Friday, June 10, 2011

Triadic reciprocity happens.

In a comment in response to Wednesday's post about equifinality and multifinality, Linda Gray asked an awesome question: "What is it that makes people from similar backgrounds, even the same family/upbringing, react and behave differently? Personality factors? Other experiential factors?"

Well. You guys all said you liked diagrams. How about this one?



This is a somewhat elaborated model of Albert Bandura's theory of triadic reciprocity (or triadic reciprocality, or triadic reciprocal determinism, whichever you prefer). The blue squares in the middle? That's the core of the model. The red circles are just some of the components of each square (added by yours truly).

See the red arrows? They're the key. Note they aren't just pointing one way. People don't develop along a linear path. We aren't affected by one thing, one time, and that's it. This model shows how our personality and preferences, for example, influence the environments we choose (and vice versa), which in turn influence how we behave in those situations (and vice versa).

We are constantly involved in these complex interactions between our external environments, internal headspace, and outward behavior. Each of these things changes and impacts the other. We are not simply products of our environments--we shape our environments, including how others behave in response to our behavior. We get feedback on our behavior and it changes the way we think (our expectations, our fears, our desires and goals). Of course, the way we think changes our behavior as well (just an example, if you are prone to over-attend to or over-interpret negative messages and threats in your environment, you're going to see them more often and be more likely to respond to them with avoidance or hostility, which of course changes the way others behave, whether you revisit a particular situation, etc.).

In answer to Linda's question, this model could give you an idea about how two people could emerge from similar environments with completely different perspectives and behaviors. People come into the world wired differently. Two siblings can have entirely different temperaments. Along with aspects of the environment that, to some extent, change depending on the person (birth order, life circumstances, parent gender and gender preference, parent personality and goodness-of-fit with the kid's personality), the kids are going to make different choices with regard to how they respond to those environments (withdrawal vs. connection, calm vs. jittery, happy vs. sad/mad, and so on).

One of my professors once said, "there's no such thing as shared environment." He meant that, even if two kids are raised in the same home, that's no guarantee they experienced the same stuff. And this goes for any situation. That's because of this daily, complex interaction of the person, the behavior, and the environment.

I could do (and maybe will, over the next few years) a dozen posts on this kind of thing. Human development is so fascinating. It's one of the reasons I became a child psychologist. I love thinking about this stuff.

How about you? Can you trace your own (or a character's) development through this model? Can you use it to help you understand how your character became who he or she is? Does it clarify that concept of multifinality, when one predictor can result in multiple paths or outcomes?

18 comments:

  1. My mother and I were talking about this yesterday. My brother and I were both adopted from different families, at birth, so we don't share genetics, but we did have the same upper middle class upbringing, the same opportunities, the same private schools and teachers. I grew up, rarely misbehaved, never got in trouble, and I have a solid job and a family. My brother got in tons of trouble (some significant legal trouble in his teens), got a GED, and still, at 32, can't hold down a job. I just learned last night that he got in a fistfight with his neighbor to the point where the cops were called. My mother says she doesn't understand where she went wrong. I should direct her to your blog; maybe she'll realize that she's not solely responsible. God knows I've been trying to tell her that for years. :-)

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  2. Love your diagrams, Sarah. This explains why even identical twins can turn out to be so different from each other (even if you dress them in indentical outfits).

    Human development is really interesting. But you make it seem even more so.

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  3. This fascinating to me. You're really getting my 'internal headspace' flustered. I have four children, and often watch them--simply observe. I find myself, at times, getting pretty heavy about it.

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  4. Similar to Brigid's story, my boyfriend and his 2 siblings were all adopted from different families as infants, and they've all turned out so differently despite being raised in the same household. It's very interesting, and this diagram does help explain it.

    Ditto what Stina said!

    KH

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  5. I thin my brain just went into overload looking at that. Must. Has. More. Caffeine. Before I can come back to read that again.

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  6. Great post and cool graphic. It kind of mirrors what I originally thought too (yay, I'm on target!) that it's not just the person, or the environment, but something far more complicated. Like your graph!

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  7. This is great, Sarah. Yes, it does make sense. Nature/nurture is way more complicated than it sounds. Maybe we should trust our gut on what makes our characters who they are, but if something isn't resonating, your chart (and discussion) could help us figure out where the problem is. Thanks! I hope you'll do that dozen posts on this topic. :-)

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  8. Hmm? If you think of a litter of puppies, they all come out with different traits, some shy, some playful, some aggressive. Their environment isn't a factor yet. Now imagine an aggressive dog with an abusive owner. I think anyone can see that we all come out of the womb with different traits and personalities, but who can prove whether it's an amalgamation from a gene pool, or (kinda New Age here)...an amalgamation of emotions from previous lives. Obviously, one's environment comes into play. And as an adults, we must take responsibility to find our joy and eliminate the negative. As I recently told my 42-year-old daugher... who's still complaining that her crooked teeth are the result of a bad gene pool and me because I didn't have braces put on her teeth...TAKE YOURSELF TO A DENTIST AND GET THEM FIXED. Personalities like teeth, can be modified.

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  9. Damn. This looks cool but I don't have time today!

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  10. Ah that clears something up for me. I read about character reactions to certain events and/or traumas in their youth.

    My character reacted differently. But with this, it makes sense to me.

    Thanks. :-)

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  11. One of the things my supervisor is constantly trying to ram into our brains is focusing on protective factors in the environment. Where I work, a lot of our families have generations of Substance Abuse, mental illness, poverty, incest, you name it, our Genograms have got it! If we focus only on the things that aren't working, all our kids look like they will be pathologically victims or victimize others and then pass it on to the next poor group of folks to feed our prison systems. So we come back again and again to the protective factors- maybe its that one uncle who listens or takes the kids out to ice cream when mom and her boyfriend are screaming and yelling. Maybe its their local church, or a teacher, or a social worker, or grandparents or even a really good local library (I am reminded of Matilda!). I suppose this is important in writing as well, even for characters who are sociopaths, that the reader can trace how the character could have made different choices by listening to and paying attention to those protective factors, but instead chose to walk away. Some of the best villains are the ones who seem close to overcoming their past torments, about to choose good, who decide at the last minute that, for whatever reason, they will not walk into the light.

    On a last note, no matter what your chart might look like, there is always hope. When people hear the phrase, "Into every life, a little rain must fall," They automatically think of the negative, but I think of the positive. Into every life, no matter how screwed up, there is something good in it, a person, a place, a strength, which can be a source of inspiration and hope to grow past the environment. We may just have to judge success differently. For example, you may not think being a 17 yr old teen mom is successful. But if that girl's mom was 14 when she got pregnant, and never graduated high school, and the 17 year old teen mom is working on her GED, that's progress. Sometimes progress is generational. After all, somebody has to be the first to graduate high school, graduate college, buy a house, keep an intact family, etc. And they will, it just takes some families more time than others to develop enough protective factors to ensure some level of competency. Our immigrant populations are probably the best example of this in high speed. We recently had a young man in our county win a $100,000 scholarship to a prestigious university. His parents were immigrated field workers who don't speak much English. Despite the challenges this faced, within a generation their family has an opportunity to be propelled out of the poverty they chose to start a new life. For non-immigrant families chronically attached to the welfare system, this kind of change typically takes more time but it STILL happens.

    And that's all I have to say about shrimp.

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  12. omg this is great. As a former teacher and child social worker, I was always asked this question, "Why is that child/adult the way they are?" And I always used to say that many factors were involved in one person's development. If only I had your diagram :-)

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  13. This is actually a great diagram for 7th graders to use for characterization in reading. It includes all the things they need to analyze about a character. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Wonderful diagram for analyzing character development! I am also thinking of it as a cautionary model for over-zealous parents who think they can control exactly what sort of person their children will become if they control their schools, their peer relationships, their reading material, their religious instruction, their college choices, etc.

    Human development is a chaotic system and not as predictable as some people might think!

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  15. I don't know about just 7th graders, Alleged Author; I'm cribbing this right now to help me develop my characters. Sarah, it's not copyrighted, is it?

    Thanks for continually expanding my brain!

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  16. Wow, Sarah! That's all I can say (in public). I'm now having deep thoughts...

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  17. This model is a great way of understanding our characters better. Thanks so much :)

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