The Emotional Foundations of Personality and Its Disorders
A continuum based on Jaak Panksepp's affective neuroscience
Ken Davis, Ph.D., presenter
Mark Solms, Ph.D., discussant
Moderated by Maggie Zellner, Ph.D., L.P.
11 a.m.-1 p.m. Eastern (see below for start times in other zones)
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Jaak Panksepp’s primary emotional action systems and their affects provide a common foundation for understanding personality as well as psychopathology. He provided us with a basic set of psychological dimensions we need to be aware of whether monitoring and regulating our own personal behavior or helping a patient suffering from emotional dysregulation. Panksepp’s vision as a young clinical student was that mental illness problems were emotional problems, and to understand maladaptive behavior would require a much deeper understanding of our built-in emotions acquired through extensive animal brain research. Through 50 years of research and writing, Jaak provided us a model for understanding emotional instability that, for the first time, was based on brain research rather than clinical experience. One challenge is to extend the reach of Jaak’s affective neuroscience model of primary emotions across our personal as well as clinical worlds. One example that could be fruitful was initiated by the well known British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby and his U.S. colleague Mary Ainsworth. Bowlby was of course famous for developing attachment theory with Ainsworth pursuing research into attachment styles. An attachment styles paper incorporating the Jaak-inspired Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS) was presented at the Cape Town NPSA meeting reporting that the strongest relationship was between an “anxious-avoidant” adult attachment style and high ANPS SADNESS scores. It seems that early child rearing and related social bonding influences all our lives and certainly reaches into the clinical world. Further defining affective neuroscience dynamics here would inform clinical treatment and general parenting practice. Another such theme bridging developmental and clinical research is the role of the PLAY system in early development and how early play influences personality and the development of emotional regulation or perhaps it absence as in ADHD. The development and management of mild as well as major depression is another of these life themes that deserves special attention given the prevalence of various levels of depression worldwide. Furthermore, critical periods of development need to be further explored for each of these kinds of personality/clinical areas. In all this, the usefulness of affective profiling using self-reports and observer reports has the potential for influencing therapeutic practice and psychometrically document personal/patient affective shifts. Each of these specific treatment themes can be placed on a continuum fromnormal personality functioning to emotional dysfunction (with dysfunction sometimes extending into both tails of the distribution). Let’s start a discussion of how to further embed Jaak Panksepp’s primary emotions into our understanding of more normal personality on the one hand and more troubled personalities requiring clinical treatment on the other.
Ken’s educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Earlham College where he also received an NSF research fellowship. As an undergraduate, Ken spent a semester studying at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He completed his Ph.D. in Psychology at Bowling Green State University under Jaak Panskepp, and his Ph.D. thesis was on the “Opioid Control of Canine Social Behaviour”. After four years teaching psychology, Ken worked for 8 years as a senior psychologist at Blue Bell, Inc., the holding company for Wrangler Jeans, Jantzen, and many other brands where he specialized in applied personality theory and assessment. Ken led the development of an assessment battery spanning 6 European languages during his 3 year assignment in the Wrangler European headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. When VF Corp acquired Blue Bell, Ken formed Pegasus International with Patagonia as its first client while retaining VF Corp as a client and working with several other Fortune 500 companies. Ken continues to design and develop psychological assessments and 360 training instruments including an affective neuroscience adjective-based observer report. Ken started working closely again with Jaak Panksepp in 1996 and in 2003 co-authored with Jaak the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS), a psychological assessment targeting the brain emotion systems thought to form the foundations of personality, which has now been translated into over a dozen languages. He has authored or co-authored 15 articles in scientific publications including the 2011 ANPS 2.4 article with Jaak in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. Ken also co-authored with Jaak Panksepp The Emotional Foundations of Personality published in 2018 by W.W. Norton, which received Choice’s Outstanding Academic Title award from the Association of College and Research Libraries. The Emotional Foundations of Personality” was one of two books published by W.W. Norton in 2018 to receive the award and is being translated into Dutch and Turkish. Ken’s major interest centers on continuing research into affective neuroscience personality applications and raising interest in affective neuroscience through public speaking. He also enjoys working as an executive coach with an affective neuroscience focus, which he has done for over 25 years. Outside of work, Ken has a small farm where his interests include breeding and growing organic, disease-resistant grapes and apples.
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