The following article is based on a presentation made during the
Second International Conference on Integral Psychology,
held at Pondicherry (India), 4-7 January 2001.
The text has been published in:
Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.

The probabilistic orientation of personality

S.Narayanan and N. Annalakshmi

Personality as the distinctive pattern of behaviour including temperament, emotion, and thought that characterize an individual's adaptations to his or her life has always attracted the attention of researchers in behavioral and social sciences (Brody, 1988; Hall and Lindzey, 1970). As a relatively long enduring pattern of behaviour and consciousness personality seems to influence the cognition, conation and affection in an individual. It is the embodiment of the physique, the mind, the vital, the level of individual consciousness and the spiritual consciousness one has imbibed into one's style of life (Dalal, 1987; 1992; 2000).

The elegance of the pattern of personality of an individual is contingent upon the pieces of the mosaic of individual traits that were selected and the organization that has gone into making the pattern. Traits remain the building blocks of personality and the edifice we see is the result of the architecture that has gone into its construction. The choice of the blocks and the organization forced on them succinctly constitute the type of personality manifest in an individual. G.W. Allport (1937; 1961) has elucidated the ordinal and cardinal traits that make up the personality. Later psychologists like Guilford (1959), H.J. Eysenck (1953; 1985) and R.B. Cattell (1946; 1957; 1966; 1990) have elaborated on the factors constituting personality types. Kelly (1955) has elaborated the significance of the constructs adopted by an individual in cognizing his environment which provide the pivot around which the personality of an individual revolves. Alfred Adler's original German term Gemeinshaftsgefuhl emphasizes social interest—a striving for perfection in reaching the ideal self in terms of caring and sharing for and with other human beings (Adler, 1929). The Adlerian concept of social interest is akin to the concept of transcendence of Carl G. Jung(1934) and may be considered a fiat of the concept of self-actualization. Carl Rogers (1980) has built his concept of personality around self-concepts. Abraham Maslow (1968; 1970) has shown the role played by security enjoyed by the self in constituting the motivational pyramid of personality. Thus orientation of personality circles around the seminal concepts adopted in the constructs used by the individual in his relationship with the psycho-socio environment. Learning theorists have shown that once a pattern is set in, it is likely that it will be further reinforced through learning principles. This gives rise to the relatively long enduring nature of personality of individuals and thus continues the teleonomy of self.

Classical psychologists have also attempted to identify the nature of personalities in terms of their typical orientations which revolve around the stages of development. (Erick Erikson, 1963; 1968). Fromm (1947; 1959; 1962), furthering the thinking of Sigmund Freud (1925; 1966), has discovered the existence of personality orientation in terms of mode of reacting to the environment (Stagner and Karwoski, 1952). Carl G. Jung (1923) has identified personality orientation in terms of thinking-intuition and outgoing-inner directedness. The Jungian classification of personality orientation still finds its use in the applied field (Myers-Briggs, 1962). The attempt to identify the orientation of individuals in terms of Internal and External Locus of Control has also gained wide acceptance among psychologists (Rotter, 1966; Lefcourt, 1982). Personality orientations are also interpretable in terms of operant learning (Skinner, 1938; 1953). That there is a selective central inhibitory mechanism which might operate to filter sensory impulses has been emphasized by such theorists as Tolman (1948), Lewin (1936) and Hebb (1952). And, as may be seen below, information processing by the organism might explain the teleonomy of personality in terms of self.

The teleonomy of the self

The developing human organism tries to establish autonomy from genetically determined instructions by evolving the system of self. The function of the self is to mediate between genetic instructions or instinctual drives and cultural instructions or norms and rules. To achieve this function the organism needs to develop another system of consciousness. Consciousness compasses three functional subsystems: attention, awareness and memory. The content of consciousness is the sum of all the information that enters it, and its interpretation by awareness.

At a certain point in development the organism learns to direct attention, thinking, feeling, willing and remembrance. At that point of time the self evolves within awareness. The self becomes an epiphenomenon of conscious processes as a result of consciousness becoming aware of itself. Eventually the scope of self extends to cover the entirety of consciousness, and the self ultimately transforms itself into the symbol that stands for the full range of individual conscious processes.

In order to survive, the self established in consciousness directs attention, awareness and memory towards those states which are congruent with itself and eliminates all those that are incongruent or thwarting. When harmony is achieved by the self within itself there is the condition of optimal experience or flow (Csikszenthmihalyi and Csikszenthmihalyi, 1993). Such an experience connotes to the subjective conditions of pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, and enjoyment.

The construct of the probabilistic orientation

An attempt is found in ancient literature to describe personality by invoking an indigenous construct, the Probabilistic Orientation. A poet by the name of Kanian Poonkundranar, who lived in Tamil Nadu during 4000 BC, has rendered an account of this description in his poem and the poem is found included in an anthology of four hundred poems in Tamil titled Purananooru (Four Hundred Poems on Non-Subjective Aspects of Life).

The construct used to differentiate people in their personality is labelled, for want of a better term, the probabilistic orientation. The term connotes a set of beliefs and convictions regarding the probable nature of events. The probability characteristics of events owe their origin to an ever evolving Nature which is set in evolution. The reality one can experience is of a transient fleet of events unfolding themselves as programmed by the evolutionary nature of Nature. Evolution determines the probability distribution of events through stochastic principles.

An individual has neither absolute freedom nor is bound by an holistic bondage. A dynamic friction is exerted by forces within and forces without in every action of men. Individual efforts can motivate one's action. But, the limitation of its effect is determined by the probability of success stemming from the stochastic process governing the forces involved in the action.

Poetic expression of the construct

Given the perspective just above described, an individual is bound to develop in himself a set of behavioural consequences which shapes the perspectives that ultimately lead to the typical orientation of his personality. The poem attempts to present this orientation as follows:


All places are my abodes dear,

And every one is my kith and kin;

Good and bad are caused by none,

Sickness and convalescence are just but natural;

Nothing is new in death,

Rejoice life as sweet we do not,

Nor despise it as sour;


Convinced are we through the serene vision of the seers,


Along with lightening pour down cold drops;

The Mighty river rolls down the stone

Into pebbles with constant noise, lo!

The Boat sails in the river.

Likewise precious life has it's course

In the course of Nature.

Hence, We do not wonder at the great

Nor look down upon the small.


The poem purports to place on record the water mark of the life style of the saints and seers of ancient Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is one of the sites of ancient civilization in India. It was part of a vast continent, called Lemuria where the Dravidian Civilization flourished. The major part of Lemuria has submerged into the Pacific ocean due to a great flood that occurred several centuries ago. The saints and savants of Tamil Nadu thus represent a sample of highly evolved people who lived in a highly civilized society. Purananooru belongs to the collection of literature evolved during the Sangam Age. Sangam stands for Society or Association and the Associations of Tamil Poets mark the age of Sangam. The poem provides a description of the personality orientation of the perspective personalities who represent a population of highly evolved individuals in an ancient civilization of the world.

Simple paraphrasing of the poem brings out the profound wisdom contained in it. The poem states that we are all convinced through the serene vision of the seers and saints, that in the process of evolution the big bang occurred and the fire globe started to cool off, ultimately giving rise to the geography of seasons and climate. The rain started pouring down and the rocks were turned into pieces and pebbles giving way to the courses of rivers. The power of the water current of the river constantly changes responding to the geographical state set in by the evolution at a particular point of time. The freedom and bondage available to the sailor at one point of time is dynamically determined by internal and external forces—internal contingent on physical and subjective resources of the sailor and external based on the velocity of the wind, the power of the water currents, etc. Such a balancing of forces within and without occurs constantly due to the ongoing process of evolution and such frictions are never inimical to anyone in particular at any point of time.

The poem further adds that since the truth of the above is adopted in our basic perspective as a basic stance of our thinking, willing and feeling, we could derive the following inferences. And, these inferences reinforce our perspective, installing in us the probabilistic orientation.

We believe that all places are our dear abodes and are as good as our native place. We regard every one as our kith and kin.

We are convinced that no one can do good or inflict harm to us since every event is but a derivation from a random phenomenon conceived in the process of evolution.

We do believe that natural processes mediate the sources of sickness and the capacity for convalescence from the sickness. These processes are just but natural phenomena and are not inimical to any one in particular.

We do not consider death as anything strange or new. There is nothing new in death which is again a natural event.

Since we are given to the above convictions, we do not rejoice life as sweet nor despise life as sour due to stress and strain.

We do not wonder at any one for achieving greatness nor would we look down upon the small who are weak and meek. Since each one rises to his station due to natural processes over which no one has any simple and direct control or mastery.

The phenomenological orientation

The oriental thinking on personality outlined above has been developed on an ideographic phenomenological premise. This approach appreciates the phenomena of personality as based on rigorous appreciation of experiential facts teased out by the application of logic and dissection by intuition. The module of personality developed seems to have effectively put forth a valid conception of personality orientation.

The probabilistic orientation refers to the typical orientation of personality of an individual. Under this orientation the individual has an unique orientation of his consciousness. The consciousness of the individual is focused on an idiosyncratic perspective. This perspective has its deep roots in an extended awareness. Such an awareness transcends ordinary sensory experience. Under the probabilistic orientation an individual has a keen awareness about the nature of Nature. He is aware that Nature is given to constant evolution. He understands that Nature acts as a dynamic system at a given point of time. Any event in Nature at a particular point of time is a random occurrence subject to its stochastic framework. Hence every outcome in Nature is unbiased to any individual.

The evolution of Nature adheres to a stochastic process. The occurrence of events and their outcomes assume different probability distributions as a function of time. Each set of probability distribution is derived from the probability distribution of its previous set of events. Hence, a system contingent upon the existence of an earlier system from which it evolved prevails at every point of time. The nature of the probability governing various networks of events defining and governing such a system also adhere to the probabilistic nature of the distribution it has derived from its predecessor. An individual can not induce any change all of a sudden in a system, since it has already been set within definite probability distributions. But, it is still possible to introduce a subtle change in the course of the system so that when the change thus introduced has gained momentum, the subsequent probability distribution characteristic of the system also may change.

This is exemplified by the metaphor of “sailing through”. When a person sails in a boat the freedom available to the man sailing the boat is completely under the control of the ecosystem governing the currents of the river. Yet, a sailor may actuate the boat to go against cross currents by his efforts. The sailor is both under the limitations placed on him by the ecosystem and at the same time he can sail through, oaring with all his might. Thus the bondage and freedom hangs on the hinges of probabilities. There is a dynamic interrelationship between his limitations and assets. This interpretation of the scope and limitation of a sailor has been lucidly discussed by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in his discourse on the Bhagavad Gita .

The summum bonum of the probabilistic orientation is the appreciation of the fact that the dynamic system of the universe is constantly unfolding itself adhering to stochastic principles and consequently, the individual events and contingencies of events remain unbiased and are not prejudiced in favour of or against any individual at any point of time. There is unbiasedness of individual events and contingencies. An individual who is given to the probabilistic orientation looks at all outcomes with equanimity. He does not resist or instantly accept anything based on any compulsion or obsession due to his complexes resulting from what he already believes and trusts. He does not attach any value-judgments regarding the outcome. The probabilistic orientation may be regarded as the sine qua non in the personality orientation of highly evolved individuals.

Often belief in fate is confused with probabilistic orientation. It should be noted at the outset that a probabilistic orientation does not reflect fatalistic belief. The latter suggests that one's life is sealed by fate and has no scope for personal freedom while the former perceives the constraints placed on an individual as not cast in a sealed rigid frame, but spinning in a dynamic and constantly evolving framework. Perhaps, it is the stochastic principles that are duly taken into account in perceiving the constraints, that distinguishes probabilistic orientation from fatalistic orientation. A single intervention at one point of time might not be adequate enough to bring any visibly impressive effect in the system; but, nonetheless, the system is responding to every attack on it in subtle terms. Every attempt will initiate a stochastic process and tilt the system and thereby ultimately lead to perceptible change in the system itself in the long run.

Probabilistic orientation can also be distinguished from Internal/External orientation (Lefcourt, 1983). While internal and external locus of control locates one's control inside and outside the person involved, the probabilistic orientation locates the locus of control on the basis of the dynamic balance resulting from both the inner and outer forces at a given point of time. Neither the internal nor the external locus can be valid in deciding the effectiveness of functioning. Sometimes the internal forces may be powerful enough to overcome the external forces standing barrier for a course of action, and vice versa. The probabilities attached to the stakes involved ultimately decide the success or otherwise of a course of action. The proponents of internal and external locus of control argue that the man is either free or bound in a bondage. The advocates of the probabilistic orientation contend that man is neither free nor bound; he is free to a certain degree and bound to environmental forces to a certain degree and the exact degree of freedom and bondage depends upon the system characteristics evolved through a dynamic perpetually stochastic process. Probabilistic orientation and Internal and External Locus of control have an interesting and complex relationship as found among adolescent boys and girls (Narayanan and Venkatapathy, 1984).

Factors constituting the probabilistic orientation

Narayanan (1977) finding the probabilistic orientation to be a seminal construct orienting personality of individuals in the Indian culture has attempted to empirically verify the existence of the orientation among individuals and to validate the hypotheses that could be derived with regard to the probabilistic orientation among people. Narayanan and his coworkers have been endeavouring to map the features of probabilistic orientation by undertaking research for more than two decades in the past and a considerable literature has thus evolved on the probabilistic orientation.

   — Appreciating probabilistic orientation as one of the dominant features of Indian Culture, Narayanan developed a questionnaire purporting to obtain a measure of probabilistic orientation. The questionnaire contains thirty items in the form of general statements which can be endorsed or rejected by the respondent answering the questionnaire as applicable to him or not. A factor analysis of the responses of a large group of elders to the Probabilistic Orientation Questionnaire has yielded seven factors to constitute probabilistic orientation (Narayanan, 1977;1993).

Factor-I is labelled Unbounded Expectancy. This factor stresses that goodness or meanness of thought by itself cannot influence the course of action: predictions are not influenced by stature of a person; status is not a permanent state; stature of a judge need not assure soundness of his judgment; failure and success are not consistent in time; and nature does not have any bias.

Factor-II is recognised as Sensing Unlimited Possibilities. This factor emphasizes that it is not possible to enumerate all the possibilities and predict. Experience of the past like success or failure, or even the behavior pattern reviewed from research shall not lead to certainty in prediction and solutions may emerge spontaneously themselves.

Factor-III is found to refer Insight into Bias. This emphasizes chance, spontaneity and unbiasedness of nature.

Factor-IV is distinguished as pertaining to “Healthy Skepticism” and this suggests that an attitude for scientific invention tempered with skepticism is a healthy attitude.

Factor-V is regarded as Unconditional Acceptance which stresses acceptance of happenings without prejudice and not labelling anything as good or bad.

Factor-VI is Appreciation of Chance and this highlights the role of chance and an appreciation of the fact that chance works more than human effort but chances of achievement can be improved by better efforts.

Factor-VII is identified as Awareness of Predictability which emphasizes the awareness of the possibility of prediction even in cases where it is difficult to make any.

The pattern of factors identified seems to be connoting a simple parsimonious and elegant structure of the probabilistic orientation. Succinctly, when an individual does not himself restrict his range of expectancy, is given to sensing unlimited possibilities available to him in the world, has insight into his sources of biases and prejudices, shows a tendency for unconditional acceptance of events and happenings, can appreciate chances and serendipity, and is aware of the scope for predictability of events within limits, then he is given to a probabilistic orientation.

Probabilistic orientation being an elegant way of making adjustment might be expected to contribute to fostering mental health positively and also by avoiding negative symptoms. The probabilistic orientation is also found to influence attitude and values in applied situations as well.

Probabilistic orientation and mental health

Mental health may be conceived as the quality of adjustment an individual consistently exercises and maintains on the basis of plans of his life space—that is self, others, environment and life—in order to achieve certain outcomes. Acceptance of oneself, self-insight, self-identity, self-responsibility and confidence and trust in one's self connote the self dimension of mental health. Acceptance of others, warm and genuine relating to others, absence of manipulation of others, ability to give and receive, and the ability to experience affection and love constitute another dimension of mental health as relating to others. Having an objective perception of reality, personal freedom, healthy nonconformity, openness to all experience and autonomous functioning refer to yet another dimension of mental health relating to environment. Spontaneous, free and natural living, living in the here and now, living for meaning with refined values, creativity & revelation of one's potential and life-satisfaction constitutes the last dimension of mental health.

Priya (1997) studied the mental health of a large sample of women college students using the Probabilistic Orientation Questionnaire and the Mental Health Questionnaire (Augustine, 1978) and related it to probabilistic orientation. The findings of her study reveal that subjects with a high degree of probabilistic orientation have a greater degree of mental health.

Security and probabilistic orientation

Abraham Maslow, the celebrated humanistic psychologist attempted to underpin mental health and self-actualization in terms of satisfaction of needs and found that the need for security connotes the need to have mastery over one's environment. The security/insecurity of an individual is a potent dimension of the self.

Probabilistic orientation is found to be positively related to security (Maslow, 1962) as revealed in a study involving a moderately large sample of adult drivers in a transport corporation (Narayanan & Govindarasu, 1986b).

Probabilistic orientation and death anxiety

Death anxiety (Templer, 1970) connotes to the fear of one's own death in a physically healthy individual. It implies the effective component of experienced anxiety and signifies intense feeling of anxiety. Orientation to life and death may shape the content and quality of daily conduct. A moderately large study involving adults and elders shows that probabilistic orientation and death anxiety are related to one another in the case of elders but not in the case of adults (Narayanan, 1983). It is plausible that death anxiety assumes significance in reality only when someone is advanced in age and this plausibility might explain the differential findings obtained in the case of adults and elders.

Probabilistic orientation and alienation

In contemporary literature, alienation is used to connote a wide range of types of disharmony and dissatisfaction deriving from or involving a feeling of alienation of some sort (Schacht, 1971). Alienation seems to be having five facets, viz. powerlessness, self-estrangement, normlessness, isolation (or cultural estrangement) and meaninglessness (Seeman, 1959). A good measure of alienation traits has been evolved by culling out appropriate items from the Minnesota Muti-Phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) (Hathaway and Mikinley, 1967) by an educational sociologist (Vendal, 1982). Trait alienation is reported to be negatively correlated with probabilistic orientation in the case of sport coaches (Govindarasu, 1988). The state of alienation is also reported to be negatively correlated with probabilistic orientation in the case of sport coaches (Govindarasu, 1988).

Probabilistic orientation and social desirability

Since the pioneering investigations by Edwards (1957) social desirability has assumed significance as an important social psychological variable. Social desirability is conceptualized as a facade effect or the unawareness of the individual's tendency to “put up a good front”. This tendency may reveal lack of insight into the individual's own characteristics, self-description or an unwillingness to face up to his or her limitations (Ananstasi, 1982). The strength of social desirability is closely associated with the individual's more general need for self-protection, avoidance of criticism, social conformity and social approval (Crowne & Marlowe, 1964). Social desirability is not found to be negatively correlated with probabilistic orientation among sport coaches (Govindarasu, 1988).

Probabilistic orientation and attitudes

As a learned relatively long enduring predisposition to respond in consistently favourable or unfavourable ways to certain people, groups, ideas and situations, attitudes seem to be connected with probabilistic orientation. Interesting instances of the link between the two are reported in literature.

Probabilistic orientation is significantly correlated with the business attitude of innovation only and not with business attitudes of personal control, achievement, self-confidence, opportunities among entrepreneurs (Stimpson, 1990; Balakrishnan, 1985). Probabilistic orientation is significantly correlated with the Protestant ethic (Mirels and Garrett, 1971; Balakrishnan, 1985).

High and low probabilistically oriented unemployed differ from one another in the way they attribute meanings to the concepts of self-employment, availability of money, primary group concern, social support, and expectation-achievement discrepancy. The highly probabilistically oriented unemployed perceives all these concepts in a more positive manner attributing greater significance compared to the less probabilistically oriented unemployed. Attitude to employment and probabilistic orientation interact significantly with regard to attributing meanings to the concept expectation-achievement congruence. The unemployed having low attitude to employment and high probabilistic orientation perceives the concept expectation-achievement congruence most positively compared to the group having high attitude to employment and low probabilistic orientation (Osgood, 1957; Gopukumar, 1998).

Another study on a sample of 200 teachers equally divided into both the sexes reveals that perceived support for innovation (Siegel & Kolmmerer, 1976) has no significant effect on probabilistic orientation (Jayaraj, 1984). The findings further show that female subjects are more probabilistically oriented than male subjects.

Probabilistic orientation and values

Highly probabilistically oriented entrepreneurs and less probabilistically oriented entrepreneurs do not differ in their values. Both high and low criterion groups on probabilistic orientation hold the same levels of theoretical, economic, aesthetic, social, political, and religious values (Allport et al., 1931; Sellakumar, 1999).

A study of transport drivers (Narayanan, 1986) reveals that probabilistic orientation is significantly related to certain personal values (Gorden, 1967). Probabilistic orientation is found to be significantly and positively related to Variety and Practical Mindedness and negatively to Orderliness and Decisiveness.

Probabilistic orientation and climate perception

Perception, the process of interpreting, organising, and often elaborating on sensation seem to be influenced by probabilistic orientation. Studies on organizational climate have brought interesting results in this regard.

As organizational psychologists have often shown, different patterns of management exist and are associated with different behaviour outcomes in the organizations studied (Likert, 1961). It is plausible that if all the different management systems could be ordered along a continuum involving the kinds of controls and motivational forces used and the kinds of attitudinal responses evoked under such circumstances, it could be seen that all the many operating procedures and the performance characteristics of different management systems form an orderly pattern along this horizontal dimension.

A fairly large study on organizational climate reveals that perception of organizational climate seems to be related to having a probabilistic orientation.

Clerks in a textile mill having a high degree of probabilistic orientation, are more sensitive to perceived organizational climate dimensions of structure, responsibility, reward, risk, warmth, support, standard, conflict and identity when compared to individuals having a lesser degree of probabilistic orientation.

Another large study of supervisors in textile mills reveals that probabilistic orientation sensitizes one's perception of the social processes of communication, interaction and decision making but seems not to be sensitizing one's perception with regard to motivational and allied processes. In the study just cited probabilistic orientation is found to correlate with perception of communication process, interaction influence and decision making process, but not with leadership process, motivational process, goal setting or ordering, control process and performance of goals and training. Role conflict is correlated with communication process and interaction influence process. Probabilistic orientation could be predicted from scores of the subjects on Likert's Profile of Organizational Climate:


  Probabilistic Orientation = 13.834

   — + 0.348   — Interaction Influence Process

   — + 0.174   — Communication Process

   — + 0.225   — Decision Making Process

   — + 0.006   — Leadership Process

   — + 0.009   — Performance of Goal Setting Process

   — + 0.008   — Motivational Process

   — 0.424   — Goal Setting or Ordering

   — 0.341   — Control Process (Indumathi, 1989).

Probabilistic orientation and role conflict

The conflict an individual undergoes when he is faced with demands incompatible with the role subjectively defined by him is called role conflict. A direct measure of role conflict exclusively adopted to a role in any organization may be obtained using the technique of Role Conflict Differential developed by Narayanan (1982). The measure purports to assess the oscillation or dilemma experienced by an individual to accept or reject a task assigned to him or her at any point of time in course of his or her job. The dilemma reflects the state of readiness or attitudinal set an individual has with regard to his role expectations and demands. When an individual is clear in his or her understanding of his or her role expectations and demands, he or she will experience least dilemma in accepting or rejecting the assignment or a task. It is easy for any individual to express his or her readiness to discharge a task assigned using a rating scale. When the tasks attributed to the role by a set of persons knowledgeable about the job are enumerated and listed and the individual expresses his or her readiness to discharge the individual tasks on a ten point rating scale, the Statistics Q provides a valid measure of such role conflict. Role Conflict Differential has been developed for bank officers and clerks (Devi, 1982), clerks and supervisors in textile organizations by Indumathi (1986), sports coaches by Govindarasu (1988) and sex role stereotype, role conflict, social support and satisfaction by Manoranjitham (1993).

Probabilistic orientation does not have significant effect on role conflict (Devi, 1982) as revealed in a study involving a large sample of bank employees, consisting of officers and clerks. Another large study of textile supervisors also revealed that probabilistic orientation does not have a correlation with role conflict (Indumathi, 1989). However, probabilistic orientation is reported to have a significantly negative correlation with Role Conflict among sports coaches (Govindarasu, 1988).

Job burnout and probabilistic orientation

As charcoal is slowly but steadily burnt out turning into ashes, an individual who works beyond the limits of his psychological resources also succumbs to emotional and mental exhaustion in the long run. Burnout is experienced by individuals engaged in helping professions as a chronic prolonged form of stress. Burnout involves uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms and has attracted the attention of researchers (Maslach, 1978; 1982; Maslach and Jackson 1981; 1984; 1986). Inability to handle continued stress on the job and the feeling of psychological exhaustion mark the experience of burnout (Cherrington, 1989). Burnout stands as a type of prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job (Maslach and Ozer, 1995). It is a resultant of the nature of human service work and a function of the organizational context in which professionals provide human service (Leiter, 1992). Burnout seems to be a factor that might help determine whether ongoing worldwide changes will tear asunder people and relationships or whether a higher order stability will emerge (Golembiewski, 1996).

Individual stress experience constituting burnout is embedded in a context of social relationships and this involves the person's conception of both self and others (Maslach and Ozer, 1995). Unrealistic expectations or ambitions of candidates for a job burnout combine with organizational pressures and create stress, fatigue, frustration and feelings of helplessness and guilt (Robbins, 1995). Detached concern and dehumanization in self-defence contribute to controlling burnout: blending compassion with emotional distance and responding to other people more as objects than as persons provide a control on experiencing burnout.

Govindarasu (1988) attempted a motivational analysis of burnout among sport coaches. He administered the Probabilistic Orientation Questionnaire and the Burnout Inventory which he developed. His findings reveal an interesting relationship between probabilistic orientation and burnout. Sports coaches who constitute the high scores having a score higher than the 90th percentile report a significantly greater level of job burnout than those who constitute the low scores having a score less than the 10th percentile on job burnout. When the whole range of scores of these coaches was taken into account and correlated with their scores on probabilistic orientation, the resulting correlation was significantly negative.

Brindha (1997) studied burnout among physicians who are engaged in private practice. She administered both the Probabilistic Orientation Questionnaire and Burnout Inventory to a large sample of subjects. The results of the study reveal that physicians with a high degree of probabilistic orientation distinguish themselves from physicians with a low degree of probabilistic orientation. The former were having less burnout than the latter. Physicians who are less probabilistically oriented were given to depleted energy reserves, acute anger, lack of creativity, cynical attitude, job dissatisfaction, sleep disturbances, pessimism, avoiding decisions, obsession with problems, escape activities, physical illness, chronic exhaustion and psychological fatigue.

Probabilistic orientation and sleep and fatigue

Sleep as a state of temporary loss of consciousness and fatigue as a temporary impairment of consciousness still remain an enigma. The relationship between creativity and sleep add to the complexity of the problem. Narayanan (1992) attempted to ascertain the relationship among probabilistic orientation, sleep, fatigue and creativity. Their large scale study used the Probabilistic Orientation Questionnaire, The Clinical Scales of Sleep (Domino, 1984), The Fatigue Inventory (Narayanan, 1977), and the Remote Association Test (Narayanan & Paramesh, 1978). The findings of their study reveal that probabilistic orientation is not significantly associated with dimensions of sleep or behavioural fatigue, but is significantly associated with forming remote association as found in a correlational study involving a large sample representing the general population (Domino et al, 1984; Narayanan, 1975; Narayanan and Paramesh, 1976). Quality of sleep, sleep latency, depth of sleep, positive waking up, dream affect, physical surround, love of sleep, dream recall, length of sleep, sleep regularity and femininity are not correlated with probabilistic orientation. A negative correlation exists between probabilistic orientation and the ability to form Remote Association on Mednick and Mednick's (1964) RAT type of test.

Probabilistic orientation and vocational personality

High, moderate and low probabilistically oriented adolescent groups differ among themselves on their vocational personality traits (Holland, 1966, 1975; Balakrishnan, 1979; Narayanan and Govindarasu, 1986). The group scoring high on probabilistic orientation consistently and significantly surpasses its counterparts on realistic, artistic, scientific, enterprising and conventional traits. The trend of the findings with regard to acquiescence is the same.

Another study comparing potential entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and managers of small scale industries with one another reports that potential entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs are more probabilistically oriented compared to the managers (Balakrishnan, 1985).

A large study of women entrepreneurs reveal that women entrepreneurs as a whole distinguish themselves from the general population and are having a significantly higher degree of probabilistic orientation (Devi, 1995).

Probabilistic orientation and other aspects of personality

Curiously probabilistic orientation seems to transcend the basic personality types of gunas identified in the ancient text of the Bhagavad Gita. Using the Q-sort technique Mathew (1988) developed a test to assess the personality of individuals in terms of tamas, rajas, and sattva. A study of a large sample of postgraduate adults show that there is no relationship between probabilistic orientation and the gunas. The high and low groups on tamas, rajas and sattva do not distinguish themselves on probabilistic orientation.

Interesting findings have been adduced regarding the personality aspects of the probabilistic orientation. A study involving one hundred Rorshach Protocols (Rorschach, 1921) of male adults reveals that individuals having a high probabilistic orientation have high ego or thinking operation, emotional control, intelligence, interest, control impairment, aggressive acts, sexual interest, perception of reality and the ability to perceive the commonplace. The findings of the study also show that individuals having a low probabilistic orientation are higher in denial, detachment from the real and fantasy (Ganesan, 1986).

Another investigation involving one hundred TAT protocols of adults (Murray, 1943; Choudry, 1967, 1979; Natarajan, 1983) reveals that highly probabilistically oriented individuals are having high achievement, aggression and passivity when compared to the low probabilistically oriented individuals. On the other hand low probabilistically oriented individuals have high abasement, dominance, intragression, nurturance, sex and succorance compared to high probabilistically oriented individuals.

A large study of adolescents including both boys and girls reveals that a probabilistic orientation is significantly and positively related with intelligence, creativity, extroversion and neuroticism among girls. The relationship is not sustained in the case of boys (Natarajan, 1983).

A study of probabilistic orientation using a sample of male graduates using the MMPI reveals that probabilistic orientation is significantly and positively related to hypochondriasis and psychopathic deviation and significantly and negatively related to masculinity/femininity, schizophrenia and social introversion (Narayanan, 1985b).

An investigation involving one hundred male transport drivers reveals that accident free drivers, low accident drivers and high accident drivers do not differ among themselves with regard to their probabilistic orientation (Govindarasu, 1984).

Egocentric and probabilistic perspectives

The epitome of maturity could be identified with undistorted acceptance of events and reality as the natural outcome of an unbiased Nature which is never inimical to anyone at any point of time. The uninitiated gets frustrated at every turn of events that deviates from his expectation, blames everything around and enters into a labyrinth of defensive pursuits contracting agony and pain. The perspective personality—the mature personality that is given to viewing everything with multifarious perspectives—appreciates reality as a phenomenon of Nature, the Mother, and accepts it with a spirit of spectatorship. This situation could not be better described than by reading the poem of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In his poem “The Paper Boat” the spirit of the probabilistic orientation perspective is cast in its indelible foot print:

I floated a paper boat on the stream

It was a wet day of July:

I was alone and happy ever over my play.

I floated my paper boat on the stream.

Suddenly the storm-clouds thickened, the wind

Came in gusts, the rain poured in torrents:

Rills of muddy water rushed and swelled the stream and sank

                       — my boat.

Bitterly I thought that the storm had come on

Purpose to spoil my happiness; all its anger was against me.

All this long cloudy day of July I have been musing

Over those games in life in which I was the loser.

Just now I am blaming my fate for the many tricks it

Has played on me,

When suddenly I remembered

The paper boat that sank in the stream.


The poem succinctly suggests that an adult reacting to natural events by cursing them as meant to have purposely occurred to spoil his peace and joy could be best matched with the childish act of cursing rain for having come purposely to spoil its delight due to an egocentric stance in perspective. A mature adult should refrain from cherishing his own world of phantasy and be keenly aware that every event happens as it should in the scheme of Nature.

Probabilistic orientation

The tone and tenor of one's quality of being are construed through one's own personality. A mature personality stands for an ever-learning person who constantly integrates his experiences within and moves forward. An immature personality signifies getting stuck up with a particular stage or phase in the course of development resulting in stagnation in growth at one point of time. The modern learning society necessitates inculcating those behaviour patterns that contribute to having multivariate perspectives and achieving a balance among them.

What constitutes the perspective personality? Which set of cardinal traits would contribute to serene perception and learning, keen observation and thinking, appropriate motivation and control over action and maturity and development? What is the tap root of the perspective personality which is given to constant awareness and eternal vigilance?

We believe the question raised above has immense significance for life and work of men and women that decide their place of worth in this world. Perhaps the probabilistic orientation might offer a clue to the answer for which we are searching and seeking. But, as we all are fully aware, this question does not have a single answer. Truth being a pathless land (J. Krishnamurti) many a path might exist and lead us towards realising the truth. Today, we, following the ancient Tamil scholars, have traced a plausible path and the journey we have hitherto undertaken, we assure you, has been quite satisfying. We have no pretence that we have answered the question completely and successfully. The more we probe on, the more we become conscious of the gaps and distortions in our thinking which give rise to more and more disappointment and frustration. Yet we feel we have been filling in the time not without any reward. I invite every one of you to join us to dig deep to discover the perspective personality that might enlighten the individual in his personality and elevate the society at large, and perhaps, the elusive enigma we are confronted with might be solved to some satisfaction at a distant future.


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