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PSYC 2P25 Lecture One

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Michael Ashton

Lecture One September 10 Personality and Individual Differences Common questions: - How can personality be measured? - What are the “basic” personality characteristics? o Are there basic personalities? - How (and how much) does personality change across the lifespan? o At different point in life, do people’s characteristics tend to change with age? - How do hormones and brain chemicals relate to personality? o How do synapses and neurotransmitters affect personality? - How much does heredity influence personality? - What features of your childhood influence your personality in adulthood? - Why did personality differences evolve?  Whereas physically, we are very similar - How does personality affect life outcomes (e.g. Health, happiness, career, law, relationships, etc.)? - What is “intelligence”, and does it matter in real life? - Do you religious and political views depend on your personality? - How does personality relate to sexuality? Studying Personality - Two main approaches to the study of personality o Idiographic approach: try to understand each individual’s complex, unique features  What specifically makes you different from other people?  Used in biographies, fiction  It can help generate ideas to the way a person works  Ex: Bill Clinton had an abusive alcoholic step father, he may have became president to gain love and affection from many other people, that he didn’t receive from his father  But... it’s inefficient  It would take too long to study many people this way in order to see specific patterns  It doesn’t give a way to test ideas theories about personalities o Ex: Many people have problems with their fathers, not many people go on to be the President  Why is it this way for Bill Clinton but not all others?  If he had a good father, would he still be a politician? o Nomothetic approach: try to understand all people in terms of personality variables  By measuring lots of people, and see how personalities are inter-related  This way, you can test ideas about personality in general, not just for one person  Looking at tendencies between types of people and corresponding characteristics  Looking to find what’s true “in general” among people o Using lots of different characteristics- looking for trends Basic Measurement Concepts - To test ideas about personality, we need to measure personalities of many people, then analyze and compare - What types of properties do we want to measure with? o We want these characteristics to show how big the differences are between one another  E.g. The difference between 10 and 15 should mean the same thing as the difference between 25 and 30  If our measurement give meaningful differences between people, then we have “interval” scores  With interval scores, we can calculate means, standard deviation, correlations, etc.  With personality differences, there will rarely be “true” or “absolute” zero scores  Therefore, we can compare scores in terms of ratio o It doesn’t make sense to say that one person is “twice” as organized as this person o When we measure psychological characteristics, we find that many (but not all) of them have a continuous distribution (i.e., not categorical)  There are rarely distinctive types  People most have levels close to the average
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