Functional Flexibility: A New Conception of Interpersonal Flexibility

Delroy L. Paulhus, Carol Lynn Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Traditional conceptions of interpersonal flexibility emphasize two critical components: (a) a wide range of interpersonal responses and (b) situational appropriateness. Most current measures are based on standard trait ratings, which cannot address situational adjustment. In place of trait ratings, we suggest the use of capability ratings, that is, self-reports of the ease of performing social behaviors when required by the situation. Our proposed index of flexibility, the Functional Flexibility Index (FFI), is the composite of 16 interpersonal capabilities. In Study 1, factor analyses indicated that the FFI is distinct from other widely used flexibility measures. Study 2 supported the validity of the FFI by showing substantial correlations with peer ratings of interpersonal flexibility. In Studies 3 and 4, the FFI outperformed other flexibility measures in predicting adjustment. Another form of interpersonal variability, situationality, is the tendency to view one's personality as being dependent on the situation. Situational individuals reported lower self-esteem than nonsituational individuals. Measures of functional flexibility and situationality were found to be orthogonal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-101
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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