The following is my research agenda to 2010. My primary aim is to develop, test, and disseminate a Generalized Interpersonal Theory of Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy. My secondary aim is to develop a computerized adaptive test to comprehensively assess states and traits of personality and psychopathology using the International Personality Item Pool, the CAT-IPIP.

With respect to assessment, I am developing a comprehensive assessment system that will deliver the CAT-IPIP over the web. The IPIP comprises over 2,000 personality sentence stems such as "love large parties," all in the public domain. These items can be divided into dimensions measuring the "ABCs" of affect, behavior, or cognition. Moreover, a robust finding is that the primary dimension differentiating everything, including personality items, is evaluation--positive versus negative. I am showing that not only IPIP items but also DSM symptoms can be divided into the same dimensions. The CAT-IPIP will be created using cutting-edge applications of explanatory item response theory (e.g., Acton, Kunz, Wilson, & Hall, 2005), and it is anticipated that raw data will be shared with the scientific community via an online Collaboratory. This project should be the basis for a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant.

With respect to personality, I plan to conduct an experience-sampling study to test my Generalized Interpersonal Principle of Complementarity for within-subject states. I have hypothesized that positive behavior (PB) in the self is complementary to positive affect (PA) in a partner, and negative behavior (NB) in the self is complementary to negative affect (NA) in a partner (Acton & Zodda, 2005). I have a psychometric model relating these complementary dimensions of interpersonal interaction, which I plan to test in couples. This project should be the basis for a National Science Foundation grant.

With respect to psychopathology, I plan to test whether common mental disorders, including major depression and personality disorders, are merely extreme manifestations of normal personality dimensions. If it turns out, using the dimension/category framework (Dimcat; De Boeck, Wilson, & Acton, 2005), that psychiatric disorders are merely points along these dimensions, then the CAT-IPIP can be used to screen for common mental disorders. This project should be the basis for an NIMH grant.

With respect to treatment, I plan to test my theoretical explanation for why interpersonal psychotherapy is efficacious. I have a grant under review with the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and plan to submit a grant to NIMH to conduct clinical trials (e.g., Acton et al., 2005) of group IPT for depression in two poor, underserved populations. These studies provide an opportunity to apply the same psychometric model as in the experience-sampling study of couples, with patients reporting on complementary with the therapist at the end of each session, to see whether the Generalized Interpersonal Principle of Complementary--specifically, anticomplementarity, or the antidote (Acton & Zodda, 2005)--predicts therapist effectiveness. Positive results would lead straightforwardly to the development of an interactive treatment manual, such that the CAT-IPIP would register dozens of complementary and anticomplementary responses that could be used selectively to change a patient's behavior and affect with specified probability. Thus, in this model, assessment drives treatment.

In the best case scenario, completion of this research program will allow me to (a) replace most measures of personality and psychopathology with a free online computerized adaptive test that comprehensively assesses all individual differences in 1 hour and provides automated feedback; (b) reformulate classical interpersonal theory so as to explain interpersonal behavior and affect; (c) provide a dimensional alternative to common DSM diagnoses; and (d) explain an effective form of psychotherapy. In this way, I should have achieved many of my most important career goals by 2010.


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