Intraindividual and Interindividual Consistency

In the neighbor example, relative consistency refers to systematic behavioral consistencies or differences within a single person. This type of relative intraindividual consistency has been termed coherence or congruence. The substantive examples to follow illustrate its significance. Most psychologists assume that behavior depends on the subjective interpretation of the situation in which behavior occurs. Empirical support for this idea was provided by Magnusson and Ekehammar (1978) and Krahe (1986) who determined the intraindividual congruence between situation perception and reactions. Searching for lawfulness as intraindividual coherence is appropriate whenever it is impossible or meaningless to include several individuals in the same study. In clinical psychology, it is sometimes impossible to compare clients because of their unique symptoms (Blampied, 2000). Luborsky (1953) defined lawfulness of change due to intervention in such cases as relative intraindividual stability in symptoms across time. As a third example, scholars have distinguished between general traits and individual traits (Allport, 1937). General traits are useful for describing everybody whereas individual traits are restricted in usefulness to a specific individual. When identifying individual traits one must rely on coherence analyses (Cattell, Cattell, & Rhymer, 1947).

Although single case studies are indispensable, the more typical approach to the discovery of lawfulness relies on comparing individuals. Ozer (1986) defines relative interindividual consistency as the degree of covariation of at least two dimensions on which individuals differ. Returning to the neighbor example, I could assess the helpfulness of several neighbors at two different times or in two situations. I could also compare two types of behavior or two modes of behavior. Last but not least, 1 could measure helpfulness with two methods. The data I obtain from these studies enables me to determine the amount of relative interindividual consistency across time, situations, types, modes, and methods.

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