James Barber's predictive theory of presidential behavior has evoked varied reactions, which have ranged from praise for its sensitization of readers to the fact that personality affects presidential performance, to criticisms for the emphasis that the theory places on personality, to questions about the validity of the theory. This article addresses itself to the criticisms and the questions.
Concerning the questions, it shows, first, that in analyzing presidents, Barber assumes the validity of “character” – the core construct of the theory. It shows, second, that Barber's earlier research on Connecticut legislators, from which “character” derives, does not empirically establish the construct.
Concerning the criticisms, the article isolates a possible origin of the psychological reductionism evident in Barber's explanations of presidential performance. The article identifies a similar reductionism in Barber's legislative research and attributes this reductionism to a fallacious extra-empirical argument.