Cognitive-Experiential Theory: An Integrative Theory of Personality

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9780199927555: Cognitive-Experiential Theory: An Integrative Theory of Personality

The book presents a new theory of personality, referred to as cognitive-experiential theory (CET). Currently there are a variety of personality theories that seem irreconcilable with each other. CET is integrative of all other major personality theories. This integration is accomplished by expanding upon current basic assumptions, including the assumption that all higher-order animals automatically construct an implicit theory of reality that is necessary for adapting to their environments and that is therefore inherently reinforcing. The system that accomplishes this is referred to as the experiential system, as it is an empirical system that adapts by automatically learning from experience. Because it operates without requiring conscious awareness it can be regarded as an adaptive unconscious system, however, this book reveals that the experiential system is not identical with an unconscious adaptive system, and is superior to that construct in several important respects.

Humans, of course, also uniquely operate with a conscious, reasoning system, referred to in CET as a rational system. This book demonstrates how these two systems operate in parallel and influence each other in important ways. For example, the influence of the experiential on the rational system can account for why the human species, despite its outstanding intelligence in solving impersonal problems, which are mainly in the domain of the rational system, often think and behave unintelligently and destructively in solving interpersonal problems, which are primarily in the domain of the experiential system. Yet, neither system is generally superior to the other, and the book discusses how each system is superior in uniquely important ways.

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About the Author:

Seymour Epstein is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, where he has held a position since obtaining his Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 1953. His major interest has been in developing an integrative theory of personality, which he has set forth in the present book. Over the past several decades he has conducted an active research program on his theory that has received continuous support from the National Institute of Mental Health and extended support from a Research Scientist Award.


This book presents an integrative theory of personality that creatively incorporates elements from most major psychological theories. It will provide both researchers and clinicians with many valuable leads for studying and changing personality." - Edward O'Brien, Professor of Psychology, Marywood University This is the first book I will give my graduate students, saying, 'Understand this and you will know a lot more about what's in play when you are observing behavior, cognition, and emotion." - Everett Waters, Professor, Social and Developmental Psychology, State University of New York at Stony Brook Epstein's replacement of Freud's cognitive unconscious with the 'experiential system' is much more grounded in the latest cognitive science and the realities of how people actually think and act in the real world." - Scott Barry Kaufman, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology, New York University In this seminal book, Professor Epstein describes his integrative theory of personality, the culmination of work spanning a long professional career. The book should be required reading for anyone interested in the workings of human personality." - Icek Ajzen, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Massachusetts - Amherst There is no better place than this well-written eponymous book to examine Seymour Epstein's dual-process Cognitive-Experiential Theory and its broad ramifications. It raises a large new set of questions for future researchers to pursue." - Eric Klinger, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Division of Social Sciences, University of Minnesota, Morris

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