This article was written for the academic jourenals in 1991 but was not acepted for publication
DOING RESEARCH TO PROVE THE OBVIOUS: COMMENT ON "A-B" AND STRAUB ET AL.
University of New South Wales, Australia
Like other writers before them (whom they do not cite), Straub, Grunberg, Street & Singer (1990) claim it as a discovery that "A-B" predicts dominance. They fail to note that many items in the scale used to score "A-B" express a tendency towards dominant behavior and that dominance has long ago been shown as one of the major factors of the said scale. Their alleged finding is therefore merely an artifact and shows primarily their ignorance of the literature.
"A-B" not relevant to heart disease
Now that it is fairly clear (Appels, Mulder & Van Houtem, 1985; Davis & Cowles, 1985; Diamond, 1982; Emara, El-Islam, Abu Dagga & Moussa, 1986; Goldstein, Edelberg, Meier, Orzano & Blaufuss, 1985; Heilbrun, Palchanis & Friedberg, 1986; Houston & Snyder, 1988; Katz & Toben, 1986; Lelouch & Kornitzer, 1982; Linden, 1987; Mathews, 1982; Myrtek & Greenlee, 1984; Nanjundappa, Friis & Taladrid, 1987; Ray, 1986; Ruberman, Weinblatt, Goldberg & Chandbury, 1984; Shekelle,
Hulley, Neaton et al., 1985; Young, Barboriak, Hoffman & Anderson, 1984) that "A-B" personality type does not give any consistent or long-term prediction of proneness to coronary heart disease (CHD), one would think that the concept would no longer have any interest for psychologists. The concept did, after all, come into existence purely on the basis of its claim to be the coronary-prone personality pattern. Predicting CHD was, in other words, its whole raison d'etre. What
little theory attached to the concept was wholly subordinate to that aim. This can perhaps best be seen by the way the concept is named. No word in the whole English language was deemed adequate as a descriptor for the concept. All we have are "As" who are allegedly coronary-prone and "Bs" who are allegedly not coronary-prone. Now that we know "As" and "Bs" to be equally likely to be coronary-prone, the whole concept therefore surely falls apart.
As it is, however, the more the concept fails its basic validity test, the more psychologists seem to take an interest in it. Almost any journal one picks up nowadays seems to have at least one article on it. This need not necessarily be a bad thing. Promoters of the concept give considerable stress to the speed-and-impatience (SI) aspect of it and the concept of speed-and-impatience does appear fairly original and of potential interest outside its original application.
Speed and Impatience
It may be noted that "A-B" is normally measured by the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS) rather than by the Structured Interview (Yarnold & Bryant  give some inkling of the validity horrors attendant on using the Structured Interview) and the JAS does come complete with a defined factor structure of which SI is one out of three factors. Even the test manual for the JAS (Jenkins, Rosenman & Zyzanski, 1979), however, shows that the SI factor does not predict CHD, so the emphasis
that has been given to this part of the concept as a predictor of CHD is more than a little puzzling.
Nonetheless, a focus on SI by itself could be seen as having some interest. The other items of the JAS seem, on inspection, to reflect themes already well-known in psychology -- achievement-motivation, dominance, anxiety, extraversion, hostility etc. Psychologists hardly need new instruments to study those concepts. Only the JAS, however, offers a measure of SI.
"A-B" and dominance
Despite that, studies appearing in the literature that use the JAS generally seem to focus on the discredited "A-B" concept rather than on its potentially interesting SI subfactor. A recent study appearing in this journal (Straub, Grunberg, Street & Singer, 1990) is merely one example of that. Straub et al, are, however, more naive than most. Like Yarnold & Grimm (1986) and Yarnold Mueser & Grimm (1985) before them (whom they do not cite), they report the "discovery" that "A" types tend to be dominant. Since the JAS contains so many items that express a tendency towards dominance, this is very much an artifactual finding -- a pseudo-discovery. Had Straub et al just once looked at the instrument they were using they would surely have realized the pointlessness of what they were doing. They would have seen that they were simply using items that acknowleged a tendency towards dominant behaviour to predict tendency towards dominant behaviour. That is much
more ho-hum than what they seemed to think that they were doing.
If any proof is needed to show that the JAS is heavily weighted by items that express dominance, it may be found in a study by Ray & Bozek (1980). In that study, the items of the JAS were combined with the dominance and achievement motivation scales from the Jackson (1967) PRF and items from the Eysenck & Eysenck (1963) Impulsiveness scale. Almost all the items of the JAS loaded on the factors defined by the Jackson dominance and achievement motivation items. (A small minority loaded on a third factor which also loaded some of the Eysenck
impulsiveness items. This third factor would appear to be similar to the original SI factor). It is very clear, then, that Straub et al have shown only that dominance scales tend to predict dominance. This is a much lesser finding than the one they claim. The fact that they are not the first to make the mistake they do (See the comments on Yarnold's work in Ray, 1988) is also a little discouraging.
Appels, A., Mulder, P. & Van Houtem, J. (1985) De validteit van de Jenkins Activity Survey, een vragenlijst ter meting van het type
A gedrag. Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Psychologie en haar
Grensgebieden 40, 474-487.
Davis, C. & Cowles, M. (1985) Type A behaviour assessment: A critical comment. Canadian Psychology 26, 39-42.
Diamond, E.L. (1982) The role of anger and hostility in essential hypertension and coronary heart disease. Psychological
Bulletin 92, 410-433.
Emara, M.K., El-Islam, M.F, Abu Dagga, S.I. & Moussa, M.A. (1986) Type A behaviour in Arab patients with myocardial infarction.
J. Psychosomatic Res. 30, 553-558.
Eysenck, H.J. & Eysenck, S.B.G. (1963) On the dual nature of extraversion. British J. Social & Clin. Psychol. 2, 46-55.
Goldstein, H.S., Edelberg, R., Meier, C.F., Orzano, J.A. & Blaufuss, L (1985) The paradoxical relation between diastolic blood pressure
change under stress and the H factor of the Jenkins Activity
Survey. J. Psychosomatic Research 29, 419-425.
Heilbrun, A.B., Palchanis, N. & Friedberg, E. (1986) Self-report measurement of Type A behavior: Toward refinement and improved
prediction. J. Personality Assessment 50, 525-539.
Houston, B. & Snyder, C.R. (1988) Type A behavior pattern: Research Theory & intervention N.Y.: Wiley
Jackson, D.N. (1967) Personality research form manual N.Y.: Research Psychologists Press.
Jenkins, C.D., Zyzanski, S.J. & Rosenman, R.H. (1979) Jenkins Activity Survey manual N.Y.: Psychological Corp.
Katz, R.C. & Toben, T. (1986) The Novacco anger scale and Jenkins Activity Survey as predictors of cardiovascular reactivity.
J. Psychopathology & Behavioral Assessment 8, 149-155
Lelouch, M. & Kornitzer, M. (1982) Ischemic heart disease and psychological patterns. In: H. Denolin (Ed.) Psychological
problems before and after myocardial infarction Basel: S. Karger
Linden, W. (1987) On the impending death of the type A construct: Or is there a phoenix rising from the ashes?
Canadian J. Behavioural Science 19, 177-190.
Matthews, K.A. (1982) Psychological perspectives on the Type A behavior pattern. Psychological Bulletin 91, 293-323
Myrtek, M. & Greenlee, M.W. (1984) Psychophysiology of Type A behavior pattern: A critical analysis. J. Psychosomatic Res.,
Nanjundappa, G., Friis, R. & Taladrid, B. (1987) Type A personality: Hispanic and Anglo diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
International Migration Rev. 21, 643-655.
Ray, J.J. (1986) Alternatives to the A-B personality concept in predicting coronary heart disease. Personality Study & Group Behaviour 6(2), 1-8.
Ray, J.J. (1988) A-B personality type and dominance: A comment on Yarnold & Grimm. J. Research in Personality 22, 252-253.
Ray, J.J. & Bozek, R.S. (1980) Dissecting the A-B personality type. British Journal of Medical Psychology 53, 181-186.
Ruberman, W., Weinblatt, E., Goldberg, D.D. & Chandbury, B. (1984) Psychosocial influence on mortality after myocardial infarction.
New England J. Medicine 311, 552-559.
Shekelle, R.B., Hulley, S.B., Neaton, J.D. et al (1985) The MRFIT behavior pattern study III: Type A behavior and incidence of
coronary heart disease. American J. Epidemiology 122, 559-570.
Straub, R.O., Grunberg, N.E., Street, S.W. & Singer, J.E. (1990) Dominance: Another facet of Type A. J. Applied Social
Psychology 20, 1051-1062.
Yarnold, P.R. & Bryant, F.B. (1988) A note on measurement issues in Type A research: Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water
J. Personality Assessment 52, 410-419.
Yarnold, P.R. & Grimm, L.G. (1986) Interpersonal dominance and coronary-prone behavior. J. Res. Personality 20, 420-433.
Yarnold, P.R., Mueser, K.T. & Grimm, L.G. (1985) Interpersonal dominance of Type As in group discussions. J. Abnormal
Psychology 94, 233-236.
Young, L.D., Barboriak, J.J., Hoffman, R.G. & Anderson, A.J. (1984) Coronary-prone behavior attitudes in moderate to severe coronary
artery occlusion J. Behavioral Medicine 7, 205-215
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