- Trait descriptive adjectives: words that describe traits, attributes of a person that are reasonably
characteristic of the individual and perhaps even enduring over time.
- Personality: the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual that are
organized and relatively enduring that influence his or her interactions with, and adaptations to,
the environment (including the intrapsychic, physical, and social environment).
- Psychological traits: characteristics that describe ways in which people are unique or different
from or similar to each other. Psychological traits include all sorts of aspects of persons that are
psychologically meaningful are stable and consistent aspects of personality.
- Average tendencies: tendency to display a certain psychological trait with regularity. For
example, on average, a high-talkative person will start more conversations that a lower-talkative
person. This idea explains why the principle of aggregation works when measuring personality.
- Psychological mechanisms: similar to traits, except that mechanisms refer more to the processes
of personality. For example, most personality mechanisms involve some information processing
activity. A psychological mechanism may make people more sensitive to certain kinds of
information from the environment (input), may make them more likely to think about specific
options (decision rules), or may guide their behavior toward certain categories of action
- Within the individual: the important sources of personality reside within the individual- that is,
people carry the sources of their personality inside themselves – and hence are stable over time
and consistent over situations.
- Organized and enduring: “Organized” means that the psychological traits and mechanisms for a
given person are not simply a random collection of elements. Rather, personality is coherent
because the mechanisms and traits are linked to one another in an organized fashion.
“Enduring” means that the psychological traits are generally consistent over time, particularly in
adulthood, and over situations.
- influential forces: personality traits and mechanisms are influential forces in people’s lives in
that they influence our actions, how we view ourselves, how we think about the world, how we
interact with others, how we feel, our selection of environments (particularly our social
environment), what goals and desires we pursue in life, and how we react to our circumstances.
Other influential forces include sociological and economic influences, as well as physical and
- person-environment interaction: a person’s interactions with situations include perceptions,
selections, evocations, and manipulations. Perceptions refer to how we “see” or interpret an
environment. Selection describes the manner in which we choose situations such as our friends,
our hobbies, our college classes, and our careers. Evocations refer to the reactions we produce
in others, often quite unintentionally. Manipulations refer to the ways in which we attempt to
influence others. - Adaptations: inherited solutions to survival and reproductive problems posed by the hostile
forces of nature. Adaptations are the primary product of the selective process. An adaptation is
a “reliably developing structure in the organism, which, because it meshses with the recurrent
structure of the world, causes the solution to an adaptive problem”
- Environment: environments can be physical, social and intrapsychic (within the mind). Which
aspect of the environment is important at any moment in time is frequently determined by the
personality of the person in that environment.
- Human nature: the traits and mechanisms of personality that are typical of our species and are
possessed by everyone or nearly everyone.
- Individual differences: every individual has personal and unique qualities that make him or her
different from others. The study of all the ways in which individuals can differ from others, the
number origin, and meaning of such differences, is the study of individual differences.
- Differences between groups (group differences): people in one group may have certain
personality features in common, and these common features make them different from other
groups. Examples of groups studied by personality psychologists include different cultures,
different age groups, different political parties, and people from different socioeconomic
backgrounds. The most common group difference studied by personality psychologists concerns
differences between men and women. For example in the realm of physical development,
females go through puberty on average two years earlier than males. At the other end of life,
men in the US tend to die seven years earlier than women. These are sex differences in
- Nomothetic: the study of general characters of people as they are distributed in the population,
typically involving statistical comparisons between individuals or groups.
- Idiographic: the study of single individuals, with an effort to observe general principles as they
are manifest in a single life over time.
- Domain of knowledge: a specialty area of science and scholarship, where psychologists have
focused on learning about some specific and limited aspect of human nature, often with
preferred tools of investigation.
- Dispositional domain: deals centrally with the ways in which individuals differ from one another.
As such, the dispositional domain connects with all the other domains. In the dispositional
domain, psychologists are primarily interested in the number and nature of fundamental
dispositions, taxonomies of traits, measurement issues, and questions of stability over time and
consistency over situations.
- Biological domain: The core assumption of biological approaches to personality is that humans
are, first and foremost, collections of biological systems, and these systems provide the building
blocks (e.g. brain, nervous system) for behavior, thought and emotion. Biological approaches
typically refers to three areas of research within this general domain: the genetics of
personality, the psychophysiology of personality, and the evolution of personality.
- Intrapsychic domain: this domain deals with mental mechanisms of personality, many of which
operate outside the realm of conscious awareness. The predominant theory in this domain is
Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. This theory begins with fundamental assumptions about the
instinctual system –the sexual and aggressive forces that are presumed to drive and energize much of human activity. The intrapsychic domain also includes defense mechanisms such as
repression, denial and projection.
- Cognitive-experimental domain: this domain focuses on cognition and subjective experience,
such as conscious thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires about oneself and others. Tis domain
includes our feelings of self, identity, self-esteem, our goals, and plans and our emotions.
- Social and cultural domain: personality affects, and is affect by, the social and cultural context in
which it is found. Different cultures may bring out different facets of our personalities in
manifest behavior. The capacities we display may depend to a large extent on what is
acceptable in and encouraged by our culture. At the level of individual differences within
cultures, personality plays itself out in the social sphere. One important social sphere concerns
relations between men and women.
- Adjustment domain: personality plays a key role in how we cope, adapt and adjust to the ebb
and flow of events in our day-to day lives. In addition to health consequences of adjusting to
stress, certain personality features are related to poor social or emotional adjustment and have
been designated as personality disorders.
- Good theory: a theory that serves as a useful guide for researchers, organizes known facts, and
makes predictions about future observations.
- Theories and beliefs: beliefs are often personally usefully and crucially important to some
people, but they are based on leaps of faith, not on reliable facts and systematic observations.
Theories, on the other hand are based on systematic observations that can be repeated by
others that yield similar conclusions.
- Scientific standards for evaluating personality theories:
- Comprehensiveness: one of five scientific standards used in evaluating personality theories.
Theories that explain more empirical data within a domain are generally superior to those that
explain fewer findings.
- Heuristic value: an evaluative scientific standard for assessing personality theories. Theories that
steer scientists to important new discoveries about personality are superior to those that fail to
provide this guidance.
- Testability : the capacity to render precise predictions that scientists can test empirically.
Generally, the testability of a theory is dependent upon the precision of its predictions. If it is
impossible to test a theory empirically, the theory is generally discarded.
- Parsimony: the fewer premises and assumptions a theory contains, the greater its parsimony.
This does not mean that simple theories are always better than complex ones. Due to the
complexity of the human personality, a complex theory that is, one containing many premises –
may ultimately be necessary for adequate personality theories.
- Compatibility and integration across domains and levels: a theory that takes into account the
principles and laws of other scientific domains that may affect the study’s main subject. For
example, the theory of biology that violated known principles of chemistry would be judged
Chapter 2 - Self-report data (S-data): information a person verbally revels about themselves, often based on
questionnaire or interview. Self-report data can be obtained through a variety of means,
including interviews that pose questions to a person, periodic reports by a person to record the
events as they happen, and questionnaires of various sorts.
- Structured and unstructured: self-report can take a variety of forms, ranging from open-ended
questions to forced-choice true or false questions. Sometimes these are referred to as
unstructured (open-ended, such as “tell me about the parties you like the most”) and structured
(“I like loud and crowded parties”; answer true or false) personality tests.
- Likert rating scale: a common rating scale that provides numbers that are attached to
descriptive phrases, such as 0=disagree strongly, 1=disagree slightly, 2=neither agree nor
disagree, 3= agree slightly, 4=strongly agree
- Experience sampling: people answer some questions, for example, about their mood or physical
symptoms, every day for several weeks or longer. People are usually contacted electronically
(“beeped”) one or more times a day at random intervals to complete the measures. Although
experience sampling uses self-report as the data source, it differs form more traditional self-
report methods in being able to detect patterns of behavior over time.
- Observer-report data (o-data): the impressions and evaluations others make of a person whom
they have come into contact with. For every individual, there are dozens of observers who form
such impressions. Observer- report methods capitalize on these sources and provide tools for
gathering information about a person’s personality. Observers may have access to information
not attainable through other sources, and multiple observers can be used to assess each
individual. Typically, a more valid and reliable assessment of personality can be achieved when
multiple observers are used