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PSYC 2740
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CHAPTER 2 Traits and Trait Taxonomiesa traitIs a characteristic describing how people differ or are similarRefers to an average tendencyIs relatively enduringWhat Is a Trait Two Basic FormulationsTRAITS AS INTERNAL CAUSAL PROPERTIESTraits are presumed to be internal and causal in the sense that they explain the behaviour of the individuals who possess themThese traits desiresneeds carry across settings and are presumed to be causaloEx Donna has a desire for material things that causes her to act in a particular waythis desire is internal in the sense that it is carried from one situation to the next and explains her behaviour in these situationsie Donnas desire for material things might cause her to spend a lot of time at the mall work extra hard to make more money and acquire many household possessionsher internal desire influences her external behaviour causing her to act in certain waysPsychologists who view traits as internal dispositions do not equate traits with the external behaviour in questionoEx Harry may have a strong desire for burgers and fries but since he is trying to lose weight he refrains from expressing his desire in behavioural terms we can measure his desire for burgers independently of measuring his actual behavioural expressionsPsychologists who view traits as internal dispositions believe that traits can lie dormant in the sense that the capacities remain present even when particular behaviours are not expressed oIn other words traits in the sense of internal needs drives desires etc are presumed to exist even the in absence of observable expressionsViewing traits as causes of behaviour helps in ruling out other causesoEx when we say Joan goes to a lot of parties because she is extraverted we are implicitly ruling out any other potential causes for her behaviour ex she goes to a lot of parties because her boyfriend drags her there rather than because she herself is extravertedTRAITS AS PURELY DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARIESTraits are defined simply as descriptive summaries of attributes of a personthey make no assumptions about internality or causalityoEx consider we are ascribing the trait of jealousy to a guy named GeorgeGeorge might glare at other men when they talk to his girlfriend make her wear his ring and make her spend all her free time with him CHAPTER 2 Traits and Trait TaxonomiesThe trait of jealousy in this case accurately summarizes the general trend in Georges expressed behaviour yet no assumptions are made about what causes his behaviour ex his jealousy could stem from an internal cause such as feelings of insecurity or from a situational cause men flirting with his girlfriendThe important point is that those who view traits as descriptive summaries do not prejudge the cause of someones behaviourthey merely use traits to describesummarize the trend in a persons behaviourPsychologists who view traits as descriptive summaries argue that we must first identify and describe the important individual differences among people and then subsequently develop causal theories to explain themThe Act Frequency Formulation of TraitsAn Illustration of the Descriptive Summary FormulationMany psychologists who endorse the descriptive summary formulation of traits have explored the implications of this formulation in a program of research called the act frequency approachThe act frequency approach starts with the notion that traits are categories of actsoEx just as the category birds has specific bird species as members of the category eg robin sparrow trait categories such as dominance have specific acts as members eg he issued orders that got the group organized he assigned roles and got the game going she decided which programs they would watch on TV dominance is a trait category with hundreds of acts as members a dominant person according to the act frequency approach is someone who performs a large number of dominant acts relative to other personsIn the act frequency formulation a trait is a descriptive summary of the general trend in a persons behaviour a trend that consists of performing a large number of acts within a category relative to another personACT FREQUENCY RESEARCH PROGRAMThe act frequency approach to traits involves 3 key elements act nomination prototypicality judgement and the recording of act performance1Act NominationoAct nomination is a procedure designed to identify which acts belong in which trait categoriesoEx if we were to nominate acts to the category impulsive we may generate a list containing acts such as he decided to go out with friends on a whim even though he had to study or He blurted out in anger before he had time to reflect on the situationoThrough act nomination researchers can identify hundreds of acts belonging to various trait categories
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