PSYA02 - Chapter 12.docx

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10 Feb 2013
Chapter 12 Personality
- PERSONALITY => is an individual’s characteristic style of behaving, thinking and
- 4 main approaches to understanding personality:
- trait biological
- Psychodynamic
- humanistic-existential
- social cognitive
Personality: What It Is and How It Is Measured
Defining and Explaining Personality
- most personality psychologists focus on specific, psychologically meaningful
individual differences characteristics such as honesty or moodiness
- personality is often in the eye of the beholder
- studies that ask acquaintances to describe each other find a high degree of
similarity among any one individual’s descriptions of many different people
- in contrast, resemblance is quite low when people describe one person
- explanations of personality differences are concerned w/
=> PRIOR EVENTS that can shape an individual’s personality
=> ANTICIPATED EVENTS that might motivate the person to reveal
particular personality characteristics
- researchers interested in events that happen prior to our behavior delve into our
subconscious and into our circumstances and interpersonal surroundings as well as
studying our biology and brains
- the consideration of ANTICIPATED EVENTS emphasizes the person’s own
perspective and often seems intimate and personal in its reflection of the person’s
inner life hopes, fears and aspirations
- personality psychologists study questions of how our personalities are determined
by the forces in our minds and in our personal history of heredity and environment
and by the choices we make and the goals we seek
Measuring Personality
Personality Inventories
- SELF REPORT => a series of answers to a questionnaire that asks people to
indicate the extent to which sets of statements and adjectives accurately describe
their own behavior or mental state
- the researcher then combines the answers to get a general sense of the individual’s
personality w/ respect to a particular domain
- the usual strategy to create a self report is to collect sets of self descriptive
statements that indicate different degrees of a personality characteristic
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- this kind of personality scale uses multiple answers to a variety of items that are
related in content to gauge the underlying personality characteristic
- good self report scales can also be constructed w/o much attention to the specific
content of the items
- if people in some identifiable group answer ANY self report item differently than
do other people, then the answers on that item can be used to predict membership
in that group
- this ACTUARIAL METHOD can be used to gauge personality even when the self
report items are not clearly related in content to the characteristics being measured
(MMPI-2) => a well researched, clinical questionnaire used to assess personality
and psychological problems
- its 10 main subscales were generated by studying how specific groups of people as
compared to the general population completed the items and then creating the
scales from the items that these groups answered differently
- this measures tendencies toward clinical problems such as depression, anxiety,
paranoia, etc.
- it also includes VALIDITY SCALES that assess a person’s attitudes toward test
taking and any tendency to try to distort the results by faking answers
Projective Techniques
- PROJECTIVE TECHNIQUES => a standard series of ambiguous stimuli designed to
elicit unique responses that reveal inner aspects of an individual’s personality
- developers of projective tests assumed that people will project personality factors
that are out of awareness such as wishes, impulses onto ambiguous stimuli and will
not censor these response
- RORSCHACH INKBLOT TEST => a projective personality tests in which individual
interpretations of the meaning of a set of unstructured inkblots are analyzed to
identify a respondent’s inner feelings and interpret his or her personality structure
- THEMATIC APPERCEPTION TEST (TAT) => a projective personality test in which
respondent reveal underlying motives, concerns, and the way they see the social
world through the stories they make up about ambiguous pictures of people
- different people tell very different stories about the image that is given to them
- the test taker is thought to identify w/ the main characters and to project his or her
view of others and the world onto the other details in the drawing
- these TAT drawings tend to elicit a consistent set of themes, such as successes and
failures, competition and jealousy, conflict w/ parents and siblings, etc.
- critics argue that projective tests are open to subjective interpretation and
theoretic biases of the examiner
- when measured by rigorous scientific criteria, the TAT like the Rorschach and
other tests has NOT been found reliable or valid in predicting behavior
- new personality measurement methods are wireless communication, real time
computer analysis and automated behavior identification
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The Trait Approach: Identifying Patterns of Behavior
- the trait approach to personality uses trait terms to characterize differences
among individuals
- in attempting to create manageable and meaningful sets of descriptors, trait
theorists face 2 significant challenges:
-> narrowing down the almost infinite set of adjectives
-> answering the more basic question of why people have particular traits
Traits as Behavioral Dispositions and Motives
- Gordon Allport believed people could be described in terms of traits just as an
object could be described in terms of its properties
- TRAIT => a relatively stable disposition to behave in a particular and consistent
- there are 2 basic ways in which a trait might serve as an explanation
-> the trait may be a preexisting disposition of the person that causes the
person’s behavior
-> it may be a motivation that guides the person’s behavior
- other personality theorists such as Henry Murray suggested instead that traits
reflect motives
- as a rule, researchers examining traits as causes have used personality inventories
to measure them, whereas those examining traits as motives have more often used
projective tests
- some of the personality traits that have been studied are authoritarianism,
cognitive complexity, defensiveness, hypnotizability, sensation seeking and
The Search of Core Traits
Classification Using Language
- early psychologists proposed that core traits could be discerned by finding the
main themes in all the adjectives used to describe personality
- traits might be related in a hierarchical pattern with more general or abstract
traits at higher levels than more specific or concrete traits
- perhaps the more abstract traits represent the core of personality
- to identify this core, researchers have used the computational procedure called
factor analysis which sorts trait terms or self descriptions into a small number of
underlying dimensions or “factors” based on how people use the traits to rate
- in this type of study, people rate themselves on hundreds of adjectives indicating
how accurately each one describes their personality
- the researcher then calculates the patterns to determine similarities in the rater’s
- factor analysis also reveals which adjectives are not related
- Different factor analysis techniques have yielded different views to personality
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