A complex adaptive systems approach to the relationship between personality and social division

Andrew Reilly, Dirk Van Rooy, Simon Angus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Although psychological differences appear to be a factor in political and social division, there are few process-based accounts of the relationship between political orientation and personality. We present a complex adaptive systems model with biological differences at the micro level and sociocultural structures at the macro level, both of which exert a bidirectional influence on personality at the meso level. This provides the foundation for a process-based model in which social interactions act as feedback loops that encourage the development of biases at the biological level, accentuating individual differences while driving collective adaptation to changing environments. Cyclical phases in adaptive processes are then associated with emergent political values. Therefore, political and social division is an inevitable feature of an adaptive society and results from interactions between individuals responding to stress. Using this model, we are able to account for both congruence and incongruence between personality and political orientation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-777
Number of pages13
JournalSystems Research and Behavioral Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • complex adaptive systems
  • personality
  • political values
  • psychology
  • social division

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