Interpersonal dimensions of personality (Sullivan, 1953) have been described in a circular model, the interpersonal circumplex, since Leary (1957). The two dimensions that define this circumplex are warmheartedness(pleasantness) versus coldheartedness and dominance versus submissiveness. Two better known measures based on Leary's concept are Mehrabian's Trait Dominance-Submissiveness (Mehrabian & Hines, 1978) and Trait Pleasure-Displeasure Scales (Mehrabian, 1978) (which combine with a Trait Arousability Scale, Mehrabian, 1977, into the PAD; Mehrabian, 1996b), and the Interpersonal Adjective Scale (IAS-R; Wiggins, Trapnell & Philips, 1988).

If you analyse the dominance/submissiveness scales from these instruments, it becomes clear that dominance is here understood to be the ability to assert oneself, while submissiveness is the complementary inability:

The 26 items of the Trait Dominance-Submissiveness Scale ... assessed the generalised feelings of control and influence over one's relationships and life circumstances (e.g. 'I control situations rather than let them control me' (+), 'I work best when someone has outlined a job for me' (-), or 'Domineering people don't intimidate me' (+)). (Mehrabian, 1996a)

The adjectives related to submissiveness in the IAS-R make this negative construct of submissiveness even more clear: timid, bashful, shy, forceless, are four of the eight self-descriptors from this scale.

Contrary to this perspective on submissiveness as incompetent and powerless, other conceptions are possible: some egalitarian individuals might not be unable to dominate others, but simply unwilling; some loving individuals might find fulfillment in selfless devotion; and with the ever expanding service economy, hopefully professional service providers enjoy serving their customers – it would be a dismal life for a majority of us, if we didn't.

Submissive pleasure is an important factor in certain forms of romantic relationships, from the wife choosing a traditional provider/facilitator-household in feminist times to the happy spanking BDSM couple.


Are there measures, scales or instruments that measure a positive, joyful concept of submissiveness, as it is conceived by BDSM?

If not, is there a measure of the "service provider personality"?


  • Leary, T. (1957). Interpersonal diagnosis of personality. New York: Ronald Press.
  • Mehrabian, A. (1977). A questionnaire measure of individual differences in stimulus screening and associated differences in arousability. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior, 1, 89-103.
  • Mehrabian, A. (1978). Measure of individual differences in temperament. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 38, 1105-1117.
  • Mehrabian, A. (1996a). Analysis of the big-five personality factors in terms of the PAD Temperament Model. Australian Journal of Psychology, 48, 86-92.
  • Mehrabian, A. (1996b). Pleasure-arousal-dominance: A general framework for describing and measuring individual differences in temperament. Current Psychology, 14, 261-292.
  • Mehrabian, A., & Hines, M. (1978). A questionnaire measure of individual differences in dominance-submissiveness. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 38, 479-484. doi:10.1177/001316447803800235
  • Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.
  • Wiggins, J. S., Trapnell, P., & Philips, N. (1988). Psychometric and geometric characteristics of the Revised Interpersonal Adjective Scales (IAS-R). Multivariate Behavrioral Research, 23, 517-530.
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you should rephrase your question as "are there any psychological theories defining submissiveness as a fulfilling, productive and joyful personality trait?" and on a second note, "could provide examples of any measures, scales or instruments applied to any of those theories?" $\endgroup$
    – drabsv
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ What dominance tendency stand for $\endgroup$
    – Rushdi
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 8:56

1 Answer 1


I am using TRUE (http://www.salleurl.edu/tsenyal/true/features.html) and SAM (Self-Assessment Manikin) interface includes a scale for dominance, along with valence and activation. The scale allows you to rate dominance from 'controlled' to 'in control' on a scale from 1 to 9.


  • Planet, S., Iriondo, I., Martínez, E., & Montero, J. A. (2008). TRUE: an online testing platform for multimedia evaluation. In Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on EMOTION: Corpora for Research on Emotion and Affect at the 6th Conference on Language Resources & Evaluation (LREC 2008). Marrakech, Morocco.

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