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PSYCO333 Lecture Notes - Walter Mischel, Trait Theory, Sept

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Jennifer Passey

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sept 23 2011
People are inconsistent
-behave differently in different situations.
-numerous exceptions to general behaviour.
-older people are more consistent in their personality than younger people.
Walter Mischel(situationist): Person- Situation Debate.
-traits are poor predictors of behaviour
-situation is much better predictor
-personality assessments and intuitions about personality are fundamentally flawed.
No consistent differences between personality; situation is the only predictor.
Predictability: personality traits are useful if they can be used to predict behaviour
personality traits and behaviour correlate at .40(situationist view)
(personality response)
Mischel only focused on a few studies that obtained dissapointing results. (methodological
however, the studies were still able to find correlations
We can do better! - better studies, better research.
-focus on behavioural trends instead of single actions
.40 is not small! - a prediction of behaviour based on a personality trait score is likely to be
accurate 70% of the time.
-can be compared to a relative standard.
Funder and Ozer (1983)
compared prominent examples from social psych of the power ot situations to shape behaviour.
-Festinger and Carlsmith (1959): Cognitive Dissonance; r = -.36
-Darley and Latane (1968): Bystander intervention; r = -.38 and r = -.39
-Milgram (1975): Obedience; r = .42, r = .36
all these correlations are around .40, so although situations are important to predicting
-Situational variable are relevant innspecific situations
-personality traits are better for describing generall behaviour.
-personality remains stable even when behaviour can change.
Quality of info
Strong/weak situations – value of info gathered about a personality can vary from situation to
Stressful situations are good for seeing personality
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