Chapter 1: Who Am I? Understanding the building blocks of personality
Two early personality psychologists mused that there are aspects of
personality that are universal to all people, that are shared by similar people,
and that are completely unique to single individuals.
Some of the aspects everyone shares involves such things as having a brain,
and a nervous system. Another human universal is the desire for
actualization, which involves being who we are meant to be, and developing
and expressing out individual identity.
At the basic level some of these aspects we share involve being extroverted
(outgoing people, who love to meet and interact with new people) or
introverted (those who like to keep to themselves)
Personality psychologist attempt to study both the ways people are similar
and the ways people are different from each other.
What is Personality Psychology?
Personality Psychology: Is the scientific study of what makes us who we are.
Personality is more than the sum of its part, meaning that the different
individual elements that make up the human personality, come together to
create a whole person in a way that is not reducible to its parts.
The Building Blocks of Personality:
To understand human personality we need to understand the following (In
the list social and environmental forces are missing, nevertheless such
factors which include culture, society, and socialization by parents or peers
impacts human personality at all levels):
1) Traits: A person’s typical way of thinking, feeling and acting, in various
situations, at different times.
2) Genetics: is the study of how genes and the environment affect personality
3) Neuroscience: the study of how our brain and nervous system affect
personality and behavior through the study of bodily responses, brain
structures, brain activity, and biochemical activity.
4) Self and Identity: encompasses our own sense of who we are including our
self-concept, self-esteem, and social identity. One of the hallmarks of being
human is the ability to reflect on ourselves. We have a sense of who we are:
our self-concept. We have an opinion about that: our self-esteem. Though self- reflection is one of the hallmarks of being human other species such as
dolphins and chimpanzees share this capacity.
5) Intrapsychic Foundations of Personality: With this sense of self, we can look
within ourselves (intra) to our own conscious and unconscious thoughts and
feelings (psychic) that also make up our personality (Intrapsychic)
6) Regulation and Motivation: Self-Determination Theory: Although Freud
believed that people were controlled by unconscious forces; modern theory
of motivation suggests that people, can and do regulate themselves
consciously and unconsciously. The building blocks of regulation and
motivation is concerned with how people adjust their responses to the
environment, both consciously and unconsciously.
7) Cognitive Foundations: describes how people perceive and think about
information regarding themselves and the world. Specifically, there are
individual differences in locus of control, learned helplessness, learned
hopelessness, and optimism-pessimism.
How Do Psychologist Study Personality?
The Scientific Method:
Research rests on the philosophy of empiricism: using direct experience to
draw conclusions about the world.
Psychological research relies on the scientific method, which describes how
to make test observations about the world in order to draw conclusions
while minimizing error or bias.
The scientific method starts with the identification of basic facts about the
world and using this collection of facts to build theories.
Observational Studies and Personality Questionnaires:
Observational Study: involves the observation of what people do, to
understand a certain phenomenon.
Hypothesis: education guess to explain one’s findings.
Personality questionnaires: tests in which people answer questions about
themselves that identify certain aspects of their personality.
Correlational and Experimental Designs:
Correlation coefficient (r): It measures the relationship, or co-relation,
between two variables. Correlations can be positive or negative, depending
on the type of relationship the two variables in question have. - If two variables increase or decrease at the same time, then they are
- If one variable increases as the other one decreases or vice versa,
decreasing as the other one increases, then the two variables are
Correlations are considered high, medium, or low depending on how big they
Negative Correlation Size Positive Correlation
.0 to -. 3 Small .0 to .3
-.3 to -5 Medium .3 to .5
-.5 to -.9 Large .5 to .9
When two variables are related, there are always at least three possible
explanations for the findings.
1) It’s possible that the first variable causes the second
2) It’s possible that the second variable causes the first
3) It’s possible that some third variable causes both of the variables.
Knowing that two variables are similar doesn’t tell us about why they are
Correlational studies: Researchers generally don’t manipulate variables; they
are often used to measure both personality and behavior.
Research Methods Illustrated: A True Experiment
In experiments (a method of placing people in a carefully controlled situation
and measuring their responses) researches decide on the variable they
would like to study and then design at least two conditions which differ in
1) Experimental condition: participants experience one treatment.
2) Controlled condition: participants experience a different treatment or no
treatment at all.
Random Assignment: involves the random assignment to one condition or
another, usually using a coin toss, or other means that would reduce bias.
The variable that researchers manipulated is called the independent variable
because it is independent of participants’ responses.
The variable that researchers measure, the responses of the participants, is
called dependent variable because it depends on partici