PSYCH 356-001 Personality Psychology: Lecture # 1 Monday, May 6 , 2013
Introduction to Personality
What is Personality Psychology?
The science of individuality; measuring and explaining patterned individual differences in
behaviour and personal functioning.
o An irony: One of the most interesting generalizations about people is that each individual
o A challenge: How can scientific methods be used to study individuality?
“That the individual is a system of patterned uniqueness is a fact. That science likes universals and not
particulars is also a fact. Yet personality itself is a universal phenomenon though it is only found in
individual forms. Since it is a universal phenomenon science must study it; but it cannot study it
correctly unless it looks into the individuality of the patterning. “ – Gordon Allport, 1937.
How would you describe Barack Obama?
Charismatic, Intelligent, “Too good to be true”, Eloquent, Approachable, Person of Integrity,
o Generation of Traits
Trait dimensions that can be applied to any individual person generally.
“Flatness” or “Superficial”
o “Popularity” is a trait that is relative in context.
Example: Popularity in the context of Democratics vs. Non-popularity in the context
How do we know a Person?
Three levels of analysis (McAdams, 1995)
o Traits- ‘Dispositional traits are those relatively nonconditional, relatively decontextualized
generally linear, and implicitly comparative dimensional personality trait go by such titles
as ‘extraversion,’ ‘dominance,’ and ‘neuroticism.’’
The dominant mode of how psychologists have studied an individual.
General Approach to Study Personality (Appealing Approach)
Of Collection of Traits of An individual (Theoretical Problem)
o Example: High extraversion can be detangled with other elements of
traits in a person.
o Elements interact with one another and change one another
depending on how they relate to one another.
o We can’t actually use traits to predict a person’s role or “what they’ll
do” in a certain situation.
Little correlation in the expression of traits in situations of
o Traits are illusory.
o Characteristic adaptations – “Compared with dispositional traits, personal concerns are
typically couched in motivational, developmental or strategic terms. They speak to what
people want, often during particular periods in their lives or within particular domains of
action, and what life methods people use (Strategies, plans, defenses, and so on) in order
to get what they want or avoid getting what they don’t want over time, in particular
places, and/or with respect to particular roles. What primarily differentiates, then,
personal concerns from dispositional traits is the contextualization of the former within
time, place and/or role”
Example: Trait of Aggressiveness Measured the levels of aggressiveness in different situations.
People are who