PSYC 3530 Lecture Notes - Gordon Allport

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Knowing a little more about the history of the concept will allow you to see it today a little different
For the longest time, the writings of Gordon Allport, there was a strong intuition that traits exist, there
were broad pervasive consistencies in the behaviour of people that we all have, naturally
The fact that behaviours are consistent are seen when measuring behaviours of different situations and
correlate the two measures and presumable if people are consistent with their behaviour, they will have
high correlate=cross situated consistent, indication of high correlation between different situations
Throughout 40s 50s and 60s, many studies done on cross situations, Walter Michelle decided to look at the
literature and wrote a book about it “personality assessments” which he observed that when you
observe ones behaviour in one situation, and correlate it with behaviour in another situation what you
get a re really low and disappointed correlated, never gets above .3, Michelle called this the personality
coefficient ceiling, never get above .3
Inspite of the fact that people have outstanding intuition that traits exist, Michelle said that people have no
consistency of the way they act in different situations and they do not correlate in any magnitude, and
he argued on that basis, given the literature he collected, and even took it a step further saying
personality doesn’t exist, no stable reliable regularities in behaviour, behaviour is determined by the
situation, not by the characteristics of an individual
Traits are no utility, you must know situational variables, e.g. if one was going to predict if you were going
to say anything in the next 60 seconds, its more important to know if your at a part or a lecture theatre
rather which is much more relevant than if you are introverted or extroverted
This book produced a ‘paradigm crisis’ people stopped wanting to be psychologist scientists, because this
book proved there was nothing to study, the field was killed in 1968, and it took a long time for the few
remaining psychologists to prove Michelle wrong, and it took about a decade, late 1970s
Probably the most important problem for the reply is the most boring, had the most bland reply, but is
critical, a psychologist named Cy Epstein observed that if you measure behaviour in a single
estimation, your punctuality to one class, one party, what you have is crap, any single measure of
behaviour in a single situation is loaded with error variance, very likely not reliable, with all of the
studies Michelle studied, was a crappy measure of behaviour in two different situations, so if you try to
correlate the two crappy measures, you get crap, no wonder that when you measure consistency you
get garbage
What we need are new studies where behaviour is reliably measured if your going to demonstrate validity
Ina series of studies, Epstein took measurements of peoples behaviours not only once but many (not
punctuality of one class, but 10 classes) and averages it together=aggregating
Maybe on any one particular class you’re a little bit earlier or later, but when averaging you get a good
indicator, all those little errors embedded in each individual score is cancelled out and you get a much
more reliable measure
Epstein showed in a large series of studies that when you average peoples behaviours, you get cross
situational consistency that averages above the .3 ceiling, far more impressive consistencies
This was the beginning, evidence that people are consistent across situations but you need to look at them
in many situations, standing view in the 1980s
Another view that tried to recognize the fact that when you look at the people in situation to some extent
they stay the some, but to some extent they also tend to change, consistency isn’t perfect, some degree,
but not perfect and people want to account for that
To some extent behaviour is a function of the person and their traits, but to some extent it’s a function of
the situation and the parameter
Person and situation combine, how does the person interact with the situation to produce behaviour
In the 1980s there was an emerging rise of the interactionists, but there was no good theory of
interactionists, until Michelle did, who made a very good return and published a paper and theory
called the Cognitive Affective Processing System (CAPS)
This theory about how a person uniquely interprets situations and in response to those situations, behaves
Broadest outline is that each of us when we hit a situation, what were doing is picking up on the
psychological features of the situation, which vary from one situation to the next, e.g. number of
people in the room, leisure setting or work setting, and people are encoding these features into our
processing system and then they literally get processed and get interpreted with inner variables based
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