Peabody Library

Peabody Library

The adult ego state is characterized by logical, practical thinking and reasoning (think of Spock in the original Star Trek series as an extreme adult ego state). The adult analyzes, solves problems and makes decisions using the rules that have been imprinted, information pulled from the environment, along with feedback from the parent and child ego states. Berne held that the adult was “principally concerned with transforming stimuli into pieces of information, and processing and filing that information on the basis of previous experience.[1]” The adult ego state has been likened to a tape recorder that is switched to record at ten months and then the recorder is switched off at 12 years old. The recordings (i.e. memories) then are used over and over to interpret and make decisions.  Maybe a better analogy would be that of an operating system that is past its final update, only the data changes. The adult ego state can stand in the way of change, if the change challenges the perception of balance, satisfaction or decision process in the adult ego state’s programming.

One of the key functions of the adult ego state is to validate data and actions from the other ego states and pass judgment. For example, Joe programmer overhears that Sid the programmer decided not to unit test the code he committed today and broke the daily build. Therefore, he has to miss the team outing.  Joe realizes that his training that developers should always unit test is true.

When Joe compares the new experience, the material overheard, to what he was taught he is using his adult ego state.  The material he was taught in technical school is used in the parent ego state (well most of it).

The adult ego state provides the same interaction and intermediation with the child ego state.

Another key function of the adult ego state is to interpret and react to adult-to-adult transactions.  Transactions from your adult to someone else adult are the simplest transactions.  They are essentially binary logic decisions based on the rules the adult ego state has recorded and the data at hand.  It breaks down when the two adults have different set of rules from which to make decisions.  The differences are a reflection of your culture. On a positive note, given the motivations of the adult ego state (balance, satisfaction and learning), adult-to-adult transactions are not generally acrimonious, even when they don’t end in agreement. The adult ego state seeks balance.

The adult ego state provides the rational decision-making process and acts as the logical control for the child and parent states.  Our adult ego state was formed before most of us enter the work place.  When pursuing organizational change or forming an Agile team it is important to understand the adult ego states of all those involved.  Understanding of how you audience will make decisions will help you to communicate effectively and get the decision you want.

[1] Berne, Eric. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy. Grove Press, Inc., New York, 1961. Page 15.