Psyfacts

In this section, you will find background information on psychological terms, concepts and models from the LINC PERSONALITY PROFILER Report.

The term ‘Advocatus Diaboli’ (AD) describes a role that is actively assigned to a member of a team, so that this team member critically questions all decisions of the team. The AD plays the ‘devil’s advocate’ by critically questioning even those decision alternatives that seem completely unproblematic at first glance. The purpose of this role is to ensure that potential problems and disadvantages of a decision are recognized in advance. Without such roles, team members often do not voluntarily express their concerns because they (perhaps even unconsciously) do not want to be seen as a negative ‘worrywart’.

Affiliation generally describes the need for social contact. This is expressed in the desire to feel secure and a sense of belonging to other people and is particularly evident in emergency situations such as stress or illness.

“Active listening” is a method of communication that the listener of a conversation can use to encourage the speaker to talk. For example, the listener can signal through nonverbal encouraging gestures and facial expressions or occasional questions that they are listening attentively. The listener can also repeat what has been heard in their own words to confirm that the statements and feelings of the speaker have been understood.

Ambiguity tolerance is the extent to which a person can live with ambiguous or unclear situations, or even actively seeks such situations when it is highly developed. People with low ambiguity tolerance prefer to avoid uncertainty through rules, laws or regulations. They dislike it when seemingly incompatible things occur together, such as poverty and wealth in the same place. On the other hand, people with high ambiguity tolerance often put themselves in situations or places with which they have no prior experience.

In psychology, attribution refers to the assessment of the causes of certain outcomes, i.e. the perceived reason for the occurrence of a result or behavior.

  • In internal (dispositional) attribution, the causes of one’s own behavior or that of others are attributed to personal factors, such as character traits or attitudes.
  • In external (situational) attribution, the causes of one’s own behavior or that of others are attributed to situational factors, such as construction noise.

The type of attribution also influences how one deals with successes and failures. If someone attributes their successes primarily to internal causes, like their own abilities, this boosts their self-esteem. Conversely, if someone mostly attributes their successes to external factors such as luck, this negatively affects their self-esteem.

For a very long time, people have been creating models that enable the precise and differentiated depiction of personality. The approach that comes closest to this ideal is the so-called Big Five model. When psychological researchers search for the fundamental dimensions of personality (-> factor analysis), they repeatedly encounter the same five basic dimensions:

  • Dimension 1: Extraversion vs. Introversion
  • Dimension 2: Conscientiousness vs. Flexibility
  • Dimension 3: Openness vs. Consistency
  • Dimension 4: Cooperation vs. Competition
  • Dimension 5: Sensitivity vs. Emotional Stability


This means that if you know the expressions of these five basic dimensions of a person, you can describe their personality very accurately, because you also have information about many other personality traits that are connected to or subordinate to these fundamental five. For example, the basic dimension of ‘Conscientiousness’ includes traits such as orientation towards order, performance, and discipline.

In the stress of everyday work, many people burn through their energy resources. The result often leads to burnout. This term refers to a prolonged state of psychological, physical and emotional exhaustion. An increasingly rapid downward spiral leads the affected individual from initial excessive ambition to an intensification of work effort, which then leads to the suppression of personal needs. This is followed by social withdrawal, a feeling of inner emptiness, and anxiety, which eventually culminate in despair and depression. The process can take from a few months to several years and is often recognized much too late. Self-reflection and a conscious approach to oneself, one’s own body and its energy reserves can help break this spiral in time.

In the process of organizational development, consultants are referred as ‘Change Agents’. Unlike in the classic client-consultant relationship, the focus of the Change Agent is on organizational development processes and the responsibility and management of changes in terms of processes, structures, technologies and corporate culture.

Coping refers to the different problem-solving styles that people develop to deal with stressful situations. There is a distinction between problem-oriented coping, where individuals try to work on the problem itself, and emotion-oriented coping, where the attempt is made to change one’s own feelings and thoughts about the problem that has arisen. Each person tends to certain problem-solving strategies that they apply in most situations. However, there is not ‘one right style’ that is always the best. Depending on the situation, different styles are most successful. For this reason, people can significantly benefit from expanding their repertoire of problem-solving styles. A sensible way to do this is through analysis of one’s own personality and targeted personality development.

Cognitive dissonance describes incompatible thoughts, opinions, attitudes, desires or intentions that create an internal conflict in a person. This internal conflict is perceived as unpleasant and triggers the need to reduce this dissonance. There are two ways to do this:

Example with alcohol: I know it is harmful to health, but I´m still going to drink it (cognitive dissonance).

Solution: The dissonance is relativized/changed
–> I have been drinking alcohol for a long time and I am still healthy. So it can’t be that bad.

Solution: The amount of dissonance is reduced overall by adopting new consonant arguments
–> The party is better with alcohol; I forget my worries when I drink; everyone else drinks too.

Our handling of cognitive dissonances is connected to how we cope with difficult situations (Coping). Both can be learned and changed through self-reflective behavior.

People who think divergently tend to approach problems in an open, playful and unsystematic way. It is typical that critical objections and thought blockades are switched off in the process. Often, a connection to a person’s creativity is seen here. In contrast to divergent thinking is convergent thinking, which describes a more conventional way of problem-solving where people approach problems systematically, logically and rationally. This type of problem-solving is often associated with intelligence.

A trait (disposition) is a medium-term stable characteristic of a person that does not significantly change at least over weeks or months. Examples include intelligence, creativity, sociability, conscientiousness, etc. Trait theory (dispositional theory) assumes that traits cause individuals to exhibit certain behaviors in specific situations. Although a person’s behavior varies somewhat across different situations, the totality of their behaviors allows for distinguishing between this person and others. The more of these traits of a person one can describe, the better one does justice to them as a person.

Decision heuristics are thought patterns that enable us to make quick decisions, even on complex or inherently difficult topics. However, they also always carry the risk of making decisions too hastily and not carefully considering all information in the decision-making process.

Factor analysis is a statistical method used to reduce a large number of various factors to as few fundamental factors as possible. Crucially, the remaining factors (personality traits) represent the basic building blocks of every person’s personality. All other personality traits can be assigned to one of these basic building blocks and are therefore subordinate to them. This is why factor analysis helps us identify the key characteristics of personality that we need to measure and describe in order to characterize a person’s personality.

Beliefs are internalized certainties, i.e. assumptions and ideas that people have deeply internalized over the course of their development. They vary from person to person, but there are typical stories of their origin.

For example, people who received too little recognition for their achievements in childhood often develop beliefs like:

  • ‘I am not good enough!’
  • ‘I should achieve more!’
  • ‘I am not lovable!’


Beliefs have very concrete effects on daily life, influencing whether someone feels confident in tackling a task, whether they can be satisfied with what they have achieved and whether they consider themselves a lovable and special person.

Groupthink refers to a dangerous mode of thinking that people fall into when they are members of a loyal group, where the members’ efforts for harmony override their motivation to realistically evaluate alternative paths and information. Everyone wants to agree and no one pays attention to the looming danger of failure.

In the Halo effect, knowledge about a specific trait of a person dominates the overall impression of that person. This one salient trait overshadows all other traits like a halo, causing other characteristics to be neglected and no longer objectively assessed.

Traits particularly predisposed to the Halo effect include attractiveness and eloquence (the ability to express oneself exceptionally well). Everyone is susceptible to this bias; even if one is aware of it, it cannot be prevented. It can only be made conscious. This effect is a major problem, especially in selection decisions. It can be counteracted, for instance by systematically using assessment forms, i.e. asking and evaluating all candidates according to a consistent pattern.

Highly sensitive people perceive stimuli of all kinds from their environment more intensely than the average population and typically process them more deeply or intensely. This leads to more intense sensory impressions, which need more space and occupy the affected individuals for a longer time than others. Often, those who are not affected lack an understanding of these longer processing times, which can lead to stress and a feeling of being misunderstood in highly sensitive individuals.

Cohesion is the unity within a group that results from all the forces that motivate members to stay in the group and fight for the group.

Competencies are abilities, skills and knowledge elements that enable a person to perform highly in a specific situation associated with a competency. Competencies are always linked to performance, meaning the stronger a competency is, the greater the potential performance capability in that area. Competencies can also be learned and are always related to a specific topic. For example, networking competency relates to successfully initiating contact with other people.

Control beliefs refer to a person’s conviction about whether they can control and influence the events in their life (‘Internal locus of control’) or whether some other power has at least as much influence on their fate as they do themselves (‘External locus of control’). These thought patterns are internalized over the course of one’s development. They play a significant role in the interpretation of events (e.g. Who is to blame?) and the view of one’s own life (e.g. What is in my control?).

An internal locus of control is especially prevalent in countries with an individualistic lifestyle, while an external locus of control is associated with themes like religion (God determines what happens), fatalism (everything is destiny), or nihilism (everything is random). Unlike self-efficacy, control beliefs do not concern whether one can solve a problem or not, they are only about who is responsible for the problem.

The focus of the Leader-Member-Exchange Theory (LMX) by Graen & Cashman (1975) is on the relationship between a leader and each individual employee. According to LMX, effective leadership is primarily achieved through dyadic relationships between the leader and the individual employee, distinguishing it from common leadership situations where a superior exerts power and social influence over the entire workforce or organization.

Motives are the driving forces behind character traits that propel us to want to achieve a specific goal. In the field of motivation research, there are primarily three classes of motives for which a lot of evidence has been found. It is therefore assumed that these are the three fundamental motivational areas that have evolved in human evolution:

  • The power motive (also known as the leadership or dominance motive): The desire of a person to exert influence and dominance, to represent superiority and strength and to be visible to others.
  • The achievement motive: Characterized by great ambition and striving for success, increased risk-taking and perseverance.
  • The social motive (also known as the affiliation motive): People with a strong social motive strive to establish, maintain and restore close relationships with others.

Since motives are an integral part of personality, capturing and depicting the motives underlying behavior enables a deeper understanding of one’s own personality.

Narcissism is understood as strong vanity or self-love, where individuals with narcissistic tendencies constantly strive to be admired by others. Posting selfies and actively using social media are modern manifestations of narcissistic behavior. Narcissists are primarily self-centered and show little empathy. Their strong fear of being slighted often makes their reactions unpredictable. In its extreme form, narcissism is also characterized as a type of inferiority complex, which is compensated for by a strong need for recognition.

Norms are official and unofficial rules of behavior, for example in a group, a company or an entire country (cultural norms). Norms are generally shared expectations and thus unwritten laws about how one should behave if, for example one wants to be an accepted member of a group or a company. Deviant behavior is usually not tolerated and as a result, norms to some extent control our behavior and are internalized bit by bit.

Persistence refers to a personality trait which, when strongly developed, leads a person to continue working towards a goal in the face of problems, resistance and setbacks, without being deterred. Psychological studies show that high persistence is closely associated with professional success, but in its extreme form can lead to problems in social contact with others (stubbornness).

According to Asendorpf (2007), ‘the personality of a person is understood as the totality of his or her personality traits.’ It is the unique structure of relatively constant characteristics that distinguish a person from others. Personality is malleable and describes an interplay of cognitive, emotional and motivational processes within a person.

Procrastination refers to a person’s tendency to continually postpone unpleasant tasks and instead engage in other activities that seem less unpleasant at the moment.

From the perspective of social psychology, the concept of resilience is understood as a person’s ability to withstand and overcome adverse circumstances, even under extremely unfavorable conditions and nevertheless maintain a high quality of life.

Especially today, with increasing pressure and stress, resilience is extremely helpful for mental health and should be developed if it is not yet strongly present.

Unter Selbstkontrolle versteht man die Fähigkeit, Impulsen zu widerstehen und sie zu steuern. Walter Mischel untersuchte im Rahmen des Marshmallow Experiments Kinder daraufhin, ob sie die Fähigkeit besäßen, auf eine sofortige Belohnung (einen Marshmallow) zu verzichten, um eine Belohnung in der Zukunft (einen zweiten Marshmallow nach 15 Minuten) zu erhalten. Einige Jahre später stellte W. Mischel einen Zusammenhang zwischen Selbstkontrolle und beruflichem Erfolg fest.

Das Selbstkonzept ist unser subjektives Bild von uns selbst. Im Selbstkonzept ist alles Wissen und sind alle Bewertungen über unsere Persönlichkeit, Einstellungen und Vorstellungen gespeichert. Es liefert die Antwort auf Fragen wie: Was bin ich für ein Mensch? Was zeichnet mich aus? In der Regel bilden Menschen ein positives Selbstkonzept aus und versuchen, dieses auch beizubehalten. Dafür nutzen wir eine ganze Reihe von Mechanismen, wie z. B. selektive Wahrnehmung (es wird nur das wahrgenommen, was zum Selbstkonzept passt) oder selektive Erinnerung (was nicht zum Selbstkonzept passt, wird schneller vergessen). Bekommt ein Kind zu wenig positive Rückmeldung, besteht die Gefahr, dass sich ein kritisches oder sogar negatives Selbstkonzept herausbildet. Leider wirken auch hier die eben beschriebenen Mechanismen, die auch ein negatives Selbstkonzept stabilisieren. Es ist möglich, ein negatives Selbstkonzept zu verändern. Dies erfordert allerdings Motivation, Zeit und professionelle Unterstützung.

Selbstwirksamkeit beschreibt ein typisches Denkmuster des Menschen. Im Gegensatz zur Kontrollüberzeugung geht es nicht darum, die Kontrolle über das zu haben, was man tut, sondern darum, dass man der Überzeugung ist, dass man für die Herausforderungen des Lebens Lösungen finden wird.

Selbstwirksamkeit beschreibt also die Überzeugung, eine Handlung erfolgreich ausführen zu können. Je stärker diese Überzeugung ist, einer Aufgabe oder Herausforderung gewachsen zu sein, desto wahrscheinlicher ist es, dass sich die betreffende Person einer Aufgabe annimmt. Die Selbstwirksamkeitsüberzeugung kann verstärkt aber auch abgeschwächt werden, wie z. B. durch vorherige Erfolge oder Misserfolge, durch das Beobachten von Rollenvorbildern, durch Äußerungen des sozialen Umfelds oder auch durch die Interpretation körperlicher Empfindungen wie Herzrasen oder Schweißausbrüche.

Selektive Wahrnehmung bezeichnet das Phänomen, dass Menschen von allen gegebenen und zugänglichen Reizen nur einen kleinen Teil beachten und verarbeiten. In jeder Sekunde prasseln Millionen von Informationen auf uns ein. Unser Gehirn ist darauf geschult, diese nach Bedeutung zu filtern und nur die Informationen durchzulassen, die für uns relevant sind. Besonders bekannt ist hierzu das sogenannte Cocktail-Party-Phänomen. Wenn Sie sich auf einer Cocktailparty mit der Person Ihnen gegenüber unterhalten, werden alle anderen Unterhaltungen zu einem unverständlichen Gebrabbel, da sie nicht relevant sind. Außer es sagt irgendwo jemand Ihren Namen. Dieser Reiz wird durchgelassen, da er relevant ist. Sie drehen den Kopf uns möchten wissen, wer über Sie spricht.

Sensation Seeking ist eine Charaktereigenschaft, die bei starker Ausprägung dazu führt, dass ein Mensch kontinuierlich nach Erlebnissen voller intensiver Sinneseindrücke sucht. Das Wort Sensation ist hier daher am besten als „Sinneseindruck“ zu übersetzen, der fortwährend gesucht wird, um nicht in ein Gefühl von Langeweile oder Ereignislosigkeit zu verfallen. Ein hohes Maß an Sensation Seeking ist vor allem bei stark extravertierten Menschen ausgeprägt. Es lässt sich am einfachsten durch den Kontakt mit anderen Menschen befriedigen, da nichts  anderes so viele Sinneseindrücke für uns bereithält wie andere Menschen, auf deren Wahrnehmung wir spezialisiert sind.

Menschen verarbeiten und speichern die Dinge, die sie wahrnehmen, indem sie diese Dinge in mentale Kategorien einsortieren. Das geschieht von frühester Kindheit an. Wir bilden Kategorien ähnlicher Elemente, um der Komplexität der Umwelt Herr zu werden. Diese Kategorien werden im Laufe des Lebens immer differenzierter. So bildet ein Kind zunächst die Kategorie Mensch, dann unterscheidet es Tiere von Menschen, dann Tierarten und schließlich z. B. Hunderassen als Unterkategorie der Kategorie Hunde.

Neben den Kategorien sortieren wir unser Wissen auch in Skripten. Ein Skript enthält die passenden Verhaltensweisen in einer spezifischen sozialen Situation. Für die Kategorie Hochzeit beinhaltet das Skript z. B. schicke Kleidung, ein Geschenk für das Brautpaar, das Werfen von Reis usw. Gerät ein Mensch in eine für ihn völlig neue Situation, verfügt er über kein Skript, was häufig als unangenehm oder sogar beängstigend wahrgenommen wird. Mögliche Strategien sind dann: Beobachtung, Rückgriff auf Skripte aus ähnlichen Situationen oder fragen bzw. googeln.

Stereotype sind Überzeugungen bezüglich der Merkmale einer Gruppe, die von vielen Menschen einer Gesellschaft geteilt werden. Es werden den Menschen, die einer bestimmten Gruppe angehören, Eigenschaften oder Fähigkeiten zugeschrieben, die für diese Gruppe als bezeichnend betrachtet werden. Stereotype Vorstellungen basieren nicht auf Fakten, sondern auf Erzählungen, Halbwissen oder Propaganda. Sie sind der Versuch unseres Bewusstseins, beim Umgang mit eigentlich unbekannten Menschen eine Vorstellung von deren Naturell und Absichten zu haben, um nicht völlig unvorbereitet in eine soziale Situation gehen zu müssen. Beispiele für Stereotype: Fußballspieler sind dumm, Tätowierte sind wenig professionell, Kampfsportler sind aggressiv.

Stress ist eine emotionale Reaktion auf belastende Reize. Menschen interpretieren Ereignisse auf unterschiedliche Art und Weise, daher kann das gleiche Ereignis auf zwei Menschen sehr verschiedene Auswirkungen haben. Ein Ereignis ist immer dann belastend für einen Menschen, wenn er es als belastend interpretiert; somit kann Stress definiert werden als die negativen Gefühle und Überzeugungen, die immer dann auftreten, wenn Menschen sich nicht in der Lage fühlen, die Anforderungen ihrer Umwelt zu bewältigen.

Transformale Führung beschreibt einen Führungsansatz, bei dem das Verhältnis zwischen Führendem und Geführten nicht rein austauschorientiert organisiert ist (z. B. Arbeitsleistung gegen Lohn), sondern der Führende durch sein Verhalten einen direkten Einfluss auf den Geführten ausübt. Der Geführte kann sich am Führenden orientieren, teilt dessen Vision und verändert so sein eigenes Verhalten bzw. seine Sicht auf die Arbeit (das ist die Transformation).

Typologie ist der Versuch, sehr viele verschiedene Menschen in möglichst wenige Grundtypen einzuteilen.

Vorteil: In der Theorie kann man dadurch viel über einen Menschen sagen, ohne viel über ihn zu wissen.

Nachteil: In der Praxis sind Typologien wenig hilfreich, da sie eine unzulässige Vereinfachung von Persönlichkeit darstellen und dem einzelnen Menschen in keiner Weise gerecht werden können.

Typen stellen starre Konzepte dar, die die komplexe Persönlichkeit eines Menschen nicht angemessen wiedergeben. Stattdessen erzeugen sie eher stereotype Vorstellungen. Besonders kritisch ist es, wenn anhand von Körpermerkmalen Typologisierungen vorgenommen werden. Persönlichkeit repräsentiert immer eine Kombination unterschiedlicher Merkmale aus allen vorhandenen Typen.