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Homepage / Personal / What is a 'Situation'?

What is a ‘Situation’?

I hate this about me – I swear – but whenever I hear the word “situation” I think of Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino from Jersey Shore. I only watched like two episodes of that show, it was terrible, but that one orange-faced ‘Situation’ guy is burned into my memory. Also, in case you are an alien, please do not ask me who this fellow is; he is literally not worth the time I just spent to type about him. In fact, I think he’s going to jail for a few months 1. That was where my layperson-mind would have taken things but I digress.

After some consideration, I have come to understand that the term “situation” pertains to the environment or context with which perceived stimuli is either present or absent 2. As elemental factors are modified in the given environment it changes the pure state of an individual at rest which I think of as our resting intent.

We all have a state that, when left uninfluenced, will be what you are; your absolute zero. An environment or situation consists of interactive components which subject the given individual of interest, with resting intent, to illicit responses. Psychology is the study of humans when subjected to situations containing different stimuli 3. As humans respond in varying ways, psychologists try to compare and contrast the differences in order to group together things in understandable ways. Through the analysis of responses to situation(s), psychologists distinguish who is and is not functioning in society.

This is because function, by definition, means that for every given input there is a given output 4. If psychology was endlessly surprised by every response the field of psychology would not be able to sustain itself. Therefore, psychologist’s set up expectations of what is considered normal and deviations of those expected responses are considered dysfunctional 5. All of this specific study and analysis is only possible after first recognizing that there is a situation and then building upon that knowledge.

Asan example of a situation:

A man sits in his living room quietly by himself looking at pictures on the mantel above the fireplace.

It seems simple enoughbut now let’s add some texture or context:

A man was in a loving marriage for over 55 years. Her name was Betty and she was his high school sweetheart. Betty passed away after being struck by a drunk driver while she was getting the mail at the end of the driveway. The funeral has come and gone already. The drunk driver was a wealthy man and the judge just set him free at the trial which ended over an hour ago. It’s still now and a man sits in his living room quietly by himself looking at pictures on the mantel above the fireplace.

I submit that in this example, we have a huge situation on our hands. The absence of stimuli (the wife) creates an individual who is not at his resting intent. Additionally, with the absence of the wife all of the things in the environment/situation generate stimulation for the Widower. Therefore, the absence of familiar patterns can also turn a seemingly benign environment into a tornado of triggers. Therefore, having a clear understanding of the influence(s) and impact of each situation (and how they impact the individual of interest) is of paramount significance to understanding how to properly measure and categorize different outcomes; and this all begins with situation.

Cite this article as: Matthew Mansfield, "What is a ‘Situation’?," in Mansfield, February 12, 2019,
  1. Corinthios, A. (2018, October 5). Jersey Shore Star Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino Sentenced to 8 Months in Prison. Retrieved January 28, 2019, from[]
  2. Psychological Situation. (n.d.) In The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Retrieved from[]
  3. Psychology. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from[]
  4. Monterey Institute for Technology and Education. Identifying Functions. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2019, from[]
  5. Johnson, R. L. (2014, November 13). The Difference Between “Competency” and “Sanity” Can you be competent but insane? Insane but competent? Retrieved January 28, 2019, from[]
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