Briefing Socioanalytic Theory


DiceSocioanalytic theory draws on key ideas of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and George Herbert Mead to explain why people act as they do. All three writers noted that humans evolved as group living animals; this suggests that the big problems in life concern: 

  • Getting along with other people
  • Gaining status and power
  • Understanding one’s place in the world

In modern life, individual differences in the ability to solve these three problems translate into individual differences in career success. Successful people live longer and healthier lives and are better able to care for their dependents – and that is the definition of fitness in biology.  Thus, Socioanalytic theory is about career success. 

Socioanalytic theory defines personality from two perspectives: Identity and Reputation.  Identity concerns who you think you are; reputation concerns who we think you are.  Research on identity has produced few useful generalizations; in contrast, research on reputation has been highly productive; e.g., the Five-Factor Model – a taxonomy of reputation – is a useful way to organize personality research findings. Past behavior predicts future behavior; reputation is a summary of past behavior; thus reputation is the best possible data source for predicting future behavior. 

Socioanalytic theory focuses research in four broad areas: 

  1. Personality and job or occupational performance
  2. Personality and leadership effectiveness
  3. Personality and managerial incompetence
  4. Personality and effective team performance (team research historically ignored effectiveness)

Occupational performance, leadership effectiveness, and managerial incompetence can be predicted with valid personality measures. Team effectiveness depends on putting the right people (defined by personality) in the right positions (defined by team role). 

Socioanalytic theory argues that social skill is the key to career success – because social skill translates identity into reputation. Socioanalytic theory also maintains that feedback from valid personality assessment can create strategic self-awareness which allows ambitious people to maximize their career potential and minimize their issues.