The Dynamics of Personality Approach (DPA): 20 Tenets for Uncovering the Causal Mechanisms of Personality

Markus Quirin, Michael D. Robinson, John F. Rauthmann, Julius Kuhl, Stephen J. Read, Mattie Tops, Colin G. DeYoung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last few decades, most personality psychology research has been focused on assessing personality via scores on a few broad traits and investigating how these scores predict various behaviours and outcomes. This approach does not seek to explain the causal mechanisms underlying human personality and thus falls short of explaining the proximal sources of traits as well as the variation of individuals' behaviour over time and across situations. On the basis of the commonalities shared by influential process-oriented personality theories and models, we describe a general dynamics of personality approach (DPA). The DPA relies heavily on theoretical principles applicable to complex adaptive systems that self-regulate via feedback mechanisms, and it parses the sources of personality in terms of various psychological functions relevant in different phases of self-regulation. Thus, we consider personality to be rooted in individual differences in various cognitive, emotional–motivational, and volitional functions, as well as their causal interactions. In this article, we lay out 20 tenets for the DPA that may serve as a guideline for integrative research in personality science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-968
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. European Journal of Personality published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Association of Personality Psychology


  • computational modelling
  • cybernetic big five theory
  • cybernetics
  • dynamics of personality approach (DPA)
  • personality functions
  • personality neuroscience / predictive and reactive control systems theory
  • personality processes
  • personality structure
  • personality systems interactions theory
  • systems theory
  • virtual personalities model
  • within-person variability


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