Descriptive Psychology and the Person Concept

Descriptive Psychology and the Person Concept

Essential Attributes of Persons and Behavior

1st Edition - May 21, 2019

Write a review

  • Author: Wynn Schwartz
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128139851
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128139868

Purchase options

Purchase options
DRM-free (PDF, EPub, Mobi)
Sales tax will be calculated at check-out

Institutional Subscription

Free Global Shipping
No minimum order


Descriptive Psychology and the Person Concept maps the common ground of behavioral science. The absence of a shared foundation has given us fragmentation, a siloed state of psychological theory and practice. And the science? The integrity of choice, accountability, reason, and intention are necessary commitments at the cornerstone of civilization and any person-centered psychotherapy, but when taught along with a “scientific” requirement for reductionism and determinism, reside in contradictory intellectual universes. Peter Ossorio developed the Person Concept to remedy these problems. This book is an introduction to his work and the community of scientists, scholars, and practitioners of Descriptive Psychology. Ossorio offered these maxims that capture the discipline’s spirit:1. The world makes sense, and so do people. They make sense to begin with.2. It’s one world. Everything fits together. Everything is related to everything else.3. Things are what they are and not something else instead.4. Don’t count on the world being simpler than it has to be. The Person Concept is a single, coherent concept of interdependent component concepts: Individual  Persons; Behavior as Intentional Action; Language and Verbal Behavior; Community and Culture; and World and Reality. Descriptive Psychology uses preempirical, theory-neutral formulations and methods, to make explicit the implicit structure of the behavioral sciences. The goal is a framework with a place for what is already known with room for what is yet to be found.

Key Features

  • Provides a way to compare theories, coordinate empirical findings, and negotiate competent disagreement
  • Offers guidance for effective case formulation and integration of therapies
  • Explores the dilemmas of personhood and the complexities of human and nonhuman action, investigating "what is a person, and how can we be sure?"
  • Follows the implications of Hedonics, Prudence, Ethics, and Aesthetics as intrinsic perspectives and reasons for action
  • Applies these concepts to personality and social dynamics, consciousness, relationship change, emotional behavior, deliberation, and judgment
  • Provides a guide to establishing and restoring empathy--especially when it's difficult


Academics and graduate students across the behavioral and social sciences; behavioral and mental health clinicians looking for a framework for coordinating various theories and practices

Table of Contents

  • Cover image
  • Title page
  • Table of Contents
  • Copyright
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: What Is Descriptive Psychology and The Person Concept?
  • Abstract
  • Let’s Start With “People Make Sense”
  • A Few Remarks on Science and What a Science of Persons Should Respect
  • The Descriptive Maxims: Behavioral Logic and Some Reminders for Well-formed Descriptions
  • The Original Nine Maxims
  • Chapter 2: Individual Persons, Personhood, and the Problem of Definition
  • Abstract
  • Paradigm Case Formulations
  • PCF of Family
  • Three Definitions and a Paradigm Case Formulation of Persons
  • A Paradigm Case Formulation of a Person
  • Deliberate Actions and Intrinsic Motivation
  • What About Language and Verbal Behavior?
  • Individual Differences and Person Characteristics
  • Powers
  • Dispositions
  • Additional Individual Difference and Personal Characteristic Categories
  • Some Embodiment Theory
  • Through-lines and the Dramaturgical Pattern
  • Examples of Through-lines
  • Nonhuman Through-lines
  • Through-lines and Dogs—The Significance in Dog Psychology
  • Some Limitations to a Dog’s Through-lines
  • What About Other Animals?
  • Some Ethics About the Uncertainty of Personhood—Another Value Judgment Will Follow
  • Chapter 3: Behavior as Intentional Action
  • Abstract
  • Some Quibbling about Conceptualization and Theory
  • Some Action Vocabulary
  • Intentionality, Back Where It Belongs
  • What About Robots?
  • Observation, Performance, Meaning, and Significance and Some Preliminary Connections to Verbal Behavior
  • We Need a Common Lexicon
  • At Last! The Parametric Analysis
  • The Formulation of Intentional Action
  • The Parametric Analysis of Intentional Action
  • Identity (I)
  • Wants (W)
  • Some Thoughts on Empirically Identifying or Interpreting Wants and Motivations
  • Knows (K)
  • Know How (KH)
  • Some Issues Attending Know How Deficits
  • Performance (P) and Achievement (A)
  • Significance (S)
  • Significance, Implementation of Significance (Performance), and Some Thoughts About Psychotherapy
  • Some Examples and Dilemmas of Significance to the Actor and the Observer
  • Personal Characteristics (PC)
  • A Brief Summary and Some Practical Questions for Structured Interviews
  • Some Notational Devices: The Intentional Action Diamond, Agency Descriptions, and Self-regulation
  • The Actor-Observer-Critic Model of Self-regulation and the Dramaturgical Pattern
  • The Actor and the Drama (All the World’s a Stage)
  • Authenticity and the Actor
  • The Observer-Describer
  • The Critic
  • Appraisals, Final-Order Appraisals (FOAs), and Altered States of Consciousness
  • Hypnosis as a Test Case
  • Back to the AOC Feedback Loop
  • Chapter 4: The Judgment Diagram, Some Categories of Cognizance, and the Unconscious
  • Abstract
  • A Distressing Example and Some Grouping of Reasons
  • The Judgment Diagram Modified for Problems in Social and Self-regulation
  • A Theory-Neutral “Psychodynamic” Judgment Diagram
  • A Three Domain Judgment Diagram Designed for Actor-Observer-Critic Self-regulation Assessment
  • The Case of Tommy
  • About Ambivalence and Conflict
  • Some Content and Behavioral Logic of the Three Domains
  • Back to the Three Domain Judgment Diagram and Features of Domains Two and Three
  • Domain Two and Three Are “Triggered”
  • Domain Two: Reluctance, Bad Faith, and Self-deception
  • Domain Three: Impossible and Intolerable Circumstances
  • The Logical Structure of Defensive Distortion (Adapted from Peter Ossorio’s Persons, 1995)
  • An Example and Some Clinical Implications
  • On the Interpretation of Unconscious Action and Self-deception
  • Chapter 5: Relationships, the Relationship Formula, and Emotional Competence
  • Abstract
  • What Are Relationships?
  • The Relationship Formula
  • The Relationship Change Formula
  • Emotional Behavior
  • Shared and Observable Relations Are Required for Naming Emotions (Sensations Won’t Do)
  • Fear in Action
  • What About Love?
  • Steps Toward a Theory of Emotional Competence
  • How Is Emotional Competence Facilitated?
  • Emotional Competence and Related Themes
  • Anxiety, Depression, and Overwhelming Sensation
  • Chapter 6: Verbal Behavior, Language, and Linguistic Self-Regulation
  • Abstract
  • Ossorio’s Formulation
  • Verbal Behavior Is Our Defining Social Practice and How I Earn My Keep
  • What Is the Function of Language and the Status of the Speaker?
  • Formal Aspects of the Place of Language and Verbal Behavior in the Person Concept
  • The Descriptive Account of Verbal Behavior Is Preempirical
  • Forms of Life, Social Practices, and Some More Wittgenstein
  • Chapter 7: Community and Culture
  • Abstract
  • Community and Culture
  • The Fifth Major Piece of the Person Concept
  • The Concepts of Community and Culture
  • Culture as a Special Sort of Community
  • Choice Principles, Policies, and Values
  • Some Behavioral Logic and Some Dilemmas: More Maxims
  • Degradation, Accreditation, and Rites of Passage: Gains and Loss of Standing
  • Some Effects of Degradation
  • The Degraded Have Reason to React against the Community
  • The Ceremony Can Be Accepted as the Natural Order of Things (or as Having Already Happened)
  • Indoctrination and Degradation
  • Microaggressions
  • General Considerations for Undoing Degradation
  • Accreditation Ceremonies, Psychotherapy, and Values
  • Chapter 8: Reality and the Worlds
  • Abstract
  • Persons and the Elements of the World
  • What Are the Elements of the World?
  • State of Affairs System Transition Rules
  • World Construction: The World Found Is the One Created
  • A Person’s Place in the World Provides Behavior Potential
  • Consciousness, Final-Order Appraisals, and World Maintenance
  • Consciousness, Imagination, and the Opportunity of the Dream World
  • World’s Change: Reconstruction of Worlds and Cultures
  • Monday April 15, 2013, Marathon Day
  • Chapter 9: Empathy in Practice: A Demonstration of Some Person Concepts
  • Abstract
  • What Do People Mean by Empathy?
  • Theory of Mind
  • Mirror Neurons
  • How Is Empathy Described in the Work of Major Psychotherapy Theorists?
  • A Very Brief History of the Concept of Empathy
  • A Practical Example From Therapy
  • Tommy Revisited
  • Empathy and Empathic Action
  • Empathy, Paradigm Case Formulation, Paradigmatic Social Practices Formulation, and Parametric Analysis
  • A PSPF of Empathic Action
  • A Practical Checklist of Empathy Reminders
  • The IA Parameters and Some Reminders for Psychotherapy
  • Significance, Through-lines, Accreditation, Degradation, and the Development of Character
  • Personal Characteristics
  • Afterword and Summary: Satisfaction and the Construction of Worlds or, At the End of the Day, How Does It Feel?
  • Appendix One: Ossorio’s Status Dynamic Maxims, Behavioral Logic, and Reminders for Proper Description (Place, 1998)
  • Appendix Two: A Glossary of Descriptive Psychology Concepts Compiled by Clarke Stone
  • References
  • Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 281
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2019
  • Published: May 21, 2019
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128139851
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128139868

About the Author

Wynn Schwartz

Wynn Schwartz received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, his doctorate from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and trained as a research psychoanalyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and a professor at William James College. He has taught at Wellesley College, the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis, and the Harvard Extension School. Dr. Schwartz is on the Editorial Board of The American Journal of Psychotherapy and maintains a psychotherapy and supervision practice in Boston where he works with individuals and couples.

Affiliations and Expertise

Lecturer, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA United States

Ratings and Reviews

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for "Descriptive Psychology and the Person Concept"