Feb 14th, LEC 10, Week 6
Continuity speaks to the issue of P development –to what extent does P develop and elaborate itself
over the lifespan? To what extent do the attributes we experience early in life remain the same as we
age from childhood to adulthood and then to later life?
All aspects of P develop over a life course –not simply traits, but goals, our life narratives and so on,
are all in the process of developing.
Continuity means several diff things potentially, depending on the context. We will talk today about
continuity of individual differences. Also called differential continuity or rank order continuity
(which is simply to acknowledge at any given point in time you can rank order people on an attribute,
we can rank order people in terms of how extraverted they are, and it’s interesting to ask whether
that rank order stays the same over time?). We will distinguish continuity from coherence.
Coherence is a related idea but it is distinguishable. By coherence we are acknowledging that what
a trait looks like can change as we age – what it means to be E at age 6 may not be identical to what
E looks like at age 56. Coherence acknowledges that the reference for a given construct changes over
time. The behaviors that served to indicate a particular construct may not be identical at 2 diff time
points. Well then, how can we infer/elucidate the underlying stability of P when it’s behavioral
expression changes? Coherence refers to the idea that there can be an underlying structure to
our P that remains the same even thought the expression to that attribute in our behavior
To say that if something is heritable, it should always be continuous, is wrong. One of the things that
is very important to stress is that these are conceptually and empirical separate topics – something
can be heritable and not continuous and something can be continuous and not be very heritable.
(Will return to this topic later).
Analogy = there are all styles and shapes that arrows come in. We can document all of the various
features that distinguish one arrow from another. And that’s not unlike the enterprise of Trait
Psychology, where you’re trying to taxometrically classify the various attributes that people have and
the way they vary. But studying people is like studying arrows: to really understand how one
arrow is diff from another, you have to do more than just look at the anatomical differences b/w one
arrow and the next, you have to put one in a bow and then launch it bc arrows are best understood in
flight – it is the nature of the thing that it be launched and it fly. And one arrow will reveal how it’s
different from another one by the trajectory it takes. And people are the same way –we are all in
flight, we are all one a trajectory from the cradle to the grave, and the attributes we have are best
understood when seeing in the context of that trajectory. Attributes like E and N, frankly, they make
the most sense when you consider lives in context, lives that are moving from one place (which it to
say birth) to another place (which is to say death). We are so much better understood as lives moving
through time, the way arrows are better understood as mechanical feats running through space.
One of the ways of demonstrating the power of P Development (PDevo from now on) is to look at a
documentary series that has received critical attention over the past several decades. In the mid
1960s, a director name Michael Apted(?) began what became a landmark documentary film series.
He was very interested in the social class differences in Britain and the extent to which the social
classes to which people were born shaped, determined and pre-determined the various outcomes