Individual differences in personality and social behavior crystallize with age. Yet they vary sensitively with situational context and shift significantly with development. A dynamic systems perspective can help to explain the underlying complementarity between stability and change in these forms. Following theories of emotional development, a model is presented in which cognition-emotion interactions are the vehicle for personality and social development. The model suggests that positive feedback between cognition and emotion generates, maintains, and reconfigures self-organizing interpretations of emotion-eliciting events at both microdevelopmental and macrodevelopmental time scales. Interpretations emerge and stabilize through the coupling of cognitive and emotional elements that are activated and reactivated by this feedback. Personality and behavior self-organize in response to critical fluctuations, amplified by feedback, and trace diverging paths through periods of stability and change. Stability resides in interpretive attractors that maintain their organization by perpetuating as well as resolving emotional disequilibrium.

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