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PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Abnormal Psychology, Behavioural Genetics, Trait Theory

Course Code
Connie Boudens

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PSYB30 Lecture 1 - Jan. 9th, 2013
Common ways of thinking about personality
"good" personality
global quality
often contrasted with attractiveness
energy or liveliness
person has "personality" or "a lot of personality"
fun, nice, easy to get along with
Types of people
People all have these working theories about the types of people that there are.
The scientific study of personality
We don't think of personality as a global quality but numerous components. The first one with
the Google picture was more complex. The second one with the cat was more nuanced. The
second hasn't really done empirical research to determine whether there are only two types of
people in the world. The third one, the pig personality test has no empirical evidence to back up
the claim. But the reason for the test is that there are well validated tests out there that
measure similar types of data. This kind can be better validated empirically and you can actually
count on them to assess accurate areas of personality.
Personality defined
an organized and relatively enduring set of psychological traits and mechanisms that influences
a person's interactions with, and adaptations to the environment.
1) organized
You have mechanisms that work in relationship to each other and are organized in some way
that allows them to work together as one unit.
2) Relatively enduring
a person is going to exhibit these qualities and over situations. If the differences changes from
situation to situation then that aspect might not be an aspect of their personality.
3) Trait AND mechanisms
We talk about the ways the person interacts with the environment; within people, these
mechanisms will work in the same way across situations to some degree.
4) Interactions with, adaptations to environment
We consider someone's personality is going to be evident when a person interacts with
something in their environment (that can be a task or a situation) that can go beyond people. If
the environment makes certain demands on them, it will change the decisions that they make.
Main issues of interest
It's more than about what people are like.
What is the basic nature of people?
This might be odd because it addresses things that are common to people. Affiliation or the
need to belong is common to everyone. Personality psychologists wants to understand where it
is rooted in and how that changes when they interact with the environment.
Is human behaviour internally or externally determined?
If you learned about the study by Milgram, that was an example of how situation has a strong
impact on the human's behaviour disregarding whatever personality that person has. How do
internal aspects interact with external aspects (or aspects in the environment) to create certain
types of behaviour?
How consistent is personality?
Under what conditions would someone exhibit behaviours that are consistent with their
personality? Are there particular mechanisms that are invariant of the situation? Under what
particular situation are pervasive personalities changed? They're looking at consistency
overtime as well. Which personalities are likely to change or stay the same?
Can we control internal states and behaviour?
To what extent can we do this? What mechanisms can be affected by our volitional control?
Age? Gender? It's not only about the things we don't have control over. It's also about the things
that we can have some control over and that we can change in some circumstances. It's about
identifying mechanisms that are involved and the conscious processes people have control over
and can change if they want to.
Is present and future behaviour determined by past behaviour?
Everyone likes some stability when dealing with others, i.e. human resources. They use a lot of
personality psychology measures.
How adaptive (positive) are certain aspects of personality?
Things like resilience, courage, etc. How do those things help us adapt to environmental
challenges? Can those things be fostered in people, are there aspects that are innate or ones
that can be taught so that people can be resilient as they grow older?
How do our personalities help us to adjust to the environment?
In what ways do we adapt in order to deal with situations that present themselves?
Areas of interest and research
originally, psychologists sought to understand the whole of personality (see "grand theories of
personality"). E.g. Sigmund Freud. People constructed theories about how people function.
Human development on abnormal psychology. They would use an overarching theory to
elucidate human function. Most of the modern work is usually within one of a number of sub
areas or domains. The textbook uses these building blocks.
Building blocks of personality
1) trait/dispositional
This is when people are casually talking about personality.
a) It's the ways in which individuals differ.
b) They focus on the number and nature of fundamental traits.
c) The goals of work in the area:
i) identify and measure most important ways individuals differ.
ii) origin and development of individual differences
It's how they develop overtime.
iii) interaction between trait and situations
it's important to understand that everyone varies.
2) biological
Concerns the physical elements and biological systems in body that influence or are influenced
by behaviours, thoughts, and feelings
a) behavioural genetics and personality
i) To what extent are particular aspects of personality genetically or environmentally based? E.g.
a lot of people think about intelligence having to do with personality. There's also a strong
interest on what proportion of that is genetic or learned. You want to know once you got the
baby in your arms, what can you do as parents to foster your child better. This has a lot of
impact. The research around this has been expanding at a rapid rate. You can look at
psychological processes as well as disease processes.
b) Psychophysiology of personality
Looks at the influence of physiology and psychology.
i) includes neurological factors
physiological arousal is an example; like an environmental threat. It might have a higher effect
on you than someone else who is more calm. Amygdala; the way that they react to various
stimuli in the environment.
c) Evolutionary personality psychology
It's a very large and growing area.
i) behaviour as evolved adaptations
if something survived based on nature, it must've solved some adaptive problem; either helped
them survive, reproduce, raise their young. Very few people end up living somewhere in the
mountains, they'll be deemed as living outside the norm. EPP try to ID the adaptive problems
that needs help to be solved. You can't actually go back in time to see what problems are solved.
One thing is the potential for finding mates, you need someone to have offsprings with. Gender
differences in preferences for mates are also an aspect. There are people who study the
adaptive significance of particular personality traits and modes of functioning. People are
usually looking at universally functional behaviours. What are the adaptive significances
between people given what personality psychology proposes. Personality psychology deals with
individual differences.
3) Self identity
Deals with aspects of the self and the relationship of self to others. Self specifically refers to how
we conceive ourselves and how we conceptualize ourselves.
a) Self-concept
How people form self-concept, what it's dependent on, what causes changes in self concept,