PSYC 2600 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Parachuting, Jon D. Levenson, Phineas Gage

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19 Jan 2018

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Intro to Personality January 9, 2018
Personality personality is the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within
the individual that are organized and relatively enduring and that influence his or
her interactions with, and adaptations to the intrapsychic, physical, and social
Assumes that personality is pretty stable over time.
We use a lot of non-verbal signals to draw clues about someone’s personality.
This happens a lot in clinical psychology
Personality is an inner world we cannot directly experience
Traits and mechanisms are organized coherently not a random collection of
thoughts, feelings, and urges
Traits are relatively enduring over time. States are transient experiences.
Over a short period of time, a decade of example, you do not see much
difference in personality of an individual. However, overtime it is evident some
personality traits change over the lifetime.
Personality impacts how we think, feel, and act/interact
Perceptions or interpretations of the environment (if you have anxiety, a
large room with people talking and will see that environment as terrifying)
Selection of the situations we enter (friendships, hobbies, classes, skydiving)
Personality serves an adaptive function accomplish goals, cope, adjust,
respond to challenges. Behaviour is goal directed, functional and purposeful
Even behaviours that don’t appear functional may be functional. For
example, chronic worry (neurotic behaviour) elicit social support
Understanding a person’s environment is also important in understanding a
person’s personality
Personality interacts with our environments, which in turn interacts with us:
physical environment, social environment and intrapsychic environment
(thoughts, emotions, memories)
Each environment contributes to our reality
Three Levels of Personality in some ways, every human being is …
1. Like all others human nature level analysis (fear, goal of survival, greed)
2. Like some others group (and hence individual) differences level of analysis
3. Like no other individual uniqueness level of analysis (the most interesting
man in the world)
That Are Organized
Organization implies that we are talking about a theory
A theory organizes research findings tell a coherent story
Theories can be used to make predictions
Theories provide a guide for researchers (directing future research)
o The most popular theory in personality is the Big Five Factor Theory
Theories Vs. Beliefs
Beliefs are not necessarily based on facts this does not mean that they are
untrue, but we cannot assume the truth of a belief until it is supported with
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A good theory…
o Is comprehensive
o Provides a guide for future research
o Is testable
o Avoids assumptions
o Is compatible with other areas of knowledge
A Fissure in the Field
There is a gap between
o Grand theories of personality (human nature level of analysis)
o Contemporary research in personality (individual and group
differences level of analysis)
The Elephant Metaphor many people looking at different parts of the elephant.
Everyone is trying to answer the question what is this. However, none of them get the
whole picture because they are just looking at a piece of the whole picture. This relates
to the study of personality because there are some people only researching gender
differences and this is only part of the big picture. In order to understand, we need to
study the entire picture
Bridging the Fissure
Domains of knowledge
o Dispositional domain (trait, descriptors)
Goals: identify and measure the most important ways in which
individuals differ from one another
Origin of individual differences and how these develop and
change over time
o Biological domain
Core assumption humans are collections of biological
systems. Building blocks for behaviours, thoughts, and
Behavioural genetics of personality (twin studies, selective
o Intrapsychic domain
Deals with mental mechanisms of personality (conscious,
Classic and modern versions of Freud’s theory of
psychoanalysis, including work on defense mechanisms
o Cognitive-experiential domain
Cognitions - conscious thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires
about oneself and others
How we perceive, interpret and experience the world
o Social and cultural domain
Assumption that personality affects, and is affected by, cultural
and social contexts
We will cover topics like: personality traits in dating, mating
and separating; sex differences in personality; social influence
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