PSYC 3530 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Gordon Allport, Lexical Hypothesis, Mother Teresa

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Personality is the basis of various psychologies, many ways of defining what personality is
Characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling and behaviour that distinguish one individual from another
One of the key concepts of personality theories, and oldest concepts is the idea of a trait, most widely
researched and theorized
Two definitions of trait, in one sense it is an attribute that describes a person or anything, another way in
which researches use the word which is more subtle, refers to the dimension or continuum relating to
the extent to which you have a particular attribute (intelligent, people can be described either more or
less intelligent)
Dimension that describes and dimensionalizes that trait
Field of personality was found in 1937, publication of the first text book on personality b y Gordon
Allport, founder and father of the fiend
He had a very specific definition of personality, represents the dynamic organization within the individual
of those psychophysical systems that determine his/her unique adjustments to the environment
Five important ideas conveyed in this definition, the first idea is the concept of dynamic organization,
connotation of coherences, all the attributes within a person cohere and hang together, unified whole
The second is with reference to the phrase within the individual, all of our theories are hypothetical, but
Allport believed personality IS real and isn’t just a hypothetical concept, its real in so far that its
substantiated in the brain and neural system (psychophysical systems) it has a biological basis,
physical and chemical processes of the brain
In reference to the word determined, personality causes things, causality, it has explanatory value, when
you ask why someone does something, you can explain it in reference to their personality, what makes
us how we are causes us to do the things we do
The fifth quality is the unique adjustments to the environment, personality helps regulate how we adapt to
the environment, it helps us behave properly, adjustment quality that is part of personality
25 years later he published the first text book and had a revised definition altering the last phrase, the
revision was intended to address that he found a mistake, he came to realize in the subsequent years
that personality is more than reacting and adapting to our environment, but we reflect upon it, were
also capable of growth and show development, so he introduced a broader definition
Allport thought the corner stone, the piece that completes the puzzle is the concept of a trait, most
important personality variable,
a functional equivalence=trait, a trait attribute makes the person look at the world and see different
situations in the same way (e.g to an extrovert, a business conference and a party are both different
events, but to the extrovert its an opportunity to get attention and recognition)
It guides the way we look at situations for what they afford us, even thought the superficial features are
different, for a person, it displays the same opportunities (functionally the same)
Allport had all different notions for traits, many different forms, common traits and individual traits
Some traits that lots of people have=common traits (idea of extroversion, consciousness)
Allport also recognized that some instances that one person has, and no one else has, which are individual
traits or personal dispositions, help render you entirely unique
Allport made another distinction between cardinal, central and secondary traits
Secondary trait for Allport is the most useless of trait ideas, attribute that explains very specific areas of a
persons functioning, e.g. punctuality, being punctual describes a very limited scope of limitations
Central traits are attributes that explain significant areas of functioning, e.g. consciousness, how you go
about your daily life in work, level of responsibility, how you behave in a range of situations, approx.
5-10 central traits
Allport also reserved the right to say that some traits are so consuming, that virtually every aspect of the
persons behaviour that every aspect of a persons behaviour can be attributed to it, called cardinal trait,
so encompassing explains everything a person does, most of us don’t have cardinal traits, but when we
look through history, we can see who did, Mother Teresa and her compassion, everything she did can
be related to her compassion for the world and to help
How are we going to develop taxonomy, and way of talking about trait differences, idea Allport had was to
look at the natural language, ways in which everyday people talk about other people, how were alike
and how were different known as the lexical hypothesis, those trait differences that are most socially
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