The Complexity of the Psychological Self and the Principle of Optimum Variability

Document Type




Format of Original

18 p.

Publication Date



Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences

Source Publication

Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

PubMed Central: PMID: 26375938


Linville’s theory of self-complexity relies of concepts of information measurement to produce its core measurement of complexity, which is in turn thought to be positively correlated with indicators of psychological well-being. Empirical research, however, has not supported this assertion as it was initially intended. Research with complex adaptive systems, however, shows that self-organized systems generally display mid-range values, whereas low-range values denote stereotypic, rigid, and possibly maladaptive behavior. High-range values, furthermore, tend to reflect disordered systems that could be maladaptive for other reasons. As a result, the linear correlations between metrics of complexity of the self and psychological well-being that were widely assumed in the empirical research are not appropriate. The substantive theory of self-complexity, however, is not inconsistent with expectations from complex adaptive systems. Recommendations are given here to improve the data analysis and interpretation of empirical results currently on record concerning the complexity of the self and mental health outcomes.


Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 19, No. 4 (October 2015): 511-527. Publisher Link.