Personality Assessment System (PAS), formulated by John W. Gittinger,
was developed originally as a clinical method for describing the
dynamics and adjustments of mental disfunction. It has since had
wide application as a technique for general psychological assessment.
Throughout the past four and one-half decades, the usefulness
of the system has been tested by experience with thousands of
persons drawn from many backgrounds and cultures. A vast amount
of research, only a portion of which has been reported in the
literature or at professional
meetings, has been carried on within the theoretical framework
of the PAS. This includes, for example: studies of learning behavior
(Eldred, 1964; Schueman and Thetford, unpublished); investigation
of the personality structure of foreign groups (Goodnow, 1961;
Shepanek, 1964); and research and demonstration projects concerned
with experimental psychopathology, treatment and rehabilitation,
and mental health programs (Schueman, 1961, 1963; York, 1963;
In addition, Saunders has investigated the structure of the Wechsler
family of test batteries which are the psychological tests most
closely related to the PAS. They are also most often used to derive
an individual's PAS "formula." These investigations include
many American and foreign groups (1959b, 1960a, 1960b, 1960c,
1961a, 1961b, 1963; Saunders and Aaronson, 1962) .
There is nothing unique about the assessment process for it is
something that each person, in his own way, carries on almost
continuously. The purpose of assessment is to make possible predictions
about another's future behavior so that one's own behavior can
be appropriate. (See Kelly, 1955.) The PAS has an advantage in
that the information required for prediction of future behavior
can be obtained with an easily administered psychological test
Conversely, where test results cannot be obtained, the PAS provides
a framework for "reconstructing" the personality that
underlies the observed behavior (York, 1964). The reconstructed
personality pattern can then be the basis for useful behavior
prediction. This process can be applied analytically by clinicians
skilled in the use of the PAS model or the process can be made
more rigorous with any of the
indirect assessment instruments that have been developed within
the context of PAS methodology. Also important is the fact that
the PAS methodology provides a way of communicating the particulars
of a subject's position in PAS
"space" with less equivocation than possible with
a less descriptively and objectively oriented system. This feature
is the outcome of a notational system described below.
From the viewpoint of practical
application, PAS contributes to the prediction of behavior
in several ways:
indicates the kinds of internal and external cues the individual
is most likely to respond to overtly;
It suggests the types of stimuli most likely to produce behavior
It provides an understanding of the quality of environments
in which the individual is most likely to behave efficiently;
offers insight into situations that are stressful for the individual;
permits prediction of the probable nature of maladjusted behavior,
should maladjusted behavior occur.
The Personaility Assessment System thus contributes to individual
assessment by providing practical insights into a highly personalized
pattern of strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, the system
allows objective comparisons among the personality features of
different individuals, thereby offering a suitable framework for
behavioral research and definitive investigations of personality
structure and function.
The PAS was derived originally from the use of the Wechsler-Bellevue
Intelligence Scale, Form I (Wechsler, 1944). Experience has shown
that the PAS can be used with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence
Scale or WAIS (Wechsler, 1955, 1958) and with all later adaptations
although the order of administration of subtests should be modified
to conform to that of the W-B I. Moreover, there is some clinical
evidence that the W-B I Block Design and Digit Symbol subtests
are more sensitive than the corresponding WAIS subtests; conversely,
the WAIS Picture Arrangement and Picture Completion subtests seem
to be superior. Finally, although the Wechsler Intelligence Test
for Children (WISC) has not been used very much with PAS, there
is some evidence (Saunders, 1961b) that the system is appropriate.
PAS derives an individual's pattern by comparing each of his Wechsler
or WAIS weighted subtest scores to his own calculated norm.
This norm, termed the person's Normal Level, is estimated by a
theory-generated weighted system that is applied to ten subtests,
excluding Vocabulary. While Normal Level can be considered an
estimate of an individual's over-all capability, its importance
to PAS, for the purpose of this introduction, is that it provides
a baseline from which the influence of personality on test performance
can be quantitatively measured. Note particularly that, in the
PAS model, pattern analysis of sub-test scores is made upon deviations
of a subject's scores from the subject's is own, unique, standard.
The PAS does not use a normative baseline from which to
assess subtest scatter. Subtest deviation scores are, in the PAS,
ipsitive data, not normative data. The method of computing Normal
Level is discussed in another section of this Web site.
Dimensionality of the PAS and the Levels
are three major and six derived dimensions within the system.
(In addition to these three, later research has indicated that
another major dimension is a valid and useful construct but is
not included in this discussion. It is explicated in the section
describing Saunders' work with
For the purposes of this dicussion we will describe only the three
Mechanical-Procedural dimension and
addition, the system calls for three levels of personality structure
and development within each dimension. This requirement generates
the other six dimensions.
The Primitive Level
first of these levels is the primary or "Primitive";
level. This is the level which is considered innate. It constitutes
the set of abilities, for each of the three domains, with which
the newborn person enters the word and with which the child copes
in the early years of his life.
However, if the child's attempts to deal with his world are unsatisfactory
as viewd by those around him, the child may be forced into learning
contrasting modes of behavior. This process of change is called
inevitably brings some conflict since it forces the young individual
to reject some part of his true nature and to defend himself against
what he is, a course he usually undertakes only if anxiety has
been aroused by the reactions of others in his environment. Compensatory
activities are, therefore, closely associated with an individual's
attempts to escape this unpleasant feeling.
Unfortunately, while compensation helps to control anxiety, it
also represents a form of adjustment achieved and maintained at
some psychological cost. An individual can conceal his original
tendencies from others, and with varying degrees of success, from
himself, but he cannot render them non-existent even if he excludes
them from his awareness. They continue to operate, whether consciously
or unconsciously, and serve to increase psychological tension.
Compensation, thus, is always characterized by tension and, particularly
in times of stress, by further anxiety on the part of the individual
lest he revert to his already unacceptable Primitive adjustment.
The Basic Level
a child, as he matures, is pressured into a compensatory adjustment
or is encouraged to develop and exploit his natural bent, he achieves
a state that is called his Basic
or attained level. This level is usually stabilized by early
is a further modification of behavior described by the system,
which represents the achievement of a surface, Contact,
or "ideal" behavior. This level stabilizes in early adulthood.
Since the behavior associated with the Surface level is most likely
to change under pressure, most of this discussion will be limited
to the Primitive and Basic levels. The three dimensions were mentioned
briefly above. What follows is a detailed explanation of these
The Dimension of Personality
first domain or dimension hypothesized by the PAS model is termed
the intellectual domain.
The E - I Dimension
dimension is called the Externalizer-Internalizer
(E-I) dimension. On the WAIS, this is defined by the difference
between a person's Normal Level and the score on Digit Span (D),
which has been shown by Saunders (1960c, 1961a) to be associated
with alpha rhythm. Essentially, this test is a nonsense task,
a series of unrelated numbers spoken at an even, monotonous pace
by an examiner, to be repeated by the person being tested. The
individual who does well on this task appears to be able to detach
himself from distractions offered by the examiner or the setting.
Furthermore, he is able to manipulate and store these abstractions,
pure numbers, until he is called upon to reproduce them. Such
a person we call an Internalizer
The individual who does poorly on Digit Span is distracted by
the examiner or the setting and is unable to manipulate and retain
this sort of nonsense material. Incidental noises and distractions
are likely to decrease his score even further. There is some clinical
evidence that this sort of person, the Externalizer
(or E), tries so hard to relate to and impress the examiner
that he defeats his own end.
Externalizer and the Internalizer are polar extremes of behavioral
It is important to realize, however, that theoretically there
is no pure behavior associated with the E-l dimension or,
for that matter, with any other dimension. it is only when
we begin to combine dimensions that observable behavior patterns
emerge though there are some traits that seem to arise from
E or I orientation, and it is to these we refer when we talk about
the behavior of an E or an I.
Externalizer tends to be an active individual, more interested
in doing than thinking. For him, the world is real and experience
is real. He must exert considerable effort when compelled to work
with ideas, to be self-sufficient, or to control his natural tendencies
toward activity and involvement with others. He is practical,
concrete, and works by "feel" or by trial and error. Since he
directs his energies outward and seeks involvement with others,
he is, psychologically speaking, perceptually dominant, environmentally
dependent, and more responsive to external than to internal cues.
Internalizer or I individual is the opposite. For him, ideas are
real. He has a facility for abstract and symbolic thinking and
tends to think before he acts. His emotions are directed inward
and his feelings, to the casual observer, appear masked and obscure.
In fact, however, his feelings are highly personal and he guards
them closely. He is primarily self-contained and he seeks his
major psychological satisfactions in the privacy of his own experiences.
The I individual is passive and tends to withdraw. Left to his
own ways, he prefers to think, rather than to do; he shuns the
practical, the concrete, or the specific. His problems lie chiefly
in the need to control his passivity and his urge to withdraw.
He needs to be more aware of his environment and to learn to relate
to others on a genuinely interpersonal basis.
is worth noting that this PAS dimension is related to but not
the same as the "Extrovert-Introvert"
dimension hypothosized by virtually all other personality
models. Most of those "fold" at least two of the PAS dimensions
into one domain which is then termed extrovert-introvert. For
the PAS there are several "flavors" of extroversion and
introversion which will become obvious below.
the test pattern, Arithmetic scores above the Normal Level indicate
compensation, both for E and for I individuals. Through compensation,
the individual tends to acquire the attributes and the orientation
of original tendencies opposite to his own. That is, the Primitive
E learns, because of environmental or social pressure, to become
more passive, more self-sufficient, and more aware of his own
thinking, while the Primitive I compensates by becoming more active
and more aware of the need to relate to other people. Some explain
that compensation on the E-I dimension represents the acquisition
of intellectual discipline for both primitive E's and Primitive
I's. As most will attest, arithmetic skill would seem to support
a certain extent, the compensated E looks like the uncompensated
I and the compensated I looks like the uncompensated E. The chief
observable difference is that compensated people from "both"groups
exhibit a certain quality of intensity of behavior that is not
present in the uncompensated groups. This intensity is obvious
to even the casual observer and has its origin in the tension
created by the process of compensation. This phenomenon has led
to a compilation of ways in which compensated people from one
group can appear like compensated people from another. The difference
is that the "look-alikes
never "feel" alike because of the tension produced
by compensation. Click on the last link for a table which contrasts
"look-alikes" and "feel-alikes".
the person continues to mature, further changes in personality
may occur after the Basic level has been stabilized. These changes,
leading to the surface or Contact
level are called modification.
They are represented, in the tests, by Information scores above
the person's Normal Level. Modification produces those characteristics
usually associated with the "first impression" of a particular
adult personality. Like compensation, modification may reinforce
the basic adjustment or may reflect development in a different
The R-F Dimension
second major dimension of the PAS, in the Mechanical-Procedural
domain, is called the Regulated-Flexible
(R-F) dimension. On the WAIS, this is defined by the score on
the Block Design (BD) subtest.
Block Design requires an ability to analyze a design and to duplicate
it precisely with colored blocks. The person who does well is
called a Regulated-literal or
R individual. Such a person can react precisely to a limited number
of specific, well-defined stimuli upon which the person can focus
and concentrate. Although the range of response is narrow, such
a person is not easily confused or distracted, except when forced
to vary a routine.
The R individual has those psychological attributes associated
with attentiveness and concentration. Such people learn procedures
easily and often by rote. Learning is rapid because insistance
on perspective is not important; understanding is often acquired
after-the-fact. If at all.
Because psychological insulation restricts awareness, the R individual
tends to be self-centered and insensitive to others. Such people
tend to be logical and literal, seeing the world in ordered "blacks
and whites." Difficulty in situations requiring sensitivity, sympathy,
Contrast, the Flexible-sensitive
(F) individual has a long history of suffering from, and
learning to cope with, confusion. Such a person tends to be aware
of a large variety of stimuli and responds over a wide range.
Attentiveness and concentration are difficult and learning new
activities is apt to be slow because such people must first "understand"
the meaning or purpose of the situation or task before
they can do it. On the other hand, the F grasps subtleties and
is intuitive and imaginative, working from impressions is normal.
The F is quick to sense the "atmosphere" of a situation. Such
a person lives in a world that is never completely logical. "shades
of gray" are the norlmal perspective for such people.
Because nothing in the world is fixed, the F individual tends
to be fearful and cautious; sensitivity is dominant and, therefore,
such people are easily hurt. The F's major problems lie in the
need to restrict awareness and reactivity enough to enable concentration
and organization. In short, it is difficult for the F individual
to "get his act together."
The Importance of Interaction
perhaps, we can begin to see a mechanism to describe actual behavior
within the framework of PAS by begining to look at the dimensions
as they interact with one another Remember, in the PAS
model, little can be said about a person without consdering the
interaction of the
dimensions. The significance is in the interaction.
one example, an IR, who is both internalized and regulated, will
be more likely to engage in an abstract occupation such as theoretical
physics. An ER, on the other hand, because such people are externalized,
will be likely to engage in engineering. An IF, with sensitivity
and liking for abstraction, might engage in social or religious
reform or become a linguistics specialist. EF people, with their
social orientation and creative, emotional bent might become actors,
teachers, or social workers.
in the R-F dimension, is defined by the Similarities subtest of
the WAIS, a relatively high score representing compensation for
the R and a relatively low score representing compensation for
the F. Similarities, in its simplest form, requires an ability
to see relationships. The Primitive F individual can usually perform
this sort of activity without much effort. Failure to achieve
on the test then, indicates reaction against and denal of ability
to see relationships.
The Primitive R individual, on the other hand, has difficulty
seeing relationships. A relatively high score on Similarities
indicates the beginning of compensation for lack of Primitive
(producing the third level) of R-F tendencies is indicated by
performance on Comprehension.
the acquisition and retention of the correct answers to the items
in Comprehension are essentially rote and procedural in nature,
the Primitive R is the one who can achieve with the least effort;
the Primitive F must exert some effort or control before he can
do reasonably well. Thus, a low score on Comprehension represents
a modification of Primitive R but a high score represents modification
of Primitive F.
The A-U Dimension
third PAS dimension, in the Social domain, is perhaps a unique
contribution of the system. It is associated with the Picture
Arrangement (PA) subtest of the WAIS and is called
Role Adaptive-Role Uniform (A-U) dimension. These terms refer
to an individual's skill in meeting the social and interpersonal
demands of society. At one extreme is the Role
Adaptive or A individual -- magnetic, charming, captivating,
a person who moves easily in a variety of social situations. At
the other extreme is the Role Uniform or U individual, socially
inept and, at best, able to handle only a few roles.
high score on Picture Arrangement requires an ability to comprehend
socially related situations. Adeptness in this test indicates
an awareness of social roles. PA's relation to social skill was
noted by Wechsler many years ago in his statement: ". . . worthy
of note is the good score frequently made by the psychopath on
Picture Arrangement test, a finding that is surprising because
this test has been interpreted as measuring social intelligence.
If this interpretation is correct, a distinction must be made
between understanding and resultant behavior. Psychopaths generally
have a grasp of social situations, but they are inclined to manipulate
them to their own advantage in an antiocial way.... The psychopath's
test performance as a whole is characterized by . . . breeziess
and self-assurance...." (1944, p. 155.) In PAS terms, the completely
undisciplined (that is, neither compensated nor modified) extreme
A (that is, an A+u+u+) is likely to exhibit psychopathic tendencies.
A individual, then, has the awareness of, and the ability to express,
conventional or proper feelings, whether or not they happen to
be true feelings. For example, such a person is seldom anxious,
but is quite capable of showing the symptoms of anxiety if the
occasion calls for it. In some ways, this is is a chameleon-like
individual with a tendency to be "all things to all people."
Such people can (and do) spot others' weaknesses and to use these
to their own advantage.
In seeking employment for instance, the A much prefers the personal
interview to any sort of testing. Such a person's major problems
stem from highly favorable first impression, for, having over-sold
himself, without really trying, the A is then faced with living
up to expectations that a high level of social skill and versatility
has engendered. Such people tend to be accepted wholeheartedly
at first, but later, when expectations are not met, the A is often
misunderstood and over-punished. The result is often departure
from tne situation before this can happen thus, the A often has
the reputation for being a "job-jumper."
Role Uniform or U individual,
however, applies a limited repertoire of roles to whatever situation
encountered whether the roles are appropriate or not. As a result,
such a person often has considerable experience with rejection
since the U seldom makes a favorable first impression, even in
a situation appropriate to a well-learned role. In order to avoid
rejection, the U tends to limit the range of social encounters.
If, however, given a chance, the U may later be accepted because
of some specific, but non-social, skill. Obviously, such people
prefer tests to interviews and tend to stick in a job as long
in the A-U dimension, is indicated by performance in Picture Completion.
Success in Picture Completion represents an awareness of, or sensitivity
to, minute features of the environment. The A individual if trying
to reject a natural tendency to skillfully play a role, must become
less sensitive to the environment; thus, a lowered PC score
is required. The reverse is true for the U person. If such a person
is to become a better role-player and generally more adaptable,
more sensitive to external cues must be acquired. That is, the
U, to show compensation, must have a relatively high PC score.
It All Together
With this introduction to the third dimension of personality,
we are in a position to indicate how the three dimensions and
compensatory processes interact. This example, from York (1963),
also shows how PAS can identify apparently similar behavior as
stemming from different roots.
York found that actors and psychiatric residents may both be described,
in Basic behavior, as externalized, flexible, and role adaptable.
At the Primitive level, however, actors are externalized, regulated,
and adaptive (ERA ) while residents tend to be internalized, regulated,
and role uniform (IRU). These findings support Carrigan's (1960)
suggestion that there are at least two kinds of extraverts: the
emotionally expressive, impulsive and interpersonally fickle ("French")
type as contrasted with the disciplined and organized ("American")
for both the A and the U. is represented by Object Assembly. There
is considerable evidence that performance on OA is affected by
anxiety with respect to interpersonal relationships (Lanfeld and
Saunders, 1961). This sort of anxiety serves as a "brake on behavior"
and indicates whether or not the individual can use the adaptation
he has attained. A low score on OA indicates that modification
has taken place; a high score indicates lack of modification.
Level: The "Other" Dimension
Digit Symbol subtest plays a special role in PAS. While not specifically
related to any of the dimensions described above, performance
on this subtest yields a rough estimate of the extent of drive
or psychological energy possessed by an individual. Although quite
variable and subject to fluctuations caused by mood, intensity,
and activity level at the time of administration of the test,
a high DS usually suggests an ability to maintain one's Surface
level while a low DS usually indicates vacillation between the
Surface and Basic levels. Since the interpretation of this subtest
is a function of the total personality structure, this over-simplified
description must be generalized cautiously. Further, Saunder's
work on reference groups has
led to a more substantial role for the DS subtest. Please refer
to the reference group section for more about this work and the
development of a new "fourth dimension" for the PAS model.
of Original Tendencies
An individual's need to adapt to a variety of situations requires
various adjustments in relation to each of the three original
personality tendencies. As mentioned above, compensation, the
most fundamental level of adjustment, and to a lesser extent,
modification, are mechanisms enabling the individual to control
the original or Primitive tendencies or to develop at least some
of the attributes of orientations opposite those tendencies.
a person deals with the original tendencies depends on the strength
of those tendencies and the kind of environment in which the person
develops. Most important among the environmental factors is the
extent of pressure placed on the child to become "what he
is not" and/or the intensity of the punishment received for
being what he is.
The quality of acceptance the child receives from parents and
from other important adults is the major factor in determining
whether compensation will occur. If the parents, for the most
part, approve and support (or sometimes ignore) the child's original
tendencies, total self-acceptance is the probable outcome. Lacking
any powerful motivation to change original tendencies, the child
will probably retain those personality features with little or
no alteration. Psychological development will proceed along the
inherent, Primitive, lines of each personality dimension, without
significant growth in the opposite directions. With this sort
of development, the child is relaxed, largely free of major internal
conflicts, and free from extreme anxiety or guilt feelings; an
outcome often lauded as highly desirable. But at the same time,
such a person is very one-sided.
the other hand, the quality of the individual's interaction with
his environment may generate more disapproval than approval of
original tendencies. The parents may reject or punish the child
for what he is, reserving their praise and approval for his attempts
to become what he is not. In such cases, the child is pushed away
from his innate or Primitive tendencies and forced to develop
along opposite lines. He tries to alter, rather than express,
his original tendencies; his energies go into compensatory activities.
This external pressure begins with parents but it is continued
throughout the entire process of socialization since it is supplied
by other adults, notably teachers, and later, by contemporaries
whose approval the individual values.
process inevitably produces tension and stress. However, the result
is a much more versitile and dynamic personality. The one-sidedness
of the uncompensated person is not there and compensated people
usually cope with life's vicissitudes more easily ans successfully.
the mechanism of compensation and modification an indi- vidual
can conceal his Primitive tendencies from others and, with varying
degrees of success, from himself. If the acquired overlay of compensatory
activities is not sufficiently strong to force the original tendency
entirely out of conscious awareness, the individual retains some
insight into his true nature.
While his Primitive tendencies are suppressed, they are not completely
lost to awareness. On the other hand, a strong original tendency
coupled with intense compensation leads to acute defensiveness
and repression. In this case, the conflict operates at a level
below the individual's awareness so that conscious control is
impossible; tension and anxiety persist, however. The more an
individual moves in a direction opposite to strong original tendencies,
the more tension and anxiety is he experienced but with the reward
that versitility is enhanced and coping skills are usually enhanced.
seems apparent that it is undesirable to reach adulthood having
experienced no compensation nor modification. It seems equally
apparent that to arrive at adulthood with extreme compensation
and modification is equally undesirable. Moderation would seem
to be here, as in so many facets of life, the best course. This
matter is discussed in more detail by Dr. David Saunders in Mean
Frequency of Compensation as a Critical Descriptor for Studies
Using the PAS.