An IF-THEN theory of personality: Significant others and the relational self

Susan M. Andersen, Jennifer S. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In our work on the relational self [Andersen, S. M., & Chen, S. (2002). The relational self: An interpersonal social-cognitive theory. Psychological Review, 109, 619-645], which is grounded in research and theory on the social-cognitive process of transference [Andersen, S. M., & Cole, S. W. (1990). "Do I know you?": The role of significant others in general social perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 383-399], we build on advances in IF-THEN models of personality [Mischel, W. & Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: Reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological Review, 102, 246-268] and their lineage in early work [Mischel, W. (1968). Personality and assessment. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.] to demonstrate that the self is inherently interpersonal. Because we have shown that mental representations of significant others are activated by immediate triggering cues in a situation and that this activation influences the nature of self and personality as experienced and expressed, the work expands the IF-THEN approach to the dyadic level of interpersonal relations. Moving beyond Mischel's early work (Mischel, 1968) our model also integrates social cognition and learning theory with psychodynamic thought, bringing the latter into the realm of this contemporary conceptualization of personality that highlights the importance of the situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-170
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Close relationships
  • Person by situation interaction
  • Relational self
  • Significant others
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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