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date: 24 September 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The notion that individual differences (e.g., personality traits) predict behavior and relevant outcomes in “weak” situations (i.e., when people are left to their own devices to determine what to do) but not in “strong” situations (i.e., when situations provide people with unmistakable cues about what to do) is often treated as a truism among psychologists (Cooper & Withey, 2009). Although many studies support this general idea, its intuitive appeal may have dissuaded researchers from treating situational strength as a meaningful construct in its own right. This chapter attempts to remedy this state of affairs by (a) proposing a formalized theory of situational strength that outlines this construct’s functional mechanisms, (b) demonstrating how this knowledge can be used to develop testable hypotheses (e.g., pertaining to the criterion-oriented validity of individual differences), and (c) exploring several theoretical and practical implications of this theory for both science and practice.

Keywords: situational strength, strong situation, weak situation, interactionism, person-situation interactions, behavioral theory, situational taxonomy, situational content, personality, individual differences

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