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Lecture 6

Week 6

Course Code
Marc A Fournier

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Week 6 Lecture:
Heritability & Continuity
Overview of Week 6 Lectures
-Continuity (& Coherence)
-Heritability (& the Environment)
The Up Series
Overview of Part I
-Continuity of Personality
oDo individual differences in some attribute at a given point in time predict
individual differences in that same attribute at some later point in time? (X1
-Coherence of Personality
oDo individual differences in some attribute at a given point in time predict
individual differences in some other attribute at some later point in time?
(X1 Y2)
Continuity of Personality
-Consistency of individual differences—i.e., relative position or rank orderwithin a
population of individuals over time
-Differential continuity (or rank order continuity) is independent of normative
changes in trait levels
oThe idea that to a certain extent individual differences likely remain the
same overtime; the rank ordering of individuals on some dimensions or
attribute potentially remain the same overtime
oe.g., height, intelligence
-There are other kinds of continuity
oMean level continuity or absolute continuity refers to whether or not there
is change in how of an attribute there is on a given sample overtime
-All of us at a given cohort tend to experience the same age related shifts becoming
increasingly conscientious and agreeable and decreasingly neurotic and open
-Differences in height is very stable, everyone changes in height as they age; there is
absolute change b/c all individuals are growing in spite of the fact that at the same
time there is marked differential continuity b/c the rank ordering of people in a
given cohort remain very similar
-Intelligence is another attribute that shows a substantial differential continuity; if
you are smarter than your peers as a child it is very likely that you will be smarter

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than your peers as an adult; the rank order of us on intelligence remains the same
over time; this is in spite of the fact that everyone is acquiring more and more
information as they age so all of us are getting smarter so there is absolute
discontinuity b/c all of us are acquiring larger knowledge base but at the same there
is substantial differential continuity b/c if youre smarter at one period youre very
likely to be smarter at another period in time
-How early in life can we see personality consistency? And when (if ever) does
personality become set in stone?
o(Freud) by age 5 or 6 everything to know about you is determined at this
He believed that the resolution of the Oedipal and Electra complexes
during the phallic stage of development consolidates the last
component of the personality structure and all meaningful
development of the personality is done
o(James) by age 30
He thought peoples personality continued to experience change until
the age of 30 when things become set like plaster
-Roberts & DelVecchio (2000):
-(Meta-analysis is a statistical procedure that allows us to aggregate across multiple
studies to acquire a more stable estimate of whats going on given that so many
studies have been conducted)
oMeta-analyzed findings from 152 longitudinal studies involving a total of
3,217 consistency coefficients and 50,207 participants
**Consistency increased as a function of age; the older you get the
more stable your personality gets. Holding time interval constant at
6.7 years, consistency coefficients equaled:
.31 in infancy
.43 in middle childhood (5-13 years)
.54 during the college years (20-27 years)
.64 during ones 30s
.74 during ones 50s
The late in life we go the more evidence of stability we see over the
same time interval; substantial evidence of continuity in late life; the
earlier in life we go the more plastic we are b/c there are more
opportunities for us to change
o**Consistency decreased as a function of time interval; the longer the time
between two assessments the more evidence of change you will obtain.
Holding age constant at 20 years, consistency coefficients equaled:
.55 over a 1-year period

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.52 over a 5-year period
.49 over a 10-year period
.41 over a 20-year period
.25 over a 40-year period
The longer the time interval the lower the consistency coefficient is
There is more time for change to occur with a longer interval
-Roberts & DelVecchio (2000)—Conclusion:
oThe differential (or rank order) continuity of traits emerges in childhood and
peaks around the age of 50, but not at a level high enough to conclude that
our traits at some point become set in stone
oPersonality change is easier to obtain in earlier life than later life
Coherence of Personality
-The inferred consistency of some underlying attribute despite observed change in its
behavioral expression
-The investigator must have a theory of how the diversity of behavior observed across
the life course can be said to belong to the same equivalence class
-Berkeley Guidance Study
oA study initiated in 1928 with every third birth in Berkeley, CA (original N =
214 subjects) over a period of one and a half years
oMothers were interviewed when subjects were ages 8-10; life outcomes were
collected when subjects were ages 30 and 40
-Moving Against the World: Life-Course Patterns of Explosive Children
oCaspi, Elder, & Bem (1987): frequency & severity of temper tantrums in late
childhood (8-10 years) predicted:
In men (from middle-class homes) deterioration in SES, erratic
work lives, and divorce
In women marriage to men of lower SES, divorce, and inadequate
-The argument was that even though the surface expression of things change, we can
infer that the underlying attributes have remained the same; the same individuals
that were identified as problematic at one age are identifying themselves as having
problems at a different; the problems are different but its the fact that they were
problematic at age 8 were also problematic at age 38 speaks to an underlying
stability to the antisocial explosive tendencies that seem to be giving rise to both set
of problems at the given ages
Summary of Part I
-There is considerable evidence of trait continuity across the life course
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