teacher is disposed depends on his personality and will (I do insist that the teacher is not wholly a mindless victim of his personality and situation). His choices, however, are weighted by his expectation about the student's response or benefits in each instance. Is the student suicide prone if his future is threatened, or likely to drop out of school if pressured? Does he simply need a stern lecture? Such expectations will weight the teacher's behavioral dispositions and may result even in his choosing to act contrary to his inclinations because of the consequences for the student.

As a second example, consider now a women who has a somewhat painful lump on her neck. As she perceives this situation, it may weight certain aspects of her personality, such as a high anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem, and push her toward action. But what kind of action? Let us say that her potential behaviors, her alternatives, involve seeing a doctor whom she fears, ignoring the lump, telling her husband, and treating herself, and that given her personality, she is highly disposed toward seeing a doctor immediately. Now, her expectations about this lump, about the behavioral outcomes, include the possibility that it is malignant, and accordingly a major weight is unconsciously given to the doctor alternative. In this case, expectations and behavioral dispositions are congruent.

We have a final example from international relations. In 1962, the now classic and then dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. At that time President Kennedy perceived a situation involving evidence of a Soviet offensive missile and bomber buildup in Cuba. This perceived situation was located in Kennedy's dynamic psychological field according to his personality (which included his role components and security motivations) and will, and weighted them toward certain responses. What he was disposed to do, perhaps an immediate "surgical air strike" on these installations and bombers, was one of many potentials of the situation. All such alternatives were weighted by his expectations of each choice, given the apprehended situation. His expectations no doubt concerned the effects on the global power balance, on Latin America, on the likelihood of escalation to a nuclear exchange, on the encouragement of Khruschev in other regions, and so on. Kennedy's actual choice to first quarantine Cuba reflected this weighting, his personality, and his perception of the situation itself.1

These three examples illustrate the following: The situation as perceived by an individual in his dynamic field weights (or activates) his relevant personality components. Moreover, because of his personality and will, a person is disposed to specific behavior. His choice of behavior, however, depends on the weighting given these dispositions by his expectations, his reading of the outcome of each of his potential behaviors. It should be remembered that the behavioral potentials, personality components, and situation are latent functions. Also, we are trying to understand a manifest behavior based on these latent functions, and therefore, the relationship between manifest and latents, as defined in Equation 10.2, applies here. That is,

Equation 14.1:

11W1 + 12W2 + . . . + 1kWk = 11P1 + 12P2 + ... + 1pPp + U1,

where W1, W2, . . . , Wk are the latent functions defining the behavioral potentials of person i on the k components of i's behavior space, that is, the components of vector i in behavior space;

11, 12, . . . , 1k are the expectations that i has about the outcome of each W with regard to situation 1, that is, the different betas () are the components of vector 1;

P1, P2, . . . , Pp are the latent functions f1( ), f2( ), . . . ,fp( ) defining i's personality, and the components of vector i in psychological space;

11, 12, . . . , 1p are the latent functions of the situation 1, that is, the different alphas () are the components of the vector 1;

U1 is that part of behavior resulting from i's unique personality and his will.

A simpler way of expressing the above relationships is to say that the inner product2 of the i behavioral disposition vector and expectations 1 is equal to the inner product of the personality vector i and situation 1 plus U1. Then, a behavioral choice B1, of i in a specific situation (denoted by the subscript 1 on B, W, , and ) is

Equation 14.2:

B1 = (inner product of behavioral dispositions and expectations) = (inner product of common personality, and situation) + (inner product of unique personality plus will, and situation)
It should be understood that Equation 14.2 is just another way of writing Equation 14.1.3

These equations are perfectly general and are consonant with research findings in decision theory and psychology,4 and in form similar to the eigen-vector, eigen-value equations or characteristic functions basic to much contemporary physical science and engineering. Moreover, I am not proposing the equations simply as a model of behavior nor as representations of choice situations. These equations are psychological-behavioral reality, in the same way that our local three-dimensional physical space is our reality. (Would we say that these three dimensions model or represent reality?) In my view, they describe the space of our behavior.

In sum, then, perception and cognition are a dialectical balance between what is outside our minds and its power to impose itself on our personality and will on the one hand, and the strength of our personality and will on the other. The resulting balance defines objects, properties, events, processes (mental or material) as situations in the mind, these situations delimiting their perceived patterns of dispositions, determinables, and powers. Perceived situations fix our expectations as to the outcome of a choice among behavioral potentials (behavioral roles and patterns) regarding the situation. In effect, situations activate salient facets of the personality and will, and our expectations about the situation weight our normal behavioral disposition.5 Certainly, in our daily routine we are aware of this complex. Intuitively, we usually perceive and act. I see my cat and pet it. I feel thirsty and drink a glass of water. Only when faced with important questions, such as accepting another job offer, buying a new car, or moving to another city, may we cognitively lay out potentials--alternatives--and weight them in terms of the consequences of each choice, given our apprehension of the problem. Only then may we bring our will explicitly to bear. Then we simply surface a process underlying all our behavior. 


* Scanned from Chapter 14 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. This is, of course, a simple decision-making perspective. For purposes of this example, I am treating only the choice situation at the top and not the bureaucratic entanglements, negotiations, and politics that lead up to the dispositions in Kennedy's mind nor the interpretation and implementation of his choice. I am decidedly not implying a psychological cause-effect or stimulus-organism-response explanation of foreign policy.

2. The inner product of a vector of n numbers, say (X1, X2, X3,. . . , Xn) and another vector of n numbers, say (Y1, Y2, Y3, . . . ,Yn), equals X1Y1 + X2Y2 + X3Y3 + . . . + XnYn.

3. Yet another way of looking at these relationships, similar to the above, is that the squared distance between the i and 1 vectors in behavioral space equals the squared distance between i's common personality and 1, plus the squared distance between i's unique personality and will and 1, in psychological space. If we assume standardized spaces, then the inner product of the vectors is a linear transformation of the squared distances.

4. For example, if we put the left side of Equation 14.1 equal to B1 as we do in Equation 14.2, then we have the "specification equation" giving the dependence of behavior on personality in a situation. See, Raymond B. Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality (Baltimore: Penguin, 1965), chap. 4. The differences between this specification equation in multivariate psychology and what I am doing here is that Cattell and colleagues consider the behavioral choice as their starting point and they do not bring the will into their equation.

5. The way I have interrelated stimuli, perceptibles, personality, situation, culture, expectations, behavioral and psychological potentials, and behavioral outcomes here better displays their relative importance and functions than do many psychological descriptions. Consider, for example, how these aspects and relationships are confused in Edward C. Tolman: "A behavior space is thus to be defined as a particularized complex of perceptions (memories and inferences) as to objects and relations and the 'behaving self,' evoked by the given environmental stimulus situation and by a controlling and activated belief-value matrix (or perhaps several such matrices). What is perceived (expected) is thus determined by what is presented by the stimulus situation at the moment and by the store of categorizations, beliefs, and values which the actor brings to the presented stimuli. Or, to put it another way, the immediate behavior space is to be defined as an array of particular objects, in such-and-such particular 'direction' and 'distance' relations to one another, which are perceived by the actor at the given moment. And some of these objects tend to have positive or negative 'valences' on them. Among such particular objects a very crucial one is the actor's self (designated as the behaving self) which is also a part of any such perceived array" ("A Psychological Model," in Talcott Parsons and Edward Shills (eds.), Toward a General Theory of Action, New York: Harper and Row, 1951: 296).

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