Penn State Official Sheild
Aaron L. Pincus, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
The Pennsylvania State University

personal photo
Address Department of Psychology

Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Office Address 542 Moore Building

Phone 814-863-1723
Fax 814-863-7002

I believe that interpersonal functioning is an integrative nexus for psychological science and practice, bringing together a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of adaptive and maladaptive human behavior ranging from proximal behavioral interaction to mental representations of self and others both past and present. This nomological net, referred to as Contemporary Integrative Interpersonal Theory (CIIT), guides my research program. CIIT is broadly informed and influenced by interpersonal theories, trait theories, object-relations theories, attachment theory, social learning theories, and social cognition (see Pincus, 2005a, 2005b; Pincus & Ansell, 2003; Pincus & Cain, 2008; Pincus & Gurtman, 2006; Pincus, Lukowitsky, & Wright, 2010; Pincus, Lukowitsky, Wright, & Eichler, 2009; Pincus & Wright, 2010).

Currently I am working on several programs of research integrating clinical and personality psychology. All programs of research are part of the Personality Psychology Laboratory.

Research Interests | Education | Publications | Professional Affiliations | Courses Taught

Research Interests

1. Interpersonal Theory and the Interpersonal Circumplex

I have consistently worked on developing and evaluating measures and methods associated with circumplex models of interpersonal behavior. I am a co-developer of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Circumplex Scales (Alden, Wiggins, & Pincus, 1990: Horowitz, Alden, Wiggins, & Pincus, 2000) and the IIP-SC short form (Hopwood, Pincus, DeMoor, & Koonce, 2008). In collaboration with Dr. Michael Gurtman, I have worked on the development and application of the “structural summary approach” to circumplex measurement (Ansell & Pincus, 2004; Gurtman & Pincus, 2003; Pincus & Gurtman, 2003). This approach takes advantage of the circular continuum of valid circumplex models to provide a curve fitting approach to interpersonal data. Recent work has also advanced circumplex methods for describing and comparing groups (Wright, Pincus, Conroy, & Hilsenroth, 2009).

Recent work examines the links between personality and psychopathology through the concept of interpersonal pathoplasticity. Pathoplastic relations are non-etiological and non-spectrum links between personality and psychopathology that bidierectionally influence the expression of traits, behaviors, symptoms, and treatment response. We have examined the added clinical value of identifying interpersonal subtypes in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (e.g., Salzer, et al, 2008), Social Phobia (Cain, Pincus, & Grosse Holtforth, in press; Kachin, Newman, & Pincus, 2001), and Fear of Failure (e.g., Conroy, Elliot, & Pincus, 2009; Wright, Pincus, Conroy, & Elliot, 2009), and as a general approach to integrating research on personality and psychopathology (e.g., Pincus, Lukowitsky, & Wright, 2010; Pincus & Wright, 2010). Future work will examine interpersonal pathoplasticity in relevant diagnostic groups with my colleagues Drs. Emily Ansell (Yale University) and Chris Hopwood (Michigan State University).

We have most recently developed the Interpersonal Sensitivities Circumplex (ISC), a 64-item measure of interpersonal behavior that bothers the respondent. This new measure has important applications to stress research.

I am a co-investigator on the FAMILY Project, a 5-year NIHM funded study of child-maltreatment risk. I head the SASB coding training and coding research team.

2. Personality Disorders and Pathological Narcissism:

Current research involves continuing validation of clinical criteria and objective assessment scales for pathological narcissism (Cain, Pincus, & Ansell, 2008; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010). Using an integrative approach, I have conducted a series of studies investigating interpersonal problems, attachment, parental representations, and personality traits that demonstrate pathological narcissism includes two broad themes of dysfunction: grandiosity and vulnerability (Dickinson & Pincus, 2003; Pincus & Roche, in press). Most recently my lab has been involved in studies developing and validating the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI; Pincus, Ansell, Pimentel, Cain, Wright, & Levy, 2009). We have now established the higher order factor structure and gender invariance of the measure (Wright, Lukowitsky, Pincus & Conroy, in press) and continue to look at the interpersonal functioning of pathological narcissists.

3. Intraindividual Variability and Person-Situation Integration

Most recently, my lab has begun to investigate variability of interpersonal behavior and emotion as it relates to aging, health, and psychopathology. My collaborators and I are currently conducting a large NIH funded study to examine variability in behavior and emotion at multiple timescales using smartphones to collect intensive repeated measures data.

We will soon bring this work to the clinic, investigating behavioral and emotional variability in psychopathology and psychotherapy. Patterns of behavioral variability across situations and behavioral consistency within situations gives rise to "if-then" behavioral signatures. Such signatures can be associated with the interpersonal situation, thus providing new interpersonal indicators of psychopathology and/or treatment response (Pincus, et al, 2009). Our first major daily diary study was completed in Spring 2009. Our second study, utilizing Smartphones, runs through October 2011.


B.S., Psychology, 1985--U.C. Davis

M.A., Personality Psychology, 1987--U.C. Berkeley

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, 1992--Univeristy of British Columbia

Recent Publications

Pincus, A.L., & Roche, M.J. (in press). Narcissistic grandiosity and narcissistic vulnerability. In W.K. Campbell & J.D. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. New York: Wiley.

Pincus, A.L., & Wright, A.G.C. (in press). Interpersonal diagnosis of psychopathology. In L.M. Horowitz & S.N. Strack (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal psychology, New York: Wiley.

Salzer, S., Pincus, A.L., Winkelbach, C., Leichsenring, F., & Leibing, E. (in press). Interpersonal subtypes and change of interpersonal problems in the treatment of patients with generalized anxiety disorder: a pilot study. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, & Training.

Skowron, E.A., Kozlowski, J.M., & Pincus, A.L. (in press). Differentiation, self-other representations, and rupture-repair processes: Predicting child maltreatment-risk. Journal of Counseling Psychology.

Wright, A.G.C., Lukowitsky, M.R., Pincus, A.L., & Conroy, D.E. (in press). The hierarchical factor structure and gender invariance of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Assessment.

Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., & Lenzenweger, M.F. (in press). Modeling Stability and Change in Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms using the Interpersonal Adjective Scales - Big Five (IASR-B5). Journal of Personality Assessment.

Anchin, J.C., & Pincus, A.L. (2010). Evidence-based Interpersonal psychotherapy with personality disorders: Theory, components, and strategies. In J.J. Magnavita (Ed.), Evidence-based treatment of personality dysfunction: Principles, methods, and processes (pp. 113-166). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Krauss, D., Boswell, J.F., Wright, A.G.C., Castonguay, L.G., & Pincus, A.L. (2010). Factor structure of the treatment outcome package for children. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66, 627-640.

Pincus, A.L. (2010). The Five-Factor Model of personality. In I.B. Weiner & W.E. Craighead (Eds.), The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology—4th Edition (pp. 670-671). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Pincus, A.L. (2010). Interpersonal theory of personality. In I.B. Weiner & W.E. Craighead (Eds.), The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology—4th Edition (pp. 1213-1215). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Pincus, A.L., & Lukowitsky, M.R. (2010). Pathological Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology,6, 421-446.

Pincus, A.L., Lukowitsky, M.R., & Wright, A.G.C. (2010). The interpersonal nexus of personality and psychopathology. In T. Millon, R. Kreuger, & E. Simonsen (Eds.), Contemporary directions in psychopathology: Scientific foundations for DSM-V and ICD-11 (pp. 523-552). New York: Guilford.

Tritt, S., Ryder, A.G., Ring, A., & Pincus, A.L. (2010). Pathological narcissism and depressive temperament. Journal of Affective Disorders, 122, 280-284.

Boswell, J.F., Castonguay, L.G., & Pincus, A.L. (2009). Trainee theoretical orientation: Profiles and potential predictors. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 19, 291-312.

Conroy, D.E., Elliot, A.J., & Pincus, A.L. (2009). The expression of achievement motives in interpersonal problems. Journal of Personality, 77, 495-526.

Erickson, T.E., Newman, M.G., & Pincus, A.L. (2009). Predicting Unpredictability: Do Measures of Interpersonal Rigidity/Flexibility and Distress Predict Intraindividual Variability in Social Perceptions and Behavior? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 893-912.

Pincus, A.L., Ansell, E.B., Pimentel, C.A., Cain, N.M., Wright, A.G.C., & Levy, K.N. (2009). Initial construction and validation of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 21, 365-379.

Pincus, A.L., Lukowitsky, M.R., Wright, A.G.C., & Eichler, W.C. (2009). The interpersonal nexus of persons, situations, and psychopathology. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 264-265.

Scott, L.N., Levy, K.N., & Pincus, A.L. (2009). Adult attachment, personality traits, and borderline personality disorder features in young adults. Journal of Personality Disorders, 23, 258-280.

Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., Conroy, D.E., & Elliot, A.J. (2009). The pathoplastic relationship between interpersonal problems and fear of failure. Journal of Personality, 77, 997-1024.

Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., Conroy, D.E., & Hilsenroth, M.J. (2009). Integrating methods to optimize circumplex description and comparison of groups. Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 311-322.

Cain, N.M., Pincus, A.L., & Ansell, E.B. (2008). Narcissism at the crossroads: Phenotypic description of pathological narcissism across clinical theory, social/personality psychology, and psychiatric diagnosis. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 638-656.

Hopwood, C.J., Pincus, A.L., DeMoor, R.M., & Koonce, E.A. (2008). Psychometric

characteristics of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems – Short Circumplex (IIP-SC) with college students. Journal of Personality Assessment,90, 615-618.

Lukowitsky, M.R., Pincus, A.L., Hill, L., & Loos, D.K. (2008). Enduring dispositions as points of contact for the social—clinical interface: Publication trends from 1965 to 2004. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 389-403.

Pincus, A.L., & Cain, N.M. (2008). Interpersonal Psychotherapy. In D.C.S. Richard & S.K. Huprich (Eds.), Clinical Psychology: Assessment, Treatment, & Research (pp. 213-245). New York: Academic Press.

Ruiz, M.A., Pincus, A.L., & Schinka, J.A. (2008). Externalizing disorders and the Five-Factor Model: A Meta-analysis of personality traits associated with antisocial personality disorder, substance use disorder, and their co-occurance. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22, 365-388.

Salzer, S., Pincus, A.L., Hoyer, J., Kreische, R., Leichsenring, F., & Leibing, E. (2008). Interpersonal subtypes within generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90, 292-299.

Professional Affiliations

Associate Editor, Assessment

Member, American Psychological Association (Div. 8, 12, 39)

Member, Society for Personality Assessment

Member, Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research

Member, Association for Research in Personality

Member, Association for Psychological Science

Courses Taught

Clinical Personality Assessment (PSY 555): Clinical applications of the MMPI-2, MCMI-3, Rorschach, NEO-PI-R, IIP-C.

Clinical Personality Theory (PSY 541): Reviews psychoanalytic, interpersonal, and existential clinical theories.

Personality Disorders (PSY 540): Reviews current research on classification, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorders.

Psychotherapy Practicum (PSY 560): Contemporary psychodynamic psychotherapy for personality disorders.

SASB Observational Coding (CNPSY 597): Coding of interpersonal interactions using Structural Analysis of Social Behavior.

Personality Theory (PSYCH 438): Survey of personality theories.

Madness in the First-Person (PSYCH 083S): First-year undergraduate seminar focusing on autobiographical experiences of mental illness.

Personality Disorders (PSYCH 490): Capstone senior seminar in psychology.

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