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Self-directedness is a personality trait of self-determination, that is, the ability to regulate and adapt behavior to the demands of a situation in order to achieve personally chosen goals and values.[1] It is one of the "character" dimensions in Cloninger's Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). Cloninger has described it as "willpower", defined as "a metaphorical abstract concept to describe the extent to which a person identifies the imaginal self as an integrated, purposeful whole individual, rather than a disorganized set of reactive impulses."[1] Cloninger's research has found that low self-directedness is a major common feature of personality disorders generally. Self-directedness is conceptually related to locus of control.[2] That is, low self-directedness is associated with external locus of control, whereas high self-directedness is associated with internal locus of control.[1] In the five factor model of personality, self-directedness has a strong inverse association with neuroticism and a strong positive association with conscientiousness.[2]


In the Temperament and Character Inventory self-directedness consists of five subscales:[1]

  1. Responsibility Vs. Blaming (SD1)
  2. Purposefulness Vs. Lack Of Goal Direction (SD2)
  3. Resourcefulness Vs. Inertia (SD3)
  4. Self-Acceptance Vs. Self-Striving (SD4)
  5. Congruent Second Nature Vs. Incongruent Habits (SD5)

Cloninger compared SD1 to Rotter’s concept of locus of control. People with an internal locus of control tend to take responsibility for their actions and are resourceful in solving problems. People with an external locus of control tend to be apathetic and to blame others or bad luck for their problems. Regarding SD2, Cloninger noted that Viktor Frankl believed that meaningful purpose is a key source of motivation for mature adults and that fulfillment of meaning was more important than gratifying impulses. Cloninger related SD3 to Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy, beliefs about one’s ability to succeed in goal-directed behaviour. In relation to SD4 he argued that self-esteem and realistic acceptance of one’s limitations are important to mature development of self-directed behaviour. On the other hand, childish fantasies of unlimited ability and immortality are generally associated with poor adjustment and inferiority feelings. SD5 was related to a belief associated with Yoga that long-term cultivation of clear goals and values transforms effortful behaviour into “second nature” so that a person automatically acts in ways aligned with their deeper goals and values.[1]


Researchers have suggested that a combination of low self-directedness and low cooperativeness form a general factor common to all personality disorders.[3] Low self-directedness appears to be the most important predictor among the TCI traits of having a personality disorder. Low self-directedness tends to be associated with more distressed mood, particularly depression. Research has found that non-responders to antidepressant medication scored lower in self-directedness compared to those who did respond, both before and after treatment, whereas responders had scored normally on self-directedness after treatment. The specific combination of low self-directedness low cooperativeness, and high self-transcendence has been described as a "schizotypal personality" style by Cloninger and colleagues,[3] and has been found to be associated with high levels of schizotypy (proneness to psychotic symptoms).[4] Low self-directedness has also been related to higher levels of hypnotic susceptibility, and the latter has also been linked to aspects of schizotypy.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cloninger, C.R.; Svrakic, DM; Przybeck, TR (December 1993). "A psychobiological model of temperament and character". Archives of General Psychiatry. 50 (12): 975–90. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1993.01820240059008. PMID 8250684.
  2. ^ a b De Fruyt, F.; Van De Wiele, L.; Van Heeringen, C. (2000). "Cloninger's Psychobiological Model of Temperament and Character and the Five-Factor Model of Personality". Personality and Individual Differences. 29 (3): 441–452. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00204-4.
  3. ^ a b c Laidlaw, Tannis M.; Dwivedi, Prabudha; Naito, Akira; Gruzelier, John H. (2005). "Low self-directedness (TCI), mood, schizotypy and hypnotic susceptibility". Personality and Individual Differences. 39 (2): 469. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.01.025.
  4. ^ Danelluzo, E.; Stratta, P.; Rossi, A. (Jan–Feb 2005). "The contribution of temperament and character to schizotypy multidimensionality". Comprehensive Psychiatry. 46 (1): 50–5. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2004.07.010. PMID 15714195.