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Lecture 4

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Carleton University
PSYC 2600
Elizabeth Nisbet

Lecture 4 - Ch. 4 is not required reading (I will be covering this material with today’s lecture) Theoretical Issues in Trait Psychology - What does it mean to say someone has high or low levels of a trait? - Does it hold for all times and across all situations? - Can we make accurate predictions based on trait scores? Meaningful Differences Between Individuals - Traits psychology = differential psychology - People differ in amount of trait possessed - Trait psychologists propose that infinite varieties of personalities are created from combinations of a few primary traits - Create a personality based on a combination of different levels of core traits Meaningful Differences… - We can use these to understand and predict behaviour over time and across situations - Atrait might be consistent over time, but manifestation might change substantially Consistency Over Time - How can there be consistency in a trait if it is known to change with age (e.g., impulsivity)? Focus on the rank order differences between people - Rank order: difference between people in a trait • Ex: at the top of aggressiveness trait in your class as a kid, as you grow up, the aggressive trait decreases in everyone, but you’ll still be at the top of everyone, as your rank order, where you stand, doesn’t change ConsistencyAcross Situations… - Originally, assumed cross-situation consistency - Hartshorne and May (1928): Low cross-situation consistency in honesty, helpfulness, self-control • Study: kids acted different at summer camp than they did at school - If situations mainly control how people behave, then the existence or relevance of traits is questionable ConsistencyAcross Situations - Mischel (1968): abandon efforts to explain behavior with traits, and focus on situations - Situationism: If behavior varies across situations, then situational differences (not traits) determine behavior - Debate led to two lasting changes: Focus on Person-Situation Interaction and Practice of Aggregation - Look at how personality and situations interact - Measure behavior in many different situations and take the average Person-Situation Interaction - Two possible explanations for behavior: • Behavior is a function of personality traits B = f (P) • Behavior is a function of situation B = f (S) - Integration: Personality and situation interact to produce behavior - B = f (P* S) - Differences between people make a difference only under certain circumstances Person-Situation Interaction - Situational specificity: Certain situations can provoke behaviour that is out of character for an individual - Strong situation: Situations in which most people react in a similar way (e.g., funerals, weddings) • When situations are weak or ambiguous, personality has its strongest influence (example?........) - Three additional ways in which personality and situation interact to produce behavior - If there’s the right situational conditions, then a person’s trait characteristics will come out • Some situations have ‘expected’behavior, so people may have to stifle their personality  Ex: extraverts having to be quiet in the library Person-Situation Interaction - Selection: Tendency to choose or select situations in which one finds oneself, as a function of personality - We select the situations in which we will spend our time • Need for achievement à time on task or at work • Extraverts à team activities • Introverts à solitary recreation (i.e. jogging) - Personality influences or shifts how we spend our time Person-Situation Interaction - Evocation: Certain personality
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