What is PSI?
PSI means Personality Systems Interaction.
The PSI-Theory was founded by Prof. Dr. Julius Kuhl as a meta-theory which integrates various valid results from experimental psychology (Kuhl, 2001) and was confirmed by the findings of modern neuropsychology.
PSI-introduces an additional function-analytical perspective (in addition to the personal, empathic one) that focuses on the functions and interactions of neuropsychic systems, regardless of the content of subjective experience.
Functional analysis means understanding how different personal systems interact with the affects and cognitive processes associated with them. From this understanding, additional creative ideas for a sustainable change and development process can be derived. These functions are even more important for the change process than disorder-oriented diagnoses, because development blockades or disorders can have a variety of functional causes.
Baumann et. al. (2017), offers a good overview of the different fields of application in “Why People Do the Things they Do: Building on Julius Kuhl`s Contribution to Motivation and Volition Psychology” Göttingen: Hogrefe. It deals with sports coaching, educational science, education, therapy, counselling and training and human resources management.
Excursus Personality Psychology
Ever since psychology has been a science, many approaches to personality psychology have developed, primarily from the field of psychotherapy. Very often a certain personality theory depicts a specific view of human beings, e.g. the behaviouristic, the cognitivistic, the psychoanalytical etc. These concepts include implicit values as well as assumptions about how development processes can be supported, how change processes take place and how an individual personality or personal differences develop.
Very often these conceptual human images contradict each other in their basic assumptions, so that they appear useless for the complexity of everyday life. Prof. Dr. Julius Kuhl (2001) developed a meta-theory of personality, which integrates many contradictory theories that are also compatible with modern neuropsychological findings as well as the findings of modern personality psychology and, last but not least, can be applied extremely well in a practical context. As Lewin (1935) remarked, nothing is more practical than a good theory.
The PSI-Theory, the Personality Systems Interaction Theory (PSI-Theory), is about the use of a functional-analytical perspective on personality. Functional analysis means understanding that a person’s certain state is not only based on content (e.g. experiencing a disease), but also on the way that certain systems within a personality act and interact with each other.
PSI-Theory: The Architecture of Personality
Cervone et al (2004, 2006) postulate that theories based on personality architecture can provide an integrative theoretical framework for self-management research. Spatial models are good metaphors for imagining complex relationships and dynamics. The PSI-Theory makes use of this spatial metaphor of personality architecture by means of a hierarchically structured model that depicts personality with its various systems on seven levels.
Fig.1: Legend: OES: Object recognition system; IVS: Intuitive behavioural system; IG: Intentional memory; EG: Experience memory, extension memory
In this personality architecture, it is less a matter of the individual, distinguishable levels and systems, but of their own dynamics and their flexible interaction. People differ according to the way the systems function; they can prefer or disregard the interaction of certain systems. The advantage of this model is that even people who are not personality psychologists can understand and apply its basic features without having to go into the depths of scientific psychology.
We are regarding a topological model leading from the simple (shown below in the hierarchy) to complex systems (shown above in the hierarchy) and describes a phylo- and ontogenetic line of development leading to more freedom and self-determination at the highest and, at the same time, most complex level. Self-management, which is on the 7th level of the model, is a human achievement which depends closely on the formation of the prefrontal cortex. Self-management competences are important protective factors that play a central role in the health sciences of various disciplines, e.g. nursing science, medicine and psychology, as they are precisely those competences that can minimise risk factors and verifiably lead to a faster recovery, better quality of life and better well-being (Ritz-Schulte, 2011; Ritz-Schulte & Huckebrink, 2011).
The four macro-systems of personality are located both on the elementary level and on the sixth level. We recognize two elementary systems and two intelligent systems that interact with each other on the one hand and are connected antagonistically on the other.