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Exploring personality with the interpersonal circumplex

Author(s): Gurtman MB


The interpersonal circumplex can serve as both companion and guide for those interested in exploring the interpersonal domain of personality. This article offers a relatively nontechnical overview of the model and its various applications in the study of personality. I begin by defining the interpersonal circumplex, its structure and in what sense it is ‘interpersonal’. As part of that, I will briefly consider how circumplex measures of personality, such as the Interpersonal Adjective Scales, are typically evaluated for fit to the model. I will next describe applications of the model for exploring both the idiographic (person-centered) and nomothetic (variable-centered) realms of personality. In person-centered research, the circumplex leads to useful ways of summarizing the basic interpersonal features of a given individual. In variable-centered research, the circumplex can help elucidate the essential interpersonal meaning of personality constructs such as traits, problems, and motives. To explain how the circumplex can help us explore personality – idiographically and nomothetically – I will draw on a variety of studies, including several recent studies that extend the model in new ways.

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