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PSYC 1F90: Introduction to Psychology
Lecture 5 – Personality
Monday, February 1st, 2016 – Monday, February 22nd, 2016
What Do We Mean By Personality?
Personality focuses on relative consistency over time and situations
Why Do We Even Have Personalities?
Biological factors (including genetic processes)
Learning and life experience (our experiences teach us)
Early experiences (including in utero)
Subjective experience/evaluation (how we view, understand, and think about what happens to us)
** Theories use one or several of these four concepts to explain why we have personalities **
Specific Goals of Personality Theories
Describing people (through characteristics)
Predicting, changing, and controlling people
Which personality theory is the best?
It is all a matter of assumptions
Why theories? Why not just “facts”?
There are not really any “facts”
“Facts” may be there, but we do not have direct access to them
Facts do not interpret themselves
We all interpret the “facts” differently; can cause conflict between people’s
Theories help us interpret facts (we are guided by theories)
Certain questions cannot be answered with “facts”
Example: questions of value
What do theories “do” for us? Why do we have theories in science and daily life?
Bring order to chaos
By reducing information
By telling us what is important and what is irrelevant
Help us generalize our knowledge to similar situations and to predict future events
Help us refine our knowledge through testing predictions
The two components of theories:
The foundation of a theory begins with premises/assumptions (not testable)
Elements that build on the assumptions (testable)
The Evaluation of Theories
How do we evaluate theories?
Consider the assumptions of a theory
Consider a theory on more than just accounting for evidence: internal logic, falsifiability,
There is no universally agreed upon approach
Commonly accepted ideas or approaches include:
Identify and critically consider premises/assumptions
Evaluate internal logic
Does it account for data (which includes personal experience)?
Is it theoretically “falsifiable”? (Is it testable?)
Is it more parsimonious than competing theories?
Is it useful?
** Note: What is not on the list? – The question “Is it true?” **
Personality Theory – Trait Theories
An emphasis on biological factors
Essentially looking for a handful of traits that best describe people
Tend to assume that these traits arise from biological dispositions
Big Five (OCEAN)
Openness to experience
High score like novelty, take risks, like new experiences, interested in ideas, etc.
Low score conservative, do things by the book, play it safe, etc.
High score industrious, organized, punctual, etc.
Low score not industrious, unorganized, not punctual, etc.
High score talkative, assertive, enthusiastic, enjoy interactions with many people, etc.
Low score quiet, enjoy time alone, prefer interactions with only 2 – 3 people, etc.
High score agreeable, friendly, warm, gets along with others easily, etc.
Low score disagreeable, doesn’t get along with others easily, no cooperation, etc.
Neuroticism (or Emotional Stability)
High score emotional, gets upset easily, self-conscious, vulnerable, etc.
Low score emotionally stable; easy going, self-confident, secure, etc.
HEXACO Model (Ashton & Lee)
Which theory is better?
The 6 traits theory (HEXACO) is better than the 5 traits theory (OCEAN) because it shows
evidence from an evolutionary perspective
Evolutionary theory and Personality traits
How does evolution work?
Assumption about the word evolution: things getting better, improving, and developing
Observations (not disputed)
Organisms change spontaneously (do not change purposely)
Many of the changes are neutral
Some of the changes make it less likely for the organism to survive/reproduce,
and other changes make it more likely for the organism to survive/reproduce
Why isn’t everyone the same?
Depending on the context, personality traits will be either useful or not useful
Why these traits and not others?
Three “social bonding” traits
Those high in honesty-humility facilitate social bonding because of their
high degree of trustworthiness
Cost: may facilitate TOO MUCH social bonding
Those high in agreeableness facilitate social bonding because they are
patient, forgiving, and cooperative
Cost: may cause people in social bonds to be taken advantage of
Those high in emotionality facilitate social bonding because they are
dependable, sentimental, and fearful (thus, sensitive to danger and the
safety of others)
Cost: may miss out on things that require risk
Three “engagement in endeavors/task” traits
Those high in extraversion excel in social endeavors
Those high in conscientiousness excel in task oriented endeavors
Cost: not very spontaneous
Openness to experience
Those high in openness excel in idea-related endeavors
Utility of trait theories:
Not useful in helping people change
Useful in businesses
Personality Theory – Behavioural and Social Learning Theories
An emphasis on learning history and current circumstances
Interested in controlling, changing, and predicting
A sampling of basic principles:
Increases behaviour by providing a reinforcement (some stimulus that is positive)
Increase in behaviour because you witness that someone else’s behaviour is
Remove/Decrease behaviour by removing reinforcement
You must have full control over the reinforcement
You have to remove ALL of the reinforcement
Remove/Decrease behaviour by providing a reinforcement (some stimulus that is
Stimuli that inform you about whether or not you will be reinforced for a specific
Utility of these theories: