Lecture 4: 2013/01/17
Questions of the day:
1) How well can the Big 5 traits describe someone’s personality?
- Not sufficient to describe personality
2) What else do we need to know about a person?
3) Can the Big 5 account for personality disorder?
- Not sufficient
Another Film clip from the office
- Can we describe Michael’s personality here with only the Big 5 traits?
Low in agreeableness and conscientiousness. Pretends to be extraversion
Hard to use dimensions to describe him
Bafoon, jerk, character (odd, predictable, amusing, outside of normal range of
behavior, thoughts, emotions)
Kind of narcissism
- Can we describe Jim’s personality with the Big 5 traits?
Unique behavior (probably angry and frustrated but sang a love song with the
- The big 5 traits does not explain what Jim did. The big 5 traits do not capture
someone who is odd and extreme as Michael
The psychology of a stranger
- The Big 5 traits are indispensable in terms of first impression and initial read on
- There is evidence that in 30 seconds to 1 minute, people can identify your standing on
the Big 5 traits. Ratings they give you correspond to how you rate yourself. You can
do this without talking or hearing them. The Big 5 traits are Apparent and easy to
- However, the fact that you can pick it quickly makes you wonder how deep, and
significant it is.
- McAdams argument Dispositional signature
The Big 5’s strength become weaknesses
- Comparative (linear)
- Non-conditional (stable across situations)
If you ask people to describe themselves by making a list of 10 things that
describe who you are, it is unlikely that more than 1 or 2 things you list will be
traits in the Big 5. It turns out that when people describe themselves, they
describe behavior and emotion in more conditional way.
McAdams note that when people describe themselves, they often put condition
on their traits. These conditional descriptions are more personalized and unique.
Example would be someone is shy in certain situation and assertive in other
situation. This tells you more about someone
“My dominance shows when my competence is threatened”, “I fall apart when
people try to comfort me”, “I talk most when I am anxious”, “I am a shy person
but I love teach big classes”
McAdams states that even though the Big 5 traits are natural, easy to use, they
mostly tell us about strangers. However, when we try to know someone else
better, we are likely to move to personality qualities that are more conditional.
Conditional: It might vary based on your situation or age.
At certain ages, we have certain challenges that we struggle with (For 11, feeling
competence. For 20s, identity and intimacy). There is evidence that we struggle
to work through this stage and in fact if we are having difficulties with psycho
social challenges of young adulthood, we tend to become introverts and neurotic.
However, this are not really capturing your true personality dimension but
capturing how you handling these challenges.
- “Think about someone who you know really well. What is it that you know about him
or her that you don’t know about other people? Is it traits? Probably not?”
- There is other aspect of personality that we want to learn and use in describing others
as we move toward to try to know some better. Try to find out what the uniqueness of
- “It is likely that you know a person well by knowing what the person’s life is like,
what it has been like in the past, and what it may be like in the future. As part of this knowledge you may have access to the person’s desires, needs, wishes, wants, goals,
challenges, values, and the unique way in which the person puts this all together, puts
this together in a narrative pattern to make sense of who he or she is.”
- When you meet someone, you do get to the point where you want to learn about their
life in their story.
The three levels of personality
- Traits (1 level of personality)
- Characteristic adaptation
More particular aspects of personality that describe personal adaptations to
motivational, cognitive, and developmental challenges and tasks
Not well-organized level. Many variables in motivation, cognition, development.
Attachment style (Secure vs Insecure )
Basic motives (3 main motives: achievement, power, and intimacy)
Achievement: a recurrent preference or desire for experiences of doing well
and being successful
Power: desire for experiences of having impact on others
Intimacy: desire for experiences of warm, close, and communicative