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
• 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 and
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 Identit encompasses our own sense of who we are including our self
concept, selfesteem, 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 selfesteem. Though selfreflection 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: SelfDetermination 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
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
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
• 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 corelation, 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 positively
If one variable increases as the other one decreases or vice versa, decreasing
as the other one increases, then the two variables are negatively correlated.
• Correlations are considered high, medium, or low depending on how big they are.
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 similar.
• 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 this variable:
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