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Aaron Pincus

Aaron Pincus

Professor of Psychology

Licensed Psychologist

Pronouns: he/him/his

358 Moore Building
Office Phone: (814) 863-1723


  1. Ph. D., University of British Columbia, 1992


Research Interests:


I believe that interpersonal functioning is an integrative nexus for psychological science and practice, bringing together a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of adaptive and maladaptive human behavior ranging from proximal behavioral interaction to mental representations of self and others both past and present. This nomological net, referred to as Contemporary Integrative Interpersonal Theory (CIIT), guides much of my research program. CIIT is broadly informed and influenced by interpersonal theories, trait theories, object-relations theories, attachment theory, social learning theories, and social cognition (see Cain & Pincus, 2015; Hopwood, Wright, Ansell, & Pincus, 2013; Lukowitsky & Pincus, 2011; Pincus, 2005a, 2005b; Pincus & Ansell, 2003, 2013; Pincus & Cain, 2008; Pincus & Gurtman, 2006; Pincus & Hopwood, 2012; Pincus, Lukowitsky, & Wright, 2010; Pincus, Lukowitsky, Wright, & Eichler, 2009; Pincus, Sadler, Woody, Roche, Thomas, & Wright, 2014; Pincus & Wright, 2011). Currently I am working on several programs of research integrating clinical and personality psychological science using the “interpersonal situation” as an organizing framework (Hopwood, Pincus, & Wright, in press; Pincus, Hopwood, & Wright, 2015). All programs of research are part of the Personality Psychology Laboratory.

 A. Circumplex Measures and Methods: I have consistently worked on developing and evaluating measures and methods associated with circumplex models of interpersonal behavior. I am a co-developer of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Circumplex Scales (IIP-C), the IIP-SC short form, the Chinese IIP-SC, and the Interpersonal Stressors Circumplex (ISC). In collaboration with Dr. Michael Gurtman, I have worked on the development and application of the “structural summary approach” to circumplex measurement. This approach takes advantage of the circular continuum of valid circumplex models to provide a curve fitting approach to interpersonal data. Recent work has also advanced circumplex methods for describing and statistically comparing groups and employing bootstrapping techniques to compute confidence intervals for the Structural Summary. Finally, we are developing methods for employing a multi-surface interpersonal battery in clinical assessment.

B. Interpersonal Pathoplasticity: Recent work examines the links between personality and psychopathology through the concept of interpersonal pathoplasticity. Pathoplastic relations are non-etiological and non-spectrum links between personality and psychopathology that bidierectionally influence the expression of traits, behaviors, symptoms, and treatment response. We have examined the added clinical value of identifying interpersonal subtypes in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Fear of Failure, Depression, and PTSD. 

C. Integration of Personality Structure and Dynamics: Recent work employs intensive repeated measures of social perception and behavior in daily life using bursts of daily diary assessment via smart phone technology examining intraindividual variability and processes linking social perception, social behavior, emotions, and symptoms over multiple timescales (e.g., interactions, days, weeks, and years) as it relates to stress, health, psychopathology, adjustment, and aging. In order to integrate structure and dynamics, we are currently examining how individual differences in personality and psychopathology impact the dynamics of social functioning in daily life.


 Narcissism is one of the oldest and most complex forms of personality pathology found in the literature. Clinical conceptualizations of narcissism lack convergence and many pathological features noted in the clinical literature are not included in the DSM-5 diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). For several years, I have been developing a contemporary clinical model of pathological narcissism that more accurately integrates the clinical literature (Pincus, Cain, & Wright, 2014; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010; Pincus, Roche, & Good, 2014). I developed the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI; Pincus et al., 2009; Pincus, 2013) to assess the clinically relevant facets of both narcissistic grandiosity and narcissistic vulnerability. The PNI has been translated into several languages including, Italian, German, Chinese, and is currently employed in clinical research around the world. I am interested in how pathological narcissism impacts social behavior and psychopathological symptoms. I am also developing a semi-structured clinical interview for pathological narcissism based on the contemporary clinical model.


 The DSM-5 personality disorder workgroup proposed an alternative model of personality disorders (AMPD) that was included in Section III “emerging models and measures.” Although the AMPD is not perfect (Pincus, 2011, 2013), it was a significant advance over the existing personality disorder diagnostic categories that were retained in Section II of the DSM-5. My research continues to examine the implications of the AMPD to help revise it and develop sufficient empirical support to migrate a version to the main diagnostic section of DSM-5.1. Some of the key issues my research is looking at includes, a) How to theoretically and empirically integrate personality dynamics (Criterion A) with pathological personality traits (Criterion B), b) What role (if any) does the broad trait domain of negative affectivity play in discriminating personality severity and personality style?, and c) Does pathological narcissism reflect a specific style of personality disorder or is it better conceptualized as a core feature of general personality pathology?

 Selected Recent Publications:


 Pincus, A.L. (2011). Some comments on nomology, diagnostic process, and narcissistic personality disorder in the DSM-5 proposal for personality and personality disorders. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 2, 41-53.

 Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., & Lenzenweger, M.F. (2011). Development of personality and the remission and onset of personality pathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 1351-1358.


 Pincus, A.L., & Hopwood, C.J. (2012). A contemporary interpersonal model of personality pathology and personality disorder. In T.A. Widiger (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Personality Disorders (pp. 372-398). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 Ram, N., Conroy, D.E., Pincus, A.L., Hyde, A.L., & Molloy, L. (2012). Tethering theory to method: Using measures of intraindividual variability to operationalize individuals’ dynamic characteristics. In G. Hancock & J. Harring (Eds.), Advances in longitudinal modeling in the social and behavioral sciences (pp. 81-110). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

 Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., Hopwood, C.J., Thomas, K.M., Markon, K.E., & Krueger, R.F. (2012). An interpersonal analysis of pathological personality traits in DSM-5. Assessment, 19, 263-275.

 Wright, A.G.C., Thomas, K.M., Hopwood, C.J., Markon, K.E., Pincus, A.L., & Krueger, R.F. (2012). The hierarchical structure of dsm-5 pathological personality traits. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121, 951-957.


 Pincus, A.L. (2013). The Pathological Narcissism Inventory. In J. Ogrudniczuk (Ed.), Understanding and treating pathological narcissism (pp. 93-110). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

 Pincus, A.L. (2013). In through the out door: Commentary on "Personality Disorders are The Vanguard of the post-DSM-5.0 Era." Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4, 363-364.

 Pincus, A.L., & Ansell, E.B. (2013). Interpersonal theory of personality. In J. Suls & H. Tennen (Eds.), Handbook of Psychology Vol. 5: Personality and social psycyhology (2nd Ed.) (pp. 141-159). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

 Roche, M.J., Pincus, A.L., Conroy, D.E., Hyde, A.L., & Ram, N. (2013). Pathological narcissism and interpersonal behavior in daily life. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4, 315-323.

 Roche, M.J., Pincus, A.L., Lukowitsky, M.R., Ménard, K.S., & Conroy, D.E. (2013). An integrative approach to the assessment of narcissism. Journal of Personality Assessment, 95, 237-248.

 Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., Thomas, K.M., Hopwood, C.J., Markon, K.E., & Krueger, R.F. (2013). Conceptions of narcissism and the DSM-5 pathological personality traits. Assessment, 20, 339-352.


 Pincus, A.L., Cain, N.M., & Wright, A.G.C. (2014). Narcissistic grandiosity and narcissistic vulnerability in psychotherapy. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 5, 439-443.

 Pincus, A.L., Roche, M.J., & Good, E.W. (2014). Narcissistic personality disorder and pathologogical narcissism. In P.H. Blaney, R.F. Krueger, & T. Millon (Eds.), Oxford textbook of psychopathology 3rd Edition (pp. 791-813). New York: Oxford University Press.

 Pincus, A.L., Sadler, P., Woody, E., Roche, M.J., Thomas, K.M., & Wright, A.G.C. (2014). Multimethod assessment of interpersonal dynamics. In C.J. Hopwood & R.F. Bornstein (Eds.), Multimethod clinical assessment (pp. 51-91). New York: Guilford.

Ram, N., Conroy, D.E., Pincus, A.L., Lorek, A., Reber, A.L., Roche, M.J., Coccia, M., Morack, J, Feldman, J., & Gerstorf, D. (2014). Examining the interplay of processes across multiple time-scales: Illustration with the Intraindividual Study of Affect, Health, and Interpersonal Behavior (iSAHIB). Research in Human Development, 11, 142-160.

 Roche, M.J., Pincus, A.L., Hyde, A.L., Conroy, D.E., & Ram, N. (2014). Enriching psychological assessment using a person-specific analysis of interpersonal processes in daily life. Assessment, 21, 515-528.


 Conroy, D.E., Ram, N., Pincus, A.L., Coffman, D.L., Lorek, A.E., Rebar, A.L., & Roche, M.J. (2015). Daily physical activity and alcohol use across the adult lifespan. Health Psychology, 34, 653-660.

 Pincus, A.L., Hopwood, C.J., & Wright, A.G.C. (2015). The situation through an interpersonal lens. European Journal of Personality, 29, 407-408.

 Wu, L.Z., Roche, M.J., Dowgwillo, E.A., Wang, S., & Pincus, A.L. (2015). A Chinese translation of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems—Short Circumplex. Journal of Personality Assessment, 97, 153-162.

 In Press

 Hopwood, C.J., Pincus, A.L., & Wright, A.G.C. (in press). The interpersonal situation: Integrating personality assessment, case formulation, and intervention. In D. Samuel & D. Lynam (Eds.), Purdue symposium on psychological science. New York: Oxford.

 Hopwood, C.J., Zimmermann, J., Pincus, A.L., & Krueger, R.F. (in press). Connecting personality structure and dynamics: Towards a more evidence based and clinically useful diagnostic scheme. Journal of Personality Disorders.

 Pincus, A.L., & Krueger, R.F. (in press). Theodore Millon’s contributions to conceptualizing personality disorders. Journal of Personality Assessment.

 Roche, M.J., & Pincus, A.L. (in press). Precision assessment: An individualized and temporally-dynamic approach to understanding patients in their daily lives. In Kumar, U. (Ed.), Wiley handbook of personality assessment. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

 Schoenleber, M., Roche, M.J., Wetzel, E., Pincus, A.L., & Roberts, B.W. (in press). Development of a brief version of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Psychological Assessment.


Research Interests:

Clinical (Adult and Child):
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