This book represents an inquiry into an area of human behavior at once fascinating and exasperating. It is fascinating because it is a class of behavior that, while peculiarly resistant to cognitive analysis and clarification it remains, for most of us throughout our lives, a subjectively crucial issue. In Interpersonal Behavior Carson analyzes, describes, and explains the transactions that occur between persons. The analysis focuses upon the smallest possible unit of social interaction, the dyad, or two-person group.
This book is as important today as when it first appeared in 1969 because it forces us to recognize that attributions to others are incomplete without reference to the circumstances in which a particular behavior occurs. Carson posits that, while personality characteristics may not be ephemeral, any observed stability is the product of whatever propensities can accurately be identified as existing "inside" the person, and the interpersonal situation in which they are expressed. Carson urges us to examine more carefully the effect of noncomplementarity on what appears to be stable personality characteristics.
Carson introduces us to the principal interpersonal theorists in a series of expository chapters that are both lucid and authoritative. His long experience as a clinical psychologist enables him to make a telling application of interaction concepts of personality to the field of mental and emotional "illness." He makes clear that many people designated as "mental patients" have suffered real harm because they are perceived as having a "diseased" personality, rather than as people who, under certain circumstances, behave deviantly.