Development and Psychopathology


Temperament and the self-organization of personality

Douglas Derryberrya1 c1 and Marjorie A. Reeda1

a1 Department of Psychology, Oregon State University


This paper explores the development of cortical plasticity and cognitive representations in light of temperamental differences in basic motivational systems. Motivational systems related to reward/approach and punishment/avoidance begin to function early in life. By controlling the child's behavioral and emotional reactions, these systems provide exteroceptive and interoceptive information capable of stabilizing cortical synapses through use-dependent processes. By controlling attention, the motivational systems further contribute to synaptic stabilization through modulatory processes. As a result, children with strong reward/approach systems are likely to develop representations that emphasize potential rewards and frustrations and may become vulnerable to impulsive disorders. Children with strong punishment/avoidance systems may develop representations emphasizing punishment and relief, along with a vulnerability to anxiety disorders. These motivationally constructed representations differentiate in varied ways across domains involving the physical world, moral rules, and the self and, thus, contribute to the various forms of impulsive and anxious psychopathology.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Douglas Derryberry, Department of Psychology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331.