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Lecture

PSYC 332 - Intro to Personality


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 332
Professor
Richard Koestner

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Personality
Lecture 13: Feb 4 2011
Resolving the Debate About Cross-situational Consistency of Behaviour
Question of the day:
What does it mean when someone behaves differently on a given trait dimension
across different situations?
oWhat does it mean if a friendly person is in a party situation but not when
they meet a new person? How can we explain inconsistencies
Chameleon Story
Map of upstate NY
oIn 8th grade never-never occupation was a play boy which was highly
predictive, finally had a GF at age 23, dated for 3 weeks, worked together
in Rochester and they worked together
oSuggested they go away to New York, he had never been on a romantic
getaway
oFriday afternoon go from Rochester to Ithica – half way there right outside
of Geneva NY she says pull over, and she goes on and says I don’t know
who you are
oShe had over heard him talk to the bus driver about sports, she couldn’t
believe how she was acting with the bus driver, he was loud and
opinionated and acted stupid she thought before he was well educated,
articulate, she was taken back by this of how she could be so different?
oExample brings up a fundamental struggle we sometimes have when we
think we know someone yet we see them behaving inconsistently
oQuestion of how to make sense of inconsistency – large question in
personality
How consistent are people in their behaviour across situations?
Mischel – not useful to think about personality traits as something that’s predictive of
how we behave in various situations, point to early well done studies where they
rigorously observed ppl’s behaviour in many situations
wanted to see how consistent ppl are from one situation to a next
study of moral behaviour – how much kids would cheat, lie etc, correlation was only .
15 (not very strong)
Dudycha (1936) Study of punctuality (gathered 50 data points of how late ppl
were at attending things they were supposed to be on time for)
o8 Am classes
oAppointments
oExtracurricular activities
oVesper services
oEntertainments
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Mean r = .19
Walter Mischel (1968):
Took these studies and show that there is no consistency in our trait behaviour from
one situation to the next, behavior is largely controlled by factors in the situations (cues,
reinforcement contingencies)
Correlation btwn behaviour in any given situation and score on extraversion would
never be above .30
Personality traits are myths, personality researchers were very angry, took a few years
before they found ways to respond
“It is impossible to demonstrate generalized consistencies in behavior and the
concept of personality traits as broad dispositions is thus untenable.”
Darryl Bem (1974) frames the issue
First response – important and influential personality researcher
Frames the question in terms of being…
empirical literature vs, our own experience where we always think about ppl in terms
of their traits
There is a discrepancy between our intuitions, which tell us that people do in fact
display pervasive cross-situational consistencies in their behavior, and the vast
empirical literature, which tells us that they do not.”
Reasons to doubt our intuition about stability:
4 reasons why we might be mistaken in our intuitions of stability
(1) Evidence of implicit personality theories;
oWe develop naive theories about how traits go together, we fill in missing
info with our theories
oWe form first impressions of ppl – first impressions will influence how we
interpret their behavior later
oE.g. First girlfriend – met at work conference, had an impression of prof as
well educated articulate, thoughtful etc bc she had that first impression she
probably inferred other things about him
oE.g. Prof always thought shy people are really nice people. In September,
his daughter had a friend who moved away and she made a new friend
who was a very shy girl, it turned out she transferred from another school
and he has a colleague at that school and she said you realize not every
shy person is nice, and she warned him that even though the girl is very
shy she is actually very mean
(2) Evidence of attributional bias;
oas observers we are biased to focused on dispositions and traits
owhen explain other ppls behaviour we explain it in terms of them leading
them to behave in a certain way
owhen we are the actor and in terms of why we do things we are more
aware of the situation and not as aware of the dispositions
oBem – we over generalize this bias and we think that person is friendly so
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