Professor Martin Sellbom's research interests focused broadly on maladaptive manifestations of personality and applied clinical personality assessment. More specifically, he studies personality disorders from the perspective of dimensional personality traits that is being incorporated in diagnostic manuals (DSM-5, ICD-11). Moreover, in this vein, he is also interested in the broader integration of personality traits (e.g. neuroticism, disinhibition) and psychopathology, with a goal of determining the degree with which personality traits can explain what many common mental disorders have in common, Finally, he has long-standing interests in applied personality assessment, especially with the MMPI-3 instrument, in forensic, correctional, and mental health settings.
Professor Sellbom was trained as a clinical psychologist in the United States, graduating from Kent State University (Kent, Ohio) in 2007. Subsequently, he spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at Kent State University and Psycho-Diagnostic Clinic in Akron, Ohio, specialising in forensic psychological assessment. He began his academic career as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Alabama in the USA. After four years, he moved to the Australian National University in July 2013 prior to accepting a position as at the University of Otago starting in January 2016.
Professor Sellbom came to Otago with an extensive background in teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses at universities in the USA and Australia. At the undergraduate level, he has taught abnormal psychology, personality psychology, and forensic psychology among others. At the postgraduate level, he has taught personality assessment, adult psychopathology, clinical assessment supervision, and advanced statistics for several years.
Personality, Psychopathology, and Measurement lab
Professor Sellbom directs the Personality, Psychopathology, and Measurement lab, which recurrently includes several PhD, Masters, Honours, and PSYC310 students. Below is a description of general research themes that are currently ongoing in the PPM lab.
NOTE: The PPM lab is currently at capacity for PhD and Masters supervision. No additional supervision requests will be considered for 2022.
Most of this work has focused on how we can use individual differences personality traits to understanding and operationalise personality pathology. Current diagnostic manuals (DSM-5, ICD-11) have begun to move away from traditional personality disorders (e.g. Borderline, Antisocial, Narcissistic) and instead understand them from the perspective of functional impairment in relation to self and others coupled with description using dimensional personality trait profiles. PPM lab members have focused on personality trait manifestations of traditional antisocial, borderline, and obsessive-compulsive manifestations of dysfunction.
Indeed, in the PPM lab, a lot of work has been directly devoted towards furthering our understanding of the classical concept of psychopathic personality. In addition to conceptualising psychopathy from the perspective of dimensional personality traits, some specific areas are also being targeted. We are focused on how psychopathy personality traits manifest across different settings. Although it is straightforward to study psychopathy in prisons, as individuals high on such traits are readily available there, we know relatively little about those with psychopathic traits operate in the community. Moreover, one major question that continues to puzzle the field is what factors differentiate individuals high on psychopathic traits who operate successfully in the community from those who end up in the criminal justice system. Finally, self-report questionnaires constitute an economical method for assessing psychopathy – but can we trust the results given psychopathic individuals' propensity to lie? The PPM lab continues to address many of these questions and more.
Integration of Personality and Psychopathology
There is considerable evidence that the structure of common mental disorders is hierarchical in nature. Research in behaviour genetics, for instance, has indicated that a lot of the shared commonalities among groups of mental disorders (e.g. internalising, externalising) can be largely attributed to genetic vulnerabilities that translate into brain (dys)functions. Interestingly, similar brain functions can also be linked to individual differences in personality traits (e.g. neuroticism, disinhibition). The PPM lab seeks to further understand what mechanisms are shared between personality traits and mental disorders. Do they represent manifestations of the same thing (e.g. is mental disorder a reflection of dysfunctional personality under stressful circumstances?) Are personality traits risk factors for developing mental health problems? The PPM lab continues to address these questions.
Clinical Personality Assessment
How can patients' or offenders' personality and mental health be best assessed in applied settings? The PPM lab conducts research on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 3 (MMPI-3), which it a multi-scale omnibus clinical assessment measure designed to cover a wide range of personality and psychopathology. Recent work has focused a lot on the assessment of personality disorders and mapping the instruments' scales onto contemporary hierarchical structures of personality and psychopathology and the assessment of personality disorders using the MMPI-3. Another line of research has centred on malingering and defensiveness. Can people feign their responses on the MMPI-3 and get away with it? The answer to that question is most often “no” and the PPM lab has focused on understanding how the MMPI-3's so called validity scales can be best used in detecting distorted responding.
Sellbom, M., Brown, T. A., & Bach, B. (2023). Development and psychometric evaluation of the Personality Disorder Severity ICD-11 (PDS-ICD-11) Clinician-Rating Form. Personality & Mental Health. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/pmh.1596
DuBois, A., Sellbom, M., & Rossi, G. (2023). Validity of an inconsistency scale for the PID-5 in community-dwelling younger and older adults. European Journal of Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1027/1015-5759/a000802
Bach, B., Simonsen, E., Kongerslev, M. T., Bo, S., Hastrup, L. H., Simonsen, S., & Sellbom, M. (2023). ICD-11 personality disorder features in the Danish general population: Cut-offs and prevalence rates for severity levels. Psychiatry Research, 328, 115484. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2023.115484
Roma, P., Giromini, L., Sellbom, M., Cardinale, A., Ferracuti, S., & Mazza, C. (2023). The ecological validity of the IOP-29: A follow-up study using the MMPI-2-RF and the SIMS as criterion variables. Psychological Assessment, 35(10), 868-879. doi: 10.1037/pas0001273
Kremyar, A. J., Ben-Porath, Y. S., Sellbom, M., & Gervais, R. O. (2023). Assessing posttraumatic stress disorder symptom clusters with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-3 in a forensic disability sample. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 79, 2798-2822. doi: 10.1002/jclp.23581