To solve the classical consistency paradox, Mischel and Shoda (Mischel, 2004; Mischel & Shoda, 1995, 1998, 1999; Shoda & Mischel, 1996, 1998) proposed a cognitive-affective personality system (CAPS; also called a cognitive-affective processing system) that accounts for variability across situations as well as stability of behavior within a person. Apparent inconsistencies in a person's behavior are due neither to random error nor solely to the situation. Rather, they are potentially predictable behaviors that reflect stable patterns of variation within a person. The cognitive-affective personality system predicts that a person's behavior will change from situation to situation but in a meaningful maimer.
Mischel and Shoda (Mischel, 1999, 2004; Mischel & Ayduk, 2002; Mischel, Shoda, & Smith, 2004; Shoda, LeeTiernan, & Mischel, 2002) believe that variations in behavior can be conceptualized hi this framework: If A, then X; but ifB, then Y. For example, if Mark is provoked by his wife, then he will react with aggression. However, when the "if" changes, so does the "then." If Mark is provoked by his boss, then he will react with submission. Mark's behavior may seem inconsistent because he apparently reacts differently to the same stimulus. Mischel and Shoda, however, would argue that being provoked by two different people does not constitute the same stimulus. Mark's behavior is not inconsistent and may well reflect a stable life-tune pattern of reacting. Such an interpretation, Mischel and Shoda believe, solves the consistency paradox by taking into account both the long history of observed variability hi behavior and the intuitive conviction of both psychologists and laypeo-ple that personality is relatively stable. The frequently observed variability hi behavior is simply an essential part of a unifying stability of personality.
This theory does not suggest that behaviors are an outgrowth of stable, global personality traits. If behaviors were a result of global traits, then there would be little individual variation in behavior. In other words, Mark would react in much the same maimer to provocation, regardless of the specific situation. However, Marks long-standing pattern of variability attests to the hiadequacy of both the situation theory and the trait theory. His pattern of variability is his behavioral signature of personality, that is, his consistent maimer of varying his behavior hi particular situations (Shoda, LeeTiernan, & Mischel, 2002). His personality lias a signature that remains stable across situations even as his behavior changes. Mischel (1999) believes that an adequate theory of personality should "try to predict and explain these signatures of personality, rather than to eliminate or ignore them" (p. 46).
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