DOCTYPE = ARTICLE
A Socioanalytic Model of Maturity
Hogan Assessment Systems
Brent W. Roberts
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
This article describes a point of view on maturity that departs from earlier treat-
ments in two ways. First, it rejects the popular assumption from humanistic psy-
chology that maturity is a function of self-actualization and stipulates that maturi-
ty is related to certain performance capacities—namely, the ability to form lasting
relationships and to achieve one’s career goals. Second, the article is based on an
explicit model of personality, and the model holds that personality is most pro-
ductively viewed from the perspective of the actor and of the observer. This means
that maturity must also be defined from two perspectives—how people feel about
themselves and how others feel about them. The authors briefly review some data
bearing on these observations.
Keywords: Maturity, personality, positive psychology, socioanalytic theory
Personality psychology concerns the nature of human nature—namely, what
people are like way down deep. As such, personality seems to be an important
topic; certainly nonpsychologists think so. Within academic psychology howev-
er, it has an insecure status due at least in part to a lack of consensus among the
practitioners concerning an agenda for the field. We have been arguing for years
that the personality psychology of the future will combine the best supported
ideas of Freud and G. H. Mead. Despite their different emphases, both were avid
fans of Charles Darwin, and their interest in evolutionary theory suggests an
agenda for personality psychology. In brief, the agenda concerns identifying char-
acteristics that promote or detract from competence and effectiveness because in
the long run, such characteristics will be related to reproductive success.
Freud gave us the following three key insights: (a) Human nature is best
understood in terms of evolutionary theory; (b) motivation, the key to human
nature, can be usefully characterized in terms of a few universal biological
themes; and (c) development matters—especially the way we were treated by our
primary caretakers in early childhood. Mead also gave us three key insights,
namely, (a) human nature is best understood in terms of evolutionary theory; (b)
human nature is inherently social, social interaction is a crucial human preoc-
JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT, Vol. XX No. X, Month 2004
DOI: = 10.1177/1069072703255882
© 2004 Sage Publications
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cupation, and role-taking ability is the “g” factor in social interaction; and (c)
development matters—especially our experience playing games with our peers in
later childhood. We take these points as axiomatic. The perspective on personal-
ity that we have been promoting, socioanalytic theory (R. Hogan & Roberts,
2000), attempts to expand on these points in a systematic and empirically defen-
It is important to distinguish between personality from the inside—how you
regard yourself—and personality from the outside—how others regard you. Both
aspects are important, but they are distinct analytical perspectives, and each
affords unique insights on personality. Psychoanalysis primarily concerns person-
ality from the inside—it describes the internal psychological dynamics that drive
the behavior that others observe. The focus is almost entirely on inner processes,
and other people are not very important; Freud referred to them as objects.
Mead’s ideas primarily concern personality from the outside—he suggested that
our concern for the way others evaluate us shapes our internal psychological
dynamics. Mead was a pragmatist—specifically, he focused on public conse-
quences, not private experience—and we think he had the more valid position
here. In your efforts to achieve your life’s goals, how you feel about yourself or
what you intend by your actions is less important than how you are perceived and
evaluated by others. A distinction between the actor’s and the observer’s view of
personality is fundamental, and the degree to which it is ignored leads to great
confusion. For example, much of the criticism of the five-factor model (FFM)
(Block, 1995) becomes moot if the FFM is seen as a taxonomy of observer
descriptions and not as a theory of personality (R. Hogan, 1996; Saucier &
Figure 1 is a schematic summary of our synthesis of Freud and Mead; it also
describes what we think are the core elements of a science of personality. A sci-
ence of personality should evaluate (a) how we see ourselves, which we refer to
as our identity; (b) how others see us, which we refer to as our reputation; (c) the
manner in which we interact with others in social roles; and (d) how our identi-
ty, reputation, and interaction strategies influence our ability to get along with
other people and achieve our career goals. A few features of the model should be
highlighted. First, although the perspectives of the actor and observer are dis-
tinct, they are also codependent. Sometimes peoples’ identities drive their repu-
tations; other times, they change their identities based on feedback regarding
their reputations (Caspi & Roberts, 1999). Second, reputations are normally
encoded in trait terms, which can be organized using the five-factor model.
Third, identity, the way we think of ourselves, is best conceptualized in terms of
motives, values, goals, and intentions rather than traits (R. Hogan & Roberts,
2000). Furthermore, three master motives subsume most goals and guide social
interaction—namely, a desire for social acceptance and approval; a desire for sta-
tus, power, and the control of resources; and a desire for predictability and order
(cf. R. Hogan & Roberts, 2000). Social interaction is the vehicle for satisfying
these needs. Social interaction is conducted in terms of social roles, and most
Hogan, Roberts / A SOCIOANALYTIC MODEL OF MATURITY 3
Role in Interaction
Figure 1. Core elements of a science of personality.
roles fall into two broad categories called agentic (leader-follower, parent-child)
and communal (friend-foe, spouse-not spouse). Finally, as we will describe in the
following, success in achieving life’s goals can be predicted using the dimensions
of the FFM.
We would note three points about the master motives that we believe guide
social interaction. First, many, many other writers have proposed more or less the
same motives (cf. Bakan, 1966; Saucier & Goldberg, 1996). Second, individual
differences in the ability to fulfill these motives will be directly related to repro-
ductive success. And third, these motives can only be satisfied vis-`a-vis other peo-
ple—other people must grant us acceptance and respect; we cannot simply
demand them. Consequently, the two big problems in life involve getting along
and getting ahead, doing so is a process of negotiation and problem solving, there
are substantial payoffs for getting the solution right, and this must be related in
some way to competence, effectiveness, and maturity. Solving these problems is
4 JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT / Month 2003
encouraged by the need for predictability—the more status and acceptance we
have, the more predictability we have. Moreover, once people adopt the roles
and interpersonal strategies that they believe will lead to status and acceptance,
they are reluctant to change them (Roberts & Caspi, in press).
Finally, in Figure 1, please note that the arrows between roles, identity, and
reputation point in both directions; this implies that our identities control the
roles that we are willing to adopt and how we play them and that our perform-
ance and experience in these roles then shape both our identities and reputa-
tions. As Mead argued, social roles are the medium through which socialization
occurs. For example, our performance in the role of parent prepares our children
for the roles of adulthood. Similarly, by accepting the demands of our roles in
adulthood—such as provider, friend, and spouse—we become further socialized
and perhaps more mature.
A SOCIOANALYTIC MODEL OF MATURITY
Along with Freud and Mead, we believe that development matters and that
early experiences influence later behavior. This raises the question of whether
there is a desirable outcome for development. And if so, what does it look like?
And is that endpoint maturity? The best thinking of the discipline falls into two
camps (see Helson & Wink, 1987) represented by Freud and Jung. Jung’s view is
vastly more influential today. In the tradition of Aristotle, who argued that natu-
ral phenomena inevitably move from potentiality to actuality, Jung, Maslow,
Rogers, and many other humanistic psychologists define maturity in terms of self-
actualization—the full realization of the potentialities that are latent within us.
Note that this model focuses entirely on internal dynamics.
Despite the nearly universal acceptance of this view, we have three problems
with models of maturity based on self-actualization. First, self-actualization is
often a disguise for appalling and transparent selfishness—as for example when
Jung told his wife that he was going to visit his mistress so that she could help him
develop his female archetype. Second, self-actualization makes no apparent
sense in terms of evolutionary theory—namely, what are the reproductive advan-
tages of being self-actualized? Third, although personality psychologists have
been talking about self-actualization since the 1930s, as of today there are no
good psychometric measures of individual differences in self-actualization.
Spearman’s law holds that if something exists, it exists in some amount and there-
fore can be measured. The fact that after at least 70 years there are no accepted
measures of self-actualization suggests that the concept is empty.
In contrast with Jung, Freud’s view of maturity is performance based, and the
defining characteristics are at least in principle observable by others. Freud
defined maturity in terms of the capacity to love and to work. This is a step in the
right direction because we can observe, measure, and analyze individual differ-
ences in these two capacities. Our model of maturity tries to build on this
Hogan, Roberts / A SOCIOANALYTIC MODEL OF MATURITY 5
Freudian insight. Freud’s definition of maturity concerns personality from the
inside—certain internal transformations make one capable of loving and work-
ing. We believe that it is also necessary to define maturity from the outside in
terms of the impact one has on others and how they respond. The distinction is
important because there are people who believe they are wonderful husbands or
wives and are in the middle of wonderful careers, but no one else believes these
Bearing in mind the distinction between the actor’s and the observer’s view of
personality, we think maturity—the hypothetical endpoint of development—
should be defined in two ways. From the observer’s perspective, maturity con-
cerns the degree to which a person is liked, admired, and respected in his or her
community. Generally speaking, people who are liked, admired, and respected
share three broad but indispensable characteristics. First, they are rewarding to
deal with because they praise, support, and encourage others and they maintain
a positive mood. In contrast, unrewarding people criticize, abuse, and demean
others, whom they also subject to displays of negative emotion—such as anger,
cynicism, and/or depression. Second, well-liked people are consistent, which
means that others know what to expect when they deal with them. Well-liked
people maintain a steady mood, honor their commitments, respect confidences,
and play by the rules. And third, well-liked people contribute something to their
groups—as teachers, artists, entertainers, or wise counselors. If we translate these
qualities into the terminology of the five-factor model, a mature person from the
observer’s viewpoint would be agreeable (supportive and warm), emotionally sta-
ble (consistent and positive), and conscientious (honoring commitments and
playing by the rules).
On the other hand, maturity from the actor’s perspective concerns the char-
acteristics inside people that explain why they are liked, admired, and respected.
What might these be? Once again, we believe the answer lies in a combination
of Freud and Mead. Think for a moment about your colleagues and former stu-
dents who failed to reach their professional potential. What do they have in com-
mon? Reflecting the emphases of Freud and Mead, they probably have two
orthogonal attributes in common so that a person may have one, the other, or
both. On the one hand, many people are self-critical and stress prone; they fall
apart easily and become unable to work because they are paralyzed by anxiety,
dread, guilt, and fear. This is the subject matter of psychoanalysis and is the ker-
nel of truth in the otherwise superficial emotional intelligence (EQ) movement
that is popular in business psychology today. More important, there is a substan-
tial empirical literature showing that measures of neuroticism predict occupa-
tional performance almost as well as measures of cognitive ability (Judge & Bono,
in press). Research also shows that measures of neuroticism are related to mari-
tal dissatisfaction and divorce (Kelly & Conley, 1985). This, the first internal
aspect of maturity—low neuroticism—is related to success in love and work as
Freud would argue.
6 JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT / Month 2003
On the other hand, many people seem selfish, self-absorbed, insensitive, rude,
and unable to learn from experience. All of these tendencies reflect poor role-
taking ability as defined by G. H. Mead. Role-taking ability can be assessed with
a California Psychological Inventory-based empathy scale (R. Hogan, 1969).
This scale has some very interesting correlates, all in line with the foregoing dis-
cussion. First, the scale is uncorrelated with neuroticism—defined in terms of
stress proneness, moodiness, and low emotional intelligence. This suggests that
Freud and Mead were talking about different phenomena. Second, the scale cor-
relates about .30 with IQ, which means that persons with high scores are seen as
bright. Third, the scale is highly correlated with peer ratings for likeability—
which is an index of the ability to get along (cf. R. Hogan & Mankin, 1970).
Fourth, the scale consistently predicts a wide range of indices of leadership (R.
Hogan & Hogan, 2002)—which is an index of the ability to get ahead. In a par-
ticularly interesting study, Shipper and Dillard (2000) showed that a measure of
role-taking ability distinguished between managers who were successful and
managers who were derailing in a large high-tech manufacturing organization.
But more important, within the sample of managers who were derailing, a sub-
set of them was able to recover after receiving feedback on their performance.
This recovered group had substantially higher scores for role-taking ability than
the group who actually derailed.
Role taking as Mead defined it has two components. First, it involves thinking
about oneself from the perspective of others. Second, it involves regulating one’s
behavior based on what one thinks others expect. In this model, persons with
high scores on a valid measure of role taking should be both perceptive about
others’ intentions and socially appropriate in their behavior. Considerable evi-
dence supports these inferences (cf. Gough, 1965; R. Hogan, 1969; Sarbin &
If we translate role-taking ability into the lexicon of the five-factor model, it
seems to be a combination of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intel-
lectance. On this aspect of maturity, several early luminaries of personality psy-
chology got it right. Allport (1961) noted that maturity involves tolerance, a
capacity to develop and maintain close relationships, and self-insight. He
described the mature person as resilient, unselfish, and able to laugh at himself
or herself. Measures of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intellectance also
predict job performance (J. Hogan & Holland, 2003; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein,
1991), and if the willingness to accept influence is part of agreeableness, then
these measures also predict marital stability (Gottman, Coan, Carrere, &
Swanson, 1998). As Shoben (1957) proposed, measures of conscientiousness pre-
dict career success (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999) and marital sta-
bility (Roberts & Bogg, in press; Tucker, Schwartz, Clark, & Friedman, 1999).
Measures of intellectance predict training performance and thus the ability to
learn from experience. Thus, maturity from the actor’s perspective—agreeable-
ness, conscientiousness, and intellectance—is related to success in love and
Hogan, Roberts / A SOCIOANALYTIC MODEL OF MATURITY 7
3. Emotional Stability
Identity Elements of
1. Emotional stability
2. Role Taking Ability
Figure 2. Socioanalytic model of maturity.
Figure 2 integrates our discussion of maturity with the schematic model pro-
vided in Figure 1. Maturity from the inside is reflected in greater adjustment and
role-taking ability. This translates into higher agreeableness, conscientiousness,
intellectance, and emotional stability. Similarly, maturity from the outside is
reflected in a reputation for being agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally sta-
ble. There is striking overlap in the definition of maturity from the inside and
maturity from the outside; nonetheless, we are reluctant to equate the actor and
observers’ forms of maturity. For example, some people may see themselves as
neurotic, but others may perceive them as calm and stable. Finally, fulfillment
of the master motives of getting along, getting ahead, and achieving predictabil-
ity are positively associated with maturity. Success in certain roles—occupation-
al performance, marital success—seems to depend on greater maturity (e.g.,
Judge & Bono, in press; Kelly & Conley, 1985). In turn, success in these areas
may promote greater maturity (e.g., Roberts, 1997; Roberts & Chapman, 2000).
Furthermore, people with the psychological profile of greater maturity tend to be
more consistent over time (Roberts, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2001).
8 JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT / Month 2003
THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
Most theories of personality define maturity in individual terms—mature peo-
ple have high self-esteem, are self-actualized, are at peace with themselves, and
so on. These individualistic definitions ignore a person’s impact on or responsi-
bility to others. We believe that maturity must be defined simultaneously from
the perspective of a person and his or her social group. Maturity depends on bal-
ancing one’s egoistic and altruistic impulses and one’s self-critical and self-
accepting tendencies. Mature people are both comfortable with themselves and
open to critical feedback; they are both actively engaged in helping others and
reasonable about advancing their own self-interest. A sign of maturity therefore is
the degree to which an individual is integrated into his or her society without at
the same time losing a sense of whom he or she is vis-`a-vis others. A commitment
to social causes and the welfare of others is necessary to overcome egocentrism;
a critical distance from those causes is necessary to not become a true believer.
Similarly, a measure of maturity is the degree to which a person is self-accepting
while at the same time realizing that he or she is not perfect. Within the context
of overall self-approval, a mature person will listen carefully to negative feedback
from others—including spouses, children, students, and employees—especially
others with less status than oneself.
Our view of maturity corresponds to an ideal citizen of a Greek city state dur-
ing the time of Plato and Aristotle; such persons were expected to develop their
skills and seek excellence but always within the context of what was good for their
community as a whole. They were expected to balance personal pride against
their duties as citizens. In contrast to the prevailing individualism of modern psy-
chology, which defines maturity in a social vacuum, we believe the concept of
maturity must take into account the relationship between the individual and his
or her society.
IMPLICATIONS FOR CAREER ASSESSMENT
The first implication of our view of maturity should be no surprise to a field
that has long assessed vocational maturity in the forms of vocational identity and
using a diffuse interest profile to assess psychological maturity (e.g., Super &
Thompson, 1979). The dimensions of personality that are associated with matu-
rity are found on most omnibus personality inventories. Therefore, it is easy to
determine the relative maturity of a person’s identity. People who develop matu-
rity at a younger age will typically make smoother transitions into the world of
work, have fewer problems with supervisors and coworkers, and be more suc-
cessful in terms of their occupational status and earnings (e.g., Judge et al., 1999).
Conversely, people who lack one or more of the characteristics that define matu-
rity may confront more problems in their careers both in the initial transition and
Hogan, Roberts / A SOCIOANALYTIC MODEL OF MATURITY 9
in the establishment of an occupational track record. The job of the counseling
psychologist then would be to anticipate these problems and provide a course of
action, part of which we will describe in the following.
The second recommendation is to help clients understand that how they are
seen by others is important and has significant implications for their occupation-
al well-being. Letters of recommendation, references, and personal remarks
made about potential employees not only describe a person’s mental capacity to
perform at work, they also contain blatant indices of a person’s maturity.
Inappropriate actions that are catalogued by teachers, peers, and coworkers are
codified into a reputation that may then prevent persons from getting into their
desired school or job. A reputation is a terrible thing to waste.
The third recommendation reflects something intrinsic to the notion of matu-
rity: Change happens. Maturity entails movement toward some ideal endpoint or
endpoints such as those described earlier. The key question from a developmen-
tal perspective is when that point is reached. Recent longitudinal research sheds
some significant light on this topic. In young adulthood (e.g., age 18 to 30), some
individuals change as much as half of a standard deviation on personality traits
related to our definition of psychological maturity, for example, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, and emotional stability (Roberts et al., 2001; Robins, Fraley,
Roberts, & Trzesniewski, 2001). Therefore, personality characteristics are not
necessarily destiny (although they can cause significant problems if left unevalu-
ated and unmodified). This opens a new area of intervention and inquiry for
counseling and career psychologists: How to make people more mature? There
is limited but provocative evidence that clinical interventions using existing ther-
apeutic models change the qualities that we believe are part of psychological
maturity (Piedmont, 2001). Counseling psychologists are in a position both to
evaluate psychological maturity and to intervene when it is lacking.
We can summarize our argument in terms of four points. First, Freud and G.
H. Mead offered important insights regarding personality and maturity. Freud
defined maturity in terms of the capacity to love and to work and argued that
increasing levels of self-acceptance and self-control make this possible. Mead
defined maturity in terms of the ability to interact with a wide range of people
and to be socially appropriate without being supervised; increasing levels of role
taking make this possible. Second, maturity should be defined from both the
observers’ and the actor’s perspective. From the actor’s perspective, maturity
involves (a) self-acceptance, which we interpret as not being guilty, anxious, and
moody, and (b) being attentive and responsive to others’ needs, expectations, and
feelings. Third, from the observer’s perspective, maturity concerns having a good
reputation, which involves being liked and respected. Liking and respect depend
on being rewarding to deal with—being predictable, responsible, and emotion-
10 JOURNAL OF CAREER ASSESSMENT / Month 2003
ally stable—and being a resource for the community. Fourth, consistent with our
view that the most important problems in life involve getting along and getting
ahead, our measures of neuroticism (reverse scored) and role-taking ability pre-
dict occupational and marital success. Persons with low scores on measures of
neuroticism are described in certain characteristic ways—they seem even tem-
pered, dependable, attentive, and socially appropriate. Persons with high scores
on measures of role-taking ability are also described in certain characteristic
ways—namely, as warm, friendly, understanding, insightful, and socially appro-
priate (cf. R. Hogan, 1969). In addition, they are more consistent and pre-
dictable; thus, they have the capacity to develop and maintain relationships and
to be productive in their careers. We are aware that many famous artists, scien-
tists, and entrepreneurs—who by definition had successful careers—were also
exploitative, self-centered, and indifferent to others’ expectations. As a result, his-
tory judges them ambivalently.
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