Interpersonal theory is a psychodynamic conception of human development and functioning conceived by American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan (1892–1949). It is a uniquely American dynamic theory incorporating anthropology, linguistics, psychology, and sociology and focusing on interpersonal interactions rather than hypothesized intrapsychic phenomena. Interpersonal theory does not dispute that intrapsychic mentation occurs but contends that intrapsychic processes can only be studied in interpersonal manifestations. The classical psychoanalytic conception of the mind is that of a closed system, located within a person. The interpersonal conception of the mind is that of a more open system, consisting of interconnected physiological and social processes and more interactional than individual. Similarly, identity is not fixed but depends on the interpersonal context. This entry presents key components of interpersonal theory and ...

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