Why do consumers behave as they do? Why does one consumer behave compulsively, or in the more extreme case addictively, with regard to a particular consumption activity and in a given situation, while another consumer, in the same situation and with regard to the same consumption activity, is able to delay gratification and exercise self control? Why are some people alcoholics while others can drink socially? Why is it that some people who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out in the late 1960’s were able to go on to lead active and productive lives, while others were left behind in a purple haze? How is it that a person can be a compulsive shopper or addicted to an activity like work or exercise rather than a chemical substance? How is it that a professional athlete with a multi-year contract worth millions of dollars can self destruct from a huge cocaine habit in front of millions of fans? How is it that an affable former athlete with a promising career in television and movies can brutally murder two innocent young people in cold blood? How is it that the President of the United States can succumb to the charms of an intern less than half his age in the Oval Office of the White House creating a sordid scandal? Why do fools fall in love so easily?
It would be easy to say, “Well, they just lack self control.” But that merely begs the question: Why does one person lack self control and another not? And it is not the situation, because the specific circumstances of the situation can be controlled for, at least, to varying degrees.
What does a person bring to a situation? A personality. A person brings his or her own personality to the situation. Everywhere you go, there you are.
The person who lingers too long at the bar, has too many drinks, and does not foresee the consequences of driving while drunk, is different in a fundamental way from a person who exercises self control, drinks in moderation, and drives responsibly. But an alcoholic is in some ways similar to a person who smokes marihuana habitually, a truly compulsive shopper who hides away purchases, or a fool who falls in love too easily.
What these people share in common is the same level of personality development. A person who is able to delay gratification and exercise self control is at a higher level of personality development than a person who behaves compulsively, and in the more extreme case, addictively. These variations in patterns of consumer behavior are determined primarily by differences in the level of personality development that has been achieved by the person.
THE PERSONALITY CONTINUUM
Personalities at different levels of development can be arrayed along a continuum of personality development. The Personality Continuum is divided into four discrete ranges that are hierarchically arranged from higher to lower levels of development: (1) Normal (2) Neurotic (3) Primitive (4) Psychotic. The Personality Continuum is presented as a four-page spread in the center of the book. You may want to turn to it now and follow along.
Each range of the Personality Continuum—normal, neurotic, primitive, psychotic—represents a qualitatively different level of personality development. The importance of the level of personality development for the study of consumer behavior is that each range of the Personality Continuum is reflected in a qualitatively different pattern of behavior. Personalities within a given range of the Personality Continuum have the same general pattern of behavior. In comparison, personalities at the other levels of development in the other ranges of the Personality Continuum have qualitatively different patterns of behavior. Everything depends on the level of personality development.
The general pattern of human behavior of a normal person at the normal level of personality development in the normal range of the Personality Continuum is stable and consistent. A normal person would be a normal consumer with stable and consistent pattern of consumption behavior. The consumption behavior of a normal consumer would be quite predictable at one point in time with respect to a specific consumption activity in a given situation. At the highest reaches of the normal range of the Personality Continuum, a person has the capacity to make a commitment, and a commitment by definition is made for the future; therefore, the pattern of consumption behavior of the normal consumer is predictable over time and can be modeled dynamically, as the term is used in economics.
Individuals who have failed to achieve the normal level of personality development occupy lower ranges of the Personality Continuum that result in qualitatively different patterns of behavior (i.e., the neurotic, primitive, and psychotic ranges). The alcoholic, the head with the marijuana habit, and the truly compulsive shopper are at the same level of personality development and occupy the primitive range of the Personality Continuum. In general, they share a chaotic pattern of alternating and contradictory behavior. The alcoholic, the habitual marijuana smoker, and the compulsive shopper, however, do not necessarily have the same personality, since several types of personalities can be at the same level of development and occupy the same range of the Personality Continuum. The dark side of consumer behavior is explored in great depth in this book.
The classification of an individual into the appropriate range of the Personality Continuum opens the way for the researcher to draw on a wealth of general observations about behavior which apply to all personalities at that same level of development. To the extent that an individual’s particular personality can be identified, a more specific pattern of behavior can be described and more precise inferences can be drawn about his or her consumer behavior.
The personality organization represents an organizational framework. The Personality Continuum provides an integrative framework that brings together contributions from many disciplines for the study of human behavior, including economics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology. The integrative framework provided by the Personality Continuum is the grand template for the human study of consumer behavior.
I will endeavor to explain each panel of the Personality Continuum. The panels are the columns, each with its own heading across the top of the Personality Continuum. Each panel of the Personality Continuum represents a different dimension of the personality. The first panel represents the four discrete ranges of the Personality Continuum representing the four qualitatively different levels of personality development: normal, neurotic, primitive, and psychotic. The next five panels represent an object relations theory of personality development: Interpersonal Achievement in Personality Development, Intrapsychic Structural Formation, Internal Object Relations, Predominant Defenses, Intimacy, and Preferred Patterning of Sexual Behavior. The Human Capacity panel in the middle of the Personality Continuum represents the culmination of whatever has been achieved as a human being at each level of personality development. The next six panels primarily represent the behavioral dimensions of the different levels of personality development: General Pattern of Human Behavior, Pattern of Consumer Behavior, Pattern of Consumption Behavior, Individual Pursuit of Self Interest, and Predictability. The last panel, Personality Organizations, presents a relative ranking of the particular personality organizations, or types of personalities, that occupy each range of the Personality Continuum.
Each panel of the Personality Continuum is divided horizontally into four discrete ranges, representing the qualitatively different levels of personality development. For example, if you wanted to know how a person at the normal level of personality development would behave in general, locate the Normal Range of the Personality Continuum on the left and then follow across horizontally until you reach the panel with the heading General Pattern of Human Behavior; there the general pattern of behavior is described as being stable and consistent. Alternatively, if you observed a person behaving in contradictory ways which seem to alternate chaotically, you could peruse the Personality Continuum until you find that description of behavior in the General Pattern of Human Behavior panel and follow it back to the Primitive Range of the Personality Continuum. A chaotic pattern of alternating and contradictory behavior characterizes all of the personality organizations in the Primitive Range of the Personality Continuum. The final panel provides the Personality Organizations that occupy the Primitive Range of the Personality Continuum: Borderline, Infantile, Narcissistic, Antisocial, and Schizoid. The rankings of particular personality organizations within the neurotic, primitive and psychotic ranges of the Personality Continuum are relative, more-or-less, ordinal rankings.
It does not matter where you begin on the Personality Continuum because everything is systematically related to everything else. One can start with an observable pattern of behavior or a diagnostic personality label or a theoretical construct of personality. Everything is systematically related to everything else using the integrative framework of the Personality Continuum.
The personality organization provides the organizational framework for relating the personality to consumer behavior. The personality organization is the central analytical construct of psychoanalytic object relations theory. Psychoanalytic object relations theory is also called American object relations theory to differentiate it from the earlier British object relations theory.
An object relationship is an interpersonal relationship and object relations theory is an interpersonal theory of personality development. The personality organization is defined by the level of intrapsychic structural formation and the predominant defense used against severe anxiety in interpersonal relationships (Kernberg 1984A, 1985A, 1985B). Personality organizations with the same intrapsychic structure and predominant defense against severe anxiety occupy the same range of the Personality Continuum and represent the same level of personality development (Albanese 1990).
Object relations theory of the personality is derived from the intense scrutiny of individual behavior in the clinical situation. Based on the observation of individual behavior in the clinical situation, the psychoanalyst provides interpretations to the person, who is an active participant in the process. Through this active collaboration, the psychoanalyst provides insight that helps the person work through his or her problems realistically. It is the intense scrutiny of individual behavior in the clinical situation that makes object relations theory so useful for the study of consumer behavior.
Although object relations theory is primarily a clinical methodology used to diagnose personality problems and prescribe therapy, out of helping a small group of people with problems, the process of normal personality development has been elaborated. To see what it means to be a normal person simply read across the Normal Range of the Personality Continuum.
The classification of a particular personality organization focuses the analysis more precisely and facilitates the deepening of the analysis of individual behavior. A clinical diagnostic label placed on a person’s particular personality organization by a trained and experienced clinician allows the analyst to delve more deeply into understanding the meaning of individual behavior. An important objective of this book is to provide more realistic portraits of behavior to enliven the descriptions of particular personality organizations.
The classification of a particular personality organization represents a point of departure from the Personality Continuum. In this way, the classification of a particular personality organization goes beyond the Personality Continuum, thereby expanding the analysis into a vast wealth of case literature. The precise diagnosis of a person’s particular personality organization opens the way to an exploration of the individual’s personal history in greater depth, and goes to show how far one can go, or how close one can come, to describing a real person, or oneself, in exquisite, if not excruciating detail.
THE INTRAPSYCHIC STRUCTURE OF THE PERSONALITY: FREUD’S CRYSTAL
Object relations theory concentrates on the internalization of interpersonal relationships and the formation of the intrapsychic structure of the personality organization. The intrapsychic structure is the enduring part of the personality organization. Interpersonal relationships are relatively enduring, the intrapsychic structure of the personality organization is enduring; therefore, what the person brings to the situation is the intrapsychic structure of the personality.
The intrapsychic structure of the personality organization constitutes the psychological foundation for the exploration of consumer behavior. When we ask the basic question, “Why do consumers behave as they do?” The answer lies within, with the intrapsychic structure of the personality, the part of the personality organization that is inside the person’s head.
The whole edifice of psychoanalytic theory came out of the head of one man, Sigmund Freud. Object relations theory of the personality grew out of Freud’s illuminating conception of the superego. In Freud’s conception, the superego represented the internalization of an aspect of the interpersonal relationship with one’s parents. Object relations theory of the personality represents the refinement of Freud’s most fundamental insights after more than a century of elaboration. I am using Freud as a stepping stone into object relations theory. Nowadays, more often than not, Freud is set up as a straw man. Critics seldom cite the vast literature of object relations theory, a telltale sign of ignoring the refinement of Freud’s structural model. Object relations theory is so much more than Freud. Freud remains a frightening figure to many researchers more than a half century after his death on September 23, 1939, and more than a century after the publication of The Interpretations of Dreams in 1890.
In his unfinished masterpiece, the famous Lecture 31, “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality,” Freud used the metaphor of a crystal to enunciate his structural model of the id, ego, and superego: “If we throw a crystal to the floor, it breaks; but not into haphazard pieces. It comes apart along its lines of cleavage into fragments whose boundaries, though they were invisible, were predetermined by the crystal’s structure” (Freud 1933, p. 59). The id, ego, and superego each represent a “realm, region, or province” of Freud’s structural model of the personality (Freud 1933, p. 72).
Freud’s crystal is the intrapsychic structure of the personality in the terminology of object relations theory. The substance of psychoanalytic object relations theory is the systematic study of the processes of the internalization of interpersonal relationships and the formation of the intrapsychic structure of the personality.
The intrapsychic structure of the personality is the psychological foundation of consumer behavior. An elaboration of the formation of the intrapsychic structure of the personality is an exploration of the psychological foundations of consumer behavior.
OTTO F. KERNBERG AND AMERICAN OBJECT RELATIONS THEORY
I regard Otto F. Kernberg as the leading authority on object relations theory. I rely heavily on his work, especially the essays collected in Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (1984A) and the case materials in Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (1985A). Perhaps most importantly, I have been inspired by Kernberg’s three brilliant essays on intimacy in interpersonal relationships: “Barriers to Falling and Remaining in Love” (1974A), “Mature Love: Prerequisites and Characteristics” (1974B), and “Boundaries and Structure in Love Relations” (1977).
Kernberg’s “Structural Derivatives of Object Relations,” first published in 1966, and reprinted as the first chapter of Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (1984A), provides a gauge of the striking progress that has been made in the formulation of psychoanalytic theory since the publication in 1933 of Freud’s unfinished masterpiece, “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality.” And now there has been over three decades of progress since the publication of Kernberg’s “Structural Derivatives of Object Relations” (1966).
As a book on consumer behavior aimed at an interdisciplinary audience, I felt it absolutely essential to provide Kernberg’s words to allow researchers from other disciplines to reach their own interpretations. I quote rather freely because I believe that it is important to support my interpretations of behavior by providing the observations, inscriptions, interpretations, and thick descriptions of those upon whose shoulders I stand; however, I do not wish to be accused of committing the fallacy of arguing from authority, argumentum ad verecundiam. I am building my interpretations of behavior on the interpretations of others, so that I can delve more deeply into the subject. This is stated succinctly by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973): “Studies do build on other studies, not in the sense that they take up where the others leave off, but in the sense that, better informed and better conceptualized, they plunge more deeply into the same things” (Geertz 1973, p. 25).
Problems of personality are primarily interpersonal. This is a central tenant of object relations theory of the personality. W. R. D. Fairbairn, the founder of British object relations theory, argued persuasively for the movement of psychoanalytic theory toward a theory of personality development based on the significance of interpersonal relationships: “It is to disturbances in the object-relationships of the developing ego that we must look for the ultimate origin of all psychopathological conditions” (Fairbairn 1952, p. 82).
At the most fundamental level, according to Fairbairn (1952), this involves the “explicit recognition of the general principle that problems of personality can only be adequately understood at a personal level and in terms of personal relationships” (Fairbairn 1954, p. 106). Fairbairn was thereby lead to the formulation of what he described as “a theory of the development of object-relationships based on the quality of dependence upon the object” (Fairbairn 1952, p. 34). This is also a central tenant of Harry Stack Sullivan’s interpersonal theory of personality development.
The heart of Fairbairn’s contributions to British object relations theory is the explicit recognition that personality development depends on the quality of dependence in significant interpersonal relationships (Fairbairn 1952, p. 40). Fairbairn’s “Schizoid Factors in The Personality,” written in 1940, but published for the first time as the opening chapter of his brilliant collection of essays, Psychoanalytic Studies Of The Personality (1952), stands as a stepping stone between Freud’s “The Dissection of the Psychical Personality” (1933) and Kernberg’s “Structural Derivatives of Object Relations” (1966).
SULLIVAN’S INTERPERSONAL DEFINITION OF PERSONALITY
Harry Stack Sullivan has formulated a crisp, operational interpersonal definition of personality: Personality is the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations that characterize a human life (Sullivan 1953, pp. 110-111). Sullivan’s interpersonal theory of personality, most importantly, his posthumously transcribed masterpiece, The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (1953), will be used extensively throughout this book, and should be used far more extensively in the social sciences.
In Sullivan’s interpersonal theory of personality development, the interpersonal situation is the primary unit of observation: “The concept of interpersonal situation necessary for the occurrence of activity in the satisfaction of a need is of fundamental importance” (Sullivan 1953, p. 111). In this way, Sullivan’s interpersonal approach to personality is comparable to Fairbairn’s emphasis on the fundamental quality of dependence in object relations.
The quality of dependence in interpersonal relationships is the foundation of both Sullivan’s interpersonal theory and Fairbairn’s British object relations theory of personality development (Fairbairn 1952, p. 34). Kernberg (1985A), in turn, has built American object relations theory on this same foundation, and concentrated on the quality of internal object relations: “The two major prognostic factors that stand out as prognostically significant are the quality of object relationships and the integrity and depth of the value systems and superego functioning. It needs to be stressed again that I use the concept ‘quality of object relations’ to refer more to the quality of internalized object relations, i.e., the depth in the patient’s internal relationships to others, rather than to the extent to which he is involved in social interactions” (Kernberg 1985A, pp. 307-308).
The theoretical connection to Kernberg and American object relations theory is equally direct: The qualitatively different levels of personality development are primarily determined by the quality of dependence in the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations which characterize a human life (primarily, because this is not true for psychotic personality organizations).
SULLIVAN’S HEURISTIC STAGES OF PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
Sullivan has formulated a set of heuristic stages of personality development based upon his interpersonal definition of personality: Infancy, Childhood, the Juvenile Era, Preadolescence, Early Adolescence, and Late Adolescence. Each stage is defined by the significant interpersonal relationships that characterize a person’s life at that point of personality development. For example, the juvenile era begins when a person enters the school system (Sullivan 1953, p. 227). Sullivan’s heuristic stages will be elaborated at the appropriate point in personality development through the lens of object relations theory.
Sullivan’s interpersonal definition of personality will prove invaluable in transcending the overwhelmingly individual orientation of economic theory: Since the personality develops within the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations which characterize a person’s life, the individual orientation of economic analysis is automatically overcome by simply focusing on the series of significant interpersonal relationships which constitute the wider social system of the individual.
What is not so simple, of course, is forging a theoretical relationship between the economic conception of the consumer, from ordinal utility theory, and the personality organization of psychoanalytic object relations theory. This task entails the definition of a common ground of analysis and the establishment of an integrative framework, central concerns that will be dealt with conceptually and substantively in this book.
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF PERSONALITY ORGANIZATIONS
The personality organization, defined by the level of intrapsychic structural formation and the predominant defense against severe anxiety in interpersonal relationships, has provided the organizational framework. Differences in general patterns of behavior vary qualitatively with the level of personality development. At this more general level, the psychological foundations have been established for the analysis of compulsive, and in the more extreme case, addictive consumer behavior. Personality organizations in the primitive range of the Personality Continuum are characterized by a selective lack of impulse control that is manifested in compulsive and addictive consumer behavior.
To explore compulsive and the more extreme addictive consumer behavior in greater depth, a contrast will be made between personality organizations within the primitive range of the Personality Continuum and a comparison will be made among personality organizations in the other ranges of the Personality Continuum. In this way, the Personality Continuum facilitates the comparative analysis of personality organizations, as contrasts are made between personality organizations at the same level of development and in the same range of the Personality Continuum, and comparisons are made among personality organizations at the qualitatively different levels of personality development in the other ranges of the Personality Continuum.
The analysis of compulsive and more extreme addictive consumer behavior will concentrate on the borderline and narcissistic personality organizations in the primitive range of the Personality Continuum. Contrasts will be made with other primitive personality organizations, including the schizoid, antisocial, and infantile personality organizations and comparisons will be made with personality organizations at the neurotic and normal level of personality development.
The Personality Continuum provides the integrative framework that facilitates the comparative analysis of personality organizations. The comparative analysis of personality organizations adds greater depth and detail to the portraits of particular personality organizations. The portrait is not just a pattern of behavior, but a holistic conception of the person. The personality organization provides the organizational framework and the analysis begins to approach a true thick description. In this way, the comparative analysis of personality organizations goes boldly beyond the Personality Continuum.
CLASSIFICATION OF PERSONALITY ORGANIZATIONS ALONG THE PERSONALITY CONTINUUM
Jung (1924) felt compelled to express incredulity over the existence of personality types, let alone a Personality Continuum, because of the complexity of human personality: “One is even inclined to deny the existence of types in general and to believe only in individual differences” (Jung 1924, p. 10).
Sullivan, the quintessential interpersonal theorist, was not daunted. His profound view of human nature was codified in the One-Genus Postulate: “We shall assume that everyone is much more simply human that otherwise” (Sullivan 1953, p. 32). Thus, we have more in common as human beings than our individual differences would seem to indicate. Sullivan attributed individual differences to differences in relative maturity of the person, and he concluded his exposition of the one-genus postulate by saying, as it were (lest we forget that these are transcribed lectures): “In other words, I try to study the degrees and patterns of things which I assume to be ubiquitously human” (Sullivan 1953, p. 33).
These degrees and patterns of human personality are reflected in the degrees of continuous and quantitative variations among personality organizations within each range of the Personality Continuum. The qualitatively different levels of personality development are represented by the discrete ranges of the Personality Continuum. The Personality Continuum provides the integrative framework and the personality organization provides the organizational framework.
THE CHARACTER CONSTELLATION AND DESCRIPTIVE DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS
The conception of the basic character constellation represents the observable behavior that is the basis for descriptive differential diagnosis. The character constellation represents the presenting symptoms of the patient in an institutional or clinical setting. A descriptive differential diagnosis of a particular personality organization is a matter of matching the patterns of observable behavior of the person with the particular character constellation that provides the presumptive prognostic indicators. The result is the classification of the person’s particular personality organization along the Personality Continuum.
For a person with a personality organization at the primitive level of personality development, the conception of the character constellation captures the complexity of the human personality. To put it plainly, complexity has a distinctly negative connotation, particularly when development is pathological. In addressing personality organizations at the primitive level of development, Kernberg (1985A) poses the essential question underlying the classification of personality organizations along a personality continuum: “Is it possible to make clear-cut descriptive differential diagnoses among all these character constellations (Kernberg (1985A, p. 18)?” Kernberg (1985A) responded “affirmatively, suggesting that, descriptive differential diagnosis is possible within the usual limitations of descriptive diagnosis in clinical psychiatry” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 18). One limitation is the spectrum of variation in a particular personality organization: “The fact is that within any form of character organization there tends to be much fluctuation” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 18).
Kernberg (1985A) concluded that a descriptive differential diagnosis can classify a person’s personality organization along a continuum of character pathology: “Nevertheless, I have gradually come to the conclusion that when the descriptive diagnosis is well founded and any particular features of the individual case which appear to go beyond the descriptive diagnosis are carefully recorded, it is indeed possible to place the patient tentatively along a continuum of severity of character pathology” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 18). And again, in an equally explicit statement, according to Kernberg (1985A): “Recognizing the fact that an individual patient presenting any of the particular character constellations … might be placed at any point along the entire continuum of character pathology” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 18).
Kernberg (1985A) offered two caveats on the classification of character constellations along a continuum of character pathology: First, he expressed concern that an attempt to pinpoint character pathology along a continuum implied a dangerous rigidity (Kernberg 1985A, p. 18). And second, “a continuum of ‘high level’ and ‘low level’ character pathology is not meant as a simple ordering of diagnostic labels, and requires specialized descriptive, but also dynamic and structural, clinical judgments” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 21).
A differential diagnosis of a person’s particular personality organization requires that the clinician make judgments based on an analysis of descriptive, structural, and dynamic factors. Here the term dynamic is used to mean the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations that characterize a human life (Sullivan 1953, pp. 111-112). Previously the term dynamic was used as it is in economics, a pattern of consumption behavior over time, as opposed to static analysis at one point in time.
A descriptive differential diagnosis is presumptive; an analysis of the intrapsychic of the personality organization is definitive. Although Kernberg (1985A) is referring specifically to the borderline personality organization, the principle applies for the classification of all personality organizations: “In summary, to focus on the descriptive aspects of psychopathology makes it possible, if present in sufficient intensity, to warrant the presumptive diagnostic conclusion of a borderline personality organization. The definite conclusion in regard to this diagnosis, though, has to depend on the structural analysis of these cases” (Kernberg 1985A, p. 21).
A presumptive differential diagnosis of a person’s particular personality organization can be made based on the descriptive aspects of the person’s observable behavior; however, a conclusive diagnosis requires a dynamic and structural analysis based clinical judgements (Kernberg 1985A, p. 21). And the intense scrutiny of a person’s behavior in the clinical setting by a trained clinician on a relatively enduring basis is required for a conclusive diagnosis.
THE PERSONALITY ORGANIZATION AND A PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR
The observation of a person’s behavior is the basis for a descriptive differential diagnosis. The equation of a precise pattern of behavior with a particular personality organization facilitates the analysis of variations in patterns of consumer behavior, and ultimately, the specific aspects of individual consumption behavior. Thus, the observation of the specific aspects of consumption behavior, the pattern of overall consumer behavior, and a person’s general pattern of behavior, can be used to draw inferences about the person’s particular personality organization.
The personality organization is a package that contains a general pattern of behavior; i.e. the personality organization is reflected in a particular pattern of behavior. The personality organization provides the organizational framework for the analysis of individual behavior. To the extent that the person’s actual personality organization can be identified, a more specific pattern of behavior can be described and more precise inferences can be drawn about the meaning of the individual’s behavior as a consumer.
An individual may have many features and manifest many tendencies in his or her behavior, which are all part of the person’s character constellation and particular personality organization. A person may have, say, schizoid features or tendencies in his or her personality and not have a schizoid personality organization. This contributes to the complexity of the classification of the personality organization. The conception of the personality organization as a package becomes especially useful because these features and tendencies are related aspects of the personality organization. This is the basis for individual difference or trait measure approach to personality, identifying and quantifying relatively enduring characteristics of a person; however, this is also one of the major drawbacks of individual difference or trait measures. The personality organization provides an organizational framework that systematically incorporates these features and tendencies.
A spectrum of variation exists for each personality organization. A personality organization occupies a relative position within a range of the Personality Continuum, but does not represent a precise point because of the spectrum of variation for each personality organization. This adds to the complexity of personality classification and requires a further refinement of the diagnosis even after the clinician has decided on the diagnostic label for a particular personality organization.
How are the concepts of the character constellation and the spectrum of variation in a particular personality organization related? The concept of the constellation pertains to the observable patterns of behavior that are the basis for making a presumptive descriptive differential diagnosis of a person’s personality organization. The spectrum of a particular personality organization represents the variations on the theoretical construct of that personality organization. The spectrum of variation is an attempt to capture theoretically the complexity of a particular personality organization.
While a personality organization occupies a relative position within a range on the Personality Continuum, it does not represent a precise point because of the spectrum of variation for each personality organization. The entire spectrum of variation of a particular personality organization would represent the same level of development and occupy the same relative position within a range of the Personality Continuum; the variations for each personality organization would represent more precise points along the range.
ORDINARY VERSUS EXTRAORDINARY FUNCTIONING
Descriptive differential diagnosis is further complicated by the distinction between ordinary, extraordinary, and high functioning. Under the ordinary conditions of everyday life, a person should function at the basic level of personality development that has been achieved—normal, neurotic, primitive, or psychotic—and that level of personality development forms a baseline of ordinary functioning for the person. Once having achieved a given level of personality development, there is no guarantee that a person will stay at that level permanently. The personality organization is defined by the level of intrapsychic structural formation and the predominant defense used by the individual against severe anxiety in interpersonal situations. According to Kernberg (1976): “Anxiety constitutes a basic motive for defensive operations of the ego at all levels of development” (Kernberg 1976, p. 40).
Sullivan (1953) has provided an interpersonal definition of anxiety: “Anxiety as a phenomena of relatively adult life, can often be explained plausibly as anticipated unfavorable appraisal of one’s current activities by someone whose opinion is significant” (Sullivan 1953, p. 113). In “The Meaning of Anxiety in Psychiatry and Life,” Sullivan (1964) argued that, “the exclusively interpersonal origin of every instance of its manifestations, is the unique characteristic of anxiety” (Sullivan 1964, p. 238).
Extraordinary functioning represents an interpersonal situation fraught with severe anxiety. Under extraordinary functioning, the predominant defense used against severe anxiety in interpersonal relationships has a tendency to break down. As a result, the person regresses to a lower level of personality development and returns to earlier patterns of behavior. A person under extraordinary functioning, therefore, is functioning at a level of personality development lower than his or her ordinary functioning. Regression to a lower level of personality development and a return to earlier patterns of behavior is the essence of a mental breakdown.
The interpersonal situation and regression go together because the origin of the severe anxiety that breaks down the predominant defense is the interpersonal situation. The critical distinctions between earlier and later achievements in personality development, and lower and higher levels of structural formation and personality development can be clarified here. The essence of a “mental breakdown” or a “mental disorder” is a regression to earlier stages of personality development, the manifestation of earlier patterns of behavior, and the reactivation of earlier internal object relations.
FAIRBAIRN’S HYPOTHESIS AND THE COMPLEXITY OF PERSONALITY CLASSIFICATION
A person with a primitive personality organization can use a variety of neurotic defenses against severe anxiety in interpersonal relationships. As long as the neurotic defenses are securely in place, a person with a primitive personality organization can function at the higher neurotic level of personality development and will essentially appear neurotic from his or her observable behavior. This is Fairbairn’s hypothesis: The use of higher neurotic level defenses by a person with a personality organization at the primitive level of personality development under ordinary functioning. Fairbairn’s hypothesis can be generalized to the use of higher-level defenses against anxiety in significant interpersonal relations by a person with a lower level of personality development; this represents a higher level of functioning for that person relative to the baseline of ordinary functioning.
A person with a primitive personality organization can function at a higher neurotic level of personality development, and this represents high functioning relative to his or her ordinary functioning. In interpersonal situations fraught with severe anxiety, the primitive defense of splitting breaks down, resulting in regression to the lower, psychotic level of personality development and a return to earlier patterns of behavior; this represents extraordinary functioning relative to his or her ordinary functioning. The specific circumstances of the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations that characterize a person’s life determine the level of functioning—ordinary, extraordinary, or high.
The use of neurotic defenses by a primitive personality organization under high functioning makes it difficult to differentiate a true neurotic from a primitive personality organization. Fairbairn’s hypothesis presents specific challenges to the differential diagnosis and correct classification of neurotic and primitive personality organizations and contributes further to the complexity of the classification of a person’s personality organization.
Three levels of functioning can be distinguished for a person with a primitive personality organization: Ordinary functioning with the defense of splitting intact; high functioning at the neurotic level with neurotic defenses intact; and extraordinary functioning at a lower level, and in extreme circumstances, at the psychotic level of personality development, when the defense of splitting has broken down. This adds considerably to the complexity of classifying personality organizations along the Personality Continuum.
THEMATIC ANALYSIS: VARIATIONS ON A THEME ACROSS PERSONALITY ORGANIZATIONS
The investigation of variations on a theme across particular personality organizations will be used to elaborate on the comparative analysis of personality organizations. The theme of the subjective experience of emptiness will be used to go deeper into the analysis of compulsive and more extreme addictive consumer behavior. Emptiness is particularly characteristic of the narcissistic personality organizations and narcissistic personality organizations are particularly prone to addiction; therefore, an investigation of variations on the theme of the subjective experience of emptiness across particular personality organizations will be useful in understanding addictive behavior.
PORTRAITS OF PARTICULAR PERSONALITY ORGANIZATIONS
I intend to hew to a theoretical line in presenting the conceptions of particular personality organizations, using object relations theory of the personality as the organizational framework. In the initial presentation of the portrait of the schizoid personality organization, at the foundation of British object relations theory, the presentation will take on the precise theoretical conception of W. R. D. Fairbairn. Progressing in the history of development of object relations theory to the portrait of the borderline personality organization, at the foundation of American object relations theory, the presentation will take on the densely worded character of Otto F. Kernberg.
I shall endeavor to enliven the theoretical conception of a particular personality organization with detailed descriptions of observable behavior, and thereby provide a more elaborate portrait of behavior rather than a crude caricature. The intention to hew to a primarily theoretical line places limits on the amount of elaboration I am willing to provide for any particular personality organization. I will leave the embellishment to the clinical literature, and to your own expertise and experience.
For fuller portraits of particular personality organizations, one can resort to a variety of related resources that can be easily integrated into the analysis provided here. First, and perhaps foremost, as a general reference source, refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994) of the American Psychiatric Association, known as the DSM-IV. And as direct extensions of the DSM-IV, see Theodore Millon, Disorders of Personality: DSM-III: Axis II (1981), James P. Choca, Luke A. Shanley, Eric Van Denburg, Interpretative Guide to The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (1992), and Robert J. Craig, editor, The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory: A Clinical Research Information Synthesis (1993).
Using the personality organization as the basis for analysis, numerous penetrating clinical studies can be integrated; e.g., David Shapiro, Neurotic Styles (1965). Brilliant explorations of particular personality organizations can contribute to the depth of the analysis; e.g., on the narcissistic personality organization, the incisive Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus, 2nd ed. (1981). And on into a myriad of popular literature on particular personality organizations; e.g., Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (1978), on the prevalence of the narcissistic personality organization in America.
The Personality Continuum provides the integrative framework to elaborate with one’s own professional experience as a clinician, researcher, or scholar, and to embellish, so to speak, with one’s own personal experience. The opportunity is provided to examine the meaning of one’s own life, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding as a human being.
SEX ILLUSTRATES PROBLEMS IN INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Since problems of personality are primarily interpersonal, genital sexual activity in an interpersonal relationship tends to illustrate any problems in personality. Harry Stack Sullivan’s (1953) views on genital sexual activity in an interpersonal relationship are relevant here: “And when I say that the psychiatrist must usually pay attention to this, I do not mean that problems in living are primarily or chiefly concerned with genital activity. But I am saying, of people in this culture who are chronologically adult, that their problems in interpersonal relations quite certainly will be either very conspicuous in, or exceedingly well illustrated by, the particular circumstances governing their handling the emotion of lust” (Sullivan 1953, p. 295). Stated quite simply by Sullivan (1956): “Sex, of course, traditionally reflects all personality problems” (Sullivan 1956, p. 243).
Thus, sex illustrates more fundamental interpersonal problems: “Quite frequently it is no trick at all to find something very much more serious than the sexual difficulty; and quite often sexual difficulty is remedied in the process of dealing with other [interpersonal] problems” (Sullivan 1953, p. 296). Sullivan (1953) concluded that knowing about a person’s sex life does provide useful information: “And since lust cannot be eliminated from personality any more than hunger can, data on personality warp as seen in a person’s sexual behavior is bound to be useful to the psychiatrist” (Sullivan 1953, p. 295). However, Sullivan (1953) also concluded that it would be a mistake to think that more fundamental interpersonal problems in personality can be resolved by fixing a person’s sex life: “But to think that one can remedy personality warp by tinkering with the sex life is a mistake, even though it is a very convenient doctrine for psychiatrists who are chronically juveniles” (Sullivan 1953, p. 295).
THE PATIENT AND A CAVEAT ON THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES
In what follows, do not be put off by the use of the term patient , because it designates the universe of persons who have sought treatment for problems of personality and have chosen to examine their own lives, and therefore, have been scrutinized in a clinical setting. I would prefer to say something like, “a person with a narcissistic personality organization,” and will do so whenever appropriate; nevertheless, the term “patient” will be used in a very deliberate way to designate a clinical observation.
In the clinical setting, an accurate diagnosis of a client’s personality organization is crucial for the clinician to prescribe appropriate therapy. An accurate diagnosis of a person’s particular personality organization facilitates the prescription of an appropriate course of therapeutic treatment; i.e., what to do about a problem once it has been diagnosed. I draw the line at therapeutic approaches. The course of therapeutic treatment is for a trained and experienced clinician to determine. It is the classification of a person’s level of personality development, and more precisely, the classification of a person’s particular personality organization, that facilitates the study of consumer behavior.
A NOTE ON THE USEFULNESS OF THE TERM “OBJECT”
The term “object” may be somewhat perplexing. Why not just say person? “The term ‘object’ in object-relations theory should more properly be ‘human object,’“ according to Kernberg (1984A, p. 58). While this may be of some help, it may also not be very useful: To see someone else as a whole person is an achievement in personality development. The early infant does not see the mother as a whole person; in fact, the early infant does not even see the mother as a separate person. For this reason, the early infant’s interpersonal experiences are referred to as “part object relations” to distinguish it from later “whole object relations,” when the person is whole. The term “object” is necessary, and indeed, its usefulness will be borne by our subsequent elaboration of an object relations theory of personality development.
WHY RATIONAL ECONOMIC MAN?
Where do we go for a model of consumer behavior? To economics, and the economic theory of consumer behavior, ordinal utility theory, that has a central conception of the consumer, the rational economic man, Homo Economicus. The rational consumer has a transitive preference ordering. Transitivity is a mathematical property of the individual consumer’s preference ordering. If a consumer prefers commodity A to B, and B to C, then he or she must prefer A to C to have a transitive preference ordering. If so, then he (or she) is proudly pronounced a rational consumer with great profundity!
In terms of observable behavior, a rational consumer makes consistent choices. Consistency places definite limitations on the shape of the demand curve (Samuelson 1947). As we shall see when we investigate the psychological foundations of consistent behavior, consistency is a surprisingly powerful behavioral postulate; however, more often than not, the lofty concept of rationality is simply a disguise for a lack of a deeper understanding of what it means.
Amartya K. Sen (1977) put it rather colorfully in “Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory:” “But if you are consistent, then no matter whether you are a single-minded egoist or a raving altruist or a class conscious militant, you will appear to be maximizing your own utility in this enchanted world of definitions” (Sen 1977, p. 323).
Homo Economicus, the rational economic man, however, does not represent the pinnacle of personality development. But, after the necessary changes have been made, the economic conception of a rational consumer will prove to be very useful in defining a pattern of normal consumption behavior. This will be elaborated in the chapter on The Normal Consumer. For now see the Pattern of Consumption Behavior panel for the normal range of the Personality Continuum.
WHY ASK WHY?
Why consumers behave as they do is a question of motivation. What motivates the consumer is the critical question surrounding consumer behavior. Motivation can be defined as the driving force within individuals, both conscious and unconscious, which impels them to action or moves them to behave in certain ways. Motivation is inseparable from the behavior; thinking is procrastinating (Freud 1933, p. 76).
The economic motivation for upward social mobility, to better one’s lot in life, is the most powerful economic motivation. It will be analyzed at critical junctures throughout this book. A true understanding of the economic motivation for upward social mobility will take a combination of psychoanalytic, social, and cultural, as well as economic approaches.
Why not just ask a person what motivated his or her consumer behavior? The typical response is most likely to be, “I don’t know.” Why do you use the brand of toothpaste you use? When a consumer professes to know his or her motivation, the next day, after sleeping on it, he or she will probably change or amend what was said the day before. Why? Because motivation is in part, at least, unconscious.
Understanding the unconscious, not just the unconscious motivation for behavior, is critical for a thorough understanding of consumer behavior. Sigmund Freud believed that his discovery of the unconscious was his most important contribution to psychology. It became part of his topographical model of the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious, as opposed to his later structural model of the id, ego, and superego. Freudian psychoanalytic theory, not just psychoanalytic object relations theory, is an enormous source of insight into the motivation for behavior.
Some disciplines, like marketing, that profess to know something about consumer behavior, hardly mention the unconscious in textbooks on consumer behavior, and, as a consequence, fail to recognize the importance of the unconscious processing of information. This is surprising given the early exploration of the unconscious aspects of motivation in the shopping list studies of Mason Haire (1950) and the motivation research of Ernest Dichter (1960, 1971). More recently the role of the unconscious has been explored from a psychoanalytic perspective by Morris B. Holbrook (1988, 1995).
The consumer of marketing is a peculiarly lopsided being who only processes information consciously. The absence of an understanding, or even an appreciation, for the role of the unconscious in motivation in marketing is a handicap to the analysis of consumer behavior. As a result, marketers appear to be oblivious to the increasingly blatant use of subliminal stimuli in advertising, while being openly mocked by editorials in Advertising Age by the very advertisers who resort to this technique. While between 74.3% and 81% of the public believes that advertisers use subliminal embeds, only 7.8% of practitioners profess to the use of subliminal stimuli in advertising (Rogers and Seiler 1994; Zanot, Pincus, and Lamp 1983; Rogers and Smith 1993). At the same time, the literature on subliminal stimuli is burgeoning in psychology. Subliminal stimuli will be used as a vehicle to understand the unconscious processing of information.
KNOW THY .i.PREFERENCES
Why should the consumer’s preferences be transitive, or behaviorally, why should a consumer make consistent choices? This assumption is necessary for the mathematical models to work, but is it a good description of actual buyer behavior? Are consumers always consistent in their choices?
There is no harm in making this assumption provided that the nature of the consumer’s preferences is known from the observation of actual market behavior. An application of ordinal utility theory would be appropriate if the preferences revealed in the market are transitive. If the consumer’s observable pattern of consumption behavior, however, does not fit the structure preferences of the economic conception of the rational consumer, then conventional ordinal utility theory is not appropriate and should not be applied. This understanding contributes to a clarification of the limits of applicability of the ordinal utility theory.
Presumably, a consumer’s scale of preferences is known from the observation of actual market behavior. This was the promise of revealed preference theory (Samuelson 1947); however, this approach has not been widely practiced by economists. The failure to observe the actual market behavior of the consumer has constricted the scope of the superficial conception of the consumer even further by the easy assumption that the scale of preferences is given. This is a scandalous assumption and immediately calls into question the nature of the consumer’s preferences that are being held constant by assumption.
The outstanding exception is the growing movement of behavioral economics. If we are going to have a more realistic conception of economic man, we must begin with the interpretation of observable patterns of behavior to broaden the behavioral foundations of economic analysis, not by adding more assumptions to economic theory.
Ordinal utility theory is a good, albeit weak, theory of choice, and will prove to be a useful, but limited, theoretical framework for the analysis of consumer behavior. One limitation is that it is a static model that begins with the assumption of a consumer with a given scale of preferences. It becomes circular when the most important question of consumer behavior is asked, “Why does the consumer prefer one bundle of commodities over another?” Economists can only beg the question, going back to where they started, with the consumer’s given scale of preferences, and say, “because the consumer liked that bundle better than the other.”
Economics cannot help us with the “why” question. As important as the conception of the rational consumer is to an understanding of behavior, economics as a discipline has little to do with behavior. Economics has become a branch of applied mathematics and should no longer be considered a social science. A standard textbook definition of economics goes something like this: Economics is a social science concerned with the allocation of society’s scarce resources among alternative uses for the satisfaction of human needs. The allocation of society’s scarce resources involves the working of markets and that is the metier of economics.
A WARNING ON ECONOMIC MAN
Economic Man refers specifically to the theoretical construct of the consumer from ordinal utility theory. For an application of object relations theory directly to women, I refer you to the superb work of Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (1982), and Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978).
You will find some similarities in the substance of this book to the work of Gilligan and Chodorow. That is because we had a common mentor in George W. Goethals, a brilliant teacher and lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Social Relations at Harvard University. I was wandering in the wilderness of Harvard University when I fortuitously found Goethals teaching a year-long lecture course on the Psychology of the Human Life Cycle. He turned me on to the interpersonal theory of Harry Stack Sullivan and the British object relations theory of W. R. D. Fairbairn. Thereafter I was a member of Goethals’s seminar on Psychoanalytic Approaches to Personality and learned about the psychoanalytic or American object relations theory of Otto F. Kernberg.
While I was wandering, I was not lost. I was a student of Harvey Leibenstein, the brilliant economist at Harvard University. Leibenstein was a brilliant behavioral economist, arguably the most influential behavioral economist of the twentieth century. He undoubtedly would have been a primary candidate for Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, if his intellectual life had not been tragically cut short by an automobile accident, but his intellectual influence has inspired a generation of behavioral economists.
Leibenstein was my mentor in economics and his influence on my own thinking is profound. I was his research assistant at the time Beyond Economic Man (1976) was published. The original title of this book was Inside Economic Man, a tribute to his influence on my own thought.
The movement toward relating the disciplines of economics and psychology must begin with the simple understanding that the consumer is, after all, a person, and not merely a set of assumptions (Albanese 1987, Holbrook 1995). Where do we go from here? Inside economic man, to an exploration of the psychological foundations of consumer behavior. And so shall we begin , psychoanalyzing the rational consumer of economic theory—shrinking economic man—so to speak.
The outcome of a successful psychoanalysis is a more realistic conception of oneself and others. The objective here is a more realistic conception of the consumer. Where will we end up? On the Personality Continuum, an integrative framework that systematically incorporates social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors influencing individual consumer behavior. Along the way, a concerted effort is made to integrate, and not to exclude, the analysis from any discipline that makes a useful contribution to an understanding of consumer behavior.
I would like to gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of just two people. Morris B. Holbrook, who reviewed an early version of the manuscript and made many useful suggestions which I have tried my best to incorporate into the book. For those ideas that went over my head, thank you for the illumination, and for supporting my research over the last decade. And my assiduous research assistant, Amalia Munteanu, who patiently worked through many drafts of the manuscript and carefully prepared the copyright permissions.
. “The answer lies within,” is a lyric from Cat Stevens’s, “On the Road to Find Out” from Tea for the Tillerman (1970); it is followed by “so why not take a look now?” So why not take a look inside now?
. I owe the observation that Freud frightens people to Morris B. Holbrook in a personal correspondence dated July 5, 1989.
. This famous essay, first published in 1933, is commonly known as Freud’s Lecture XXXI; however, it is worth noting that Freud never delivered these essays as lectures, nor ever intended them to be lectures. In his Preface, Freud provided this justification for using the lecture format: “It is only as an artifice of the imagination; it may help me not to forget to bear the reader in mind as I enter more deeply into my subject” (Freud 1933, p. 5). This is particularly apropos of Lecture XXXI, which introduces entirely new material and plunges deeply into a level of theoretical difficulty which was avoided in the previous introductory lectures on psychoanalysis.
. The structural model has given rise to some horrendous terminology: the psychic apparatus, preferred by Freud, the mental apparatus of Harry Stack Sullivan, the endopsychic structure of W. R. D. Fairbairn, and the intrapsychic structure of the personality organization of Otto F. Kernberg.
. Throughout the book, I have adopted the convention of providing the page numbers for references to Kernberg’s collections of essays (1984A, 1985A, 1985B), but using the original year of publication for his journal articles on intimacy in the text (1974A, 1974B, 1977). I have taken this same tack with other authors, most notably, Freud and Michael Balint, as a way to preserve the historical perspective.
. I am not so sure that I agree fully with Geertz that studies do not take up where others leave off. I am always struck by experience of remembering exactly where I left off when I have had the opportunity to get back to that same point in my research. I feel like I can pick up right where I left off. The deepest vein of research on which I am drawing for this book comes from the summer of 1981, when I read Otto Kernberg’s Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (1975), mainly a collection of reprinted clinical articles published between 1965-1975, while staying for two months in a cabin on Big Island Pond in Hampstead, New Hampshire. I was actually working on my long-overdue doctoral dissertation for my Ph. D. in economics at Harvard University. That summer was the most intellectually productive period of my life up to that time. When I returned to Harvard that fall, I had to back track considerably to make object relations theory more palatable to economists, at least to those on my dissertation committee, which I did complete within one year. In the spring of 1988, again living in splendid isolation, this time in Middlebury, Vermont, I had the opportunity to get back to that point once more, when I first began to work on the manuscript for this book. And I returned to that intellectual highpoint in the fall of 1998, while on sabbatical from Kent State University, when I began working on this book again after a ten year hiatus.
. It may be of interest to note that Fairbairn’s influential “Schizoid Factors in the Personality” was published for the first time as chapter one of Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality (1952). In footnote one, Fairbairn (1952, p. 3) reveals that only, “An abbreviated version of this paper was read before the Scottish Branch of the British Psychoanalytic Society on 9th November 1940.” “A Revised Psychopathology of the Psychoses And Psychoneuroses,” reprinted as chapter two of Fairbairn (1952), was originally published in The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis in 1941. In a footnote at the end of the first sentence, Fairbairn (1952, p. 28) credits, “A previous paper entitled ‘Schizoid Factors in the Personality’ is devoted to this subject, and is included in the present volume.”
. The description of Sullivan’s writing as “crisp” and “operational” was made by George W. Goethals in an important article entitled, “The Evolution of Sexual and Genital Intimacy: A Comparison of the Views of Erik H. Erikson and Harry Stack Sullivan,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis 4, 4(1976), p. 540.
. Sullivan’s heuristic stages of personality development and their connection to object relations theory are fully elaborated in Albanese (1982).
. For a truly unique exploration of the possibilities of revealed preference theory, see William J. Baumol 1972, pp. 221-232.
. I have taken this concise characterization of ordinal utility theory as a good, albeit weak, theory of choice, from the comments made by Kenneth J. Arrow, Noble Laureate in Economics, at an historic session of the 1983 ASSA Conference in San Francisco, California, entitled “The Psychological and Sociological Foundations of Economic Behavior.” Arrow was a discussant, along with A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz, of papers by Albert O. Hirschman, James S. Coleman, and George A. Ackerlof (reputed organizer of the session); the session was chaired by Gary S. Becker. For me, Arrow’s characterization of ordinal utility theory recalled Pareto’s challenge to the cardinal utility theorists: “Show me a utility or satisfaction that is, say, three time as great as another” (Schumpeter 1954, p. 1062).