Person-Situation Interaction

Assignment 3: Person-Situation Interaction

Many people are familiar with the saying “10% of life is what happens to you and 90% of life is how you react to it” (Swindoll, 2015). This statement can support applicability of nearly all six of the ways in which a person interacts to situations and how such interactions play a role in the shaping of personal goals, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The purpose of this paper is to review six dyads referring specifically to how situations can shape individual personality and behaviors. In culmination there will be information presented from the perspective of a supervisor and how each of the six dyads mentioned can be used to increase employee motivation.

“Our behavior is not merely a matter of reflex, taxis, instinct, and conditioned response. Rather, it occurs in response to the meaning of the stimulus, and reflects active cognitive processes of perceiving, learning, remembering, thinking, and linguistic communication” (Lee, 1960). The six ways in which a person and the situation interact to shape a person’s goals, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are as follows:

If two people are placed in the same situation, actions and reactions are going to be different because people will apply personal life experiences to the situation which will allow for different aspects of the situation to hold more bearing over others. What might be traumatic for one person may be motivating for another, thereby resulting in two people in the same situation responding differently. As a supervisor, understanding that people may act differently when placed in the same situation is important to organizational performance and individual employee performance. Getting to know employees so placement can be achieved wherein employees are in situations that draw upon positive experiences will be important to individual and organizational success.

  • Different persons respond differently to the same situation

Because this type of person-situation interaction can be the difference between success and failure, as and I/O consultant, it would behoove the organization to establish an experiment wherein the company can see what could be provided by workers in a simulated situation so that a process using more favorable workers in certain situations are more consistently placed. Realistically, this experimental design/approach could be used for any of the six mentioned person-situation interactions.

This statement, ‘situations choose the person’, is generally understood to mean that some situations have requirements that must be met before a person can enter into the situation at all. For example, students wishing to enter into college programs are required to appease certain grade point averages and are required to have completed certain prerequisite courses before they can be accepted. Jobs require certain levels of education and experience and generally, if those initial requirements are not appeased, entrance into the situation is not permitted. Good managers seek to ensure that all employees and potential employees meet the requirements posted for specific positions being applied for since this will help to ensure further organizational success.

  • Situations choose the person

As a consultant, it would be necessary to ensure that all current and potential organizational employees are in fact qualified for the positions that they hold as this will help to ensure the continued and future success of the organization. There might be the discovery that some employees are over qualified for their current positions which will allow for management to give those people more responsibility so talents and skills are not wasted in mediocre job placements. For those that are underqualified, this will be clear very fast and training can be initiated that will help to alleviate this issue.

Complimentary to the aforementioned person-situation interaction suggesting that situations choose the person, persons choosing the situation is also important to adequate personal and professional success. Situations might choose the person but for it to become a reality, the person has to accept and choose that situation in return. When denial or refusal are prominent, this can result in inadequate behavior and performance. Reverting back to the example of college entrance, if a school supports that you are in fact qualified to attend their university but attendance is not chosen, then this situation has not been chosen.

  • Persons choose the situation

The situation chose the person but the person did not agree to accept and choose the situation in return. As a supervisor, it is important to consistently attempt to provide employees with choices when qualifications are for more than one thing so employees are free to choose. When people feel they are responsible for their choices, success is more likely to prevail.

Different situations can prime different parts of the person

This statement says that different parts of your identity are brought forward by different situations. Certain situations will invoke certain feelings for some while the exact same situation may invoke very different feelings for others. For example, the preview of something violent for one person may prime one person’s aggressive tendencies while the same violent situation may prime another person’s fearful side. As a manager, understanding who and how these types of situations affect is important. If someone that is naturally inclined to become aggressive in response to aggression is placed in a position where people are likely to get aggressive and they are expected to neutralize the situation, this will likely result in failure. Understanding this as a manager is imperative to organizational and positional successes.

“Things change, people change, situations change, thoughts, and feelings change. The only constant in this world is change” (Seligman, 2011). This particular dyad suggests merely that people can change the course of a situation based solely upon their interaction and reaction with the situation. One prime example is one that people commonly hear; a happy person can light up a room full of unhappy people. This results in the happy person changing the situation. Just as this is accurate, so is the assessment that people with poor attitudes can generate poor attitudes amongst others. As a supervisor, this could be effectively used in a number of ways, the most prominent of which is the appropriate pairing of skilled workers during difficult tasks which will result in the tasks being completed more easily and more effectively. Using this in management put negative people in positive situations to boost morale and increase production.

  • Persons change the situation & Situations change the person


Lee, H. (1960). The person-situation interaction. Retrieved from

Seligman, M. E. (2011). Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. Vintage.

Swindoll, C. (2015). Outlander. Retrieved from

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