Lec 1: Intro & Chapter 1: The Study of The Person
Personality: An individual’s characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour, together with the
psychological mechanisms - hidden or not- behind those patterns” (p.5); An individual’s unique and relatively
consistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving
Goal of personality psychology: explain the whole person in his/her environment
Since this is impossibility, researchers must limit their scope to certain kinds of obs/patterns and certain ways
of thinking about these patterns in order to understand personality = basic approach aka paradigm
Basic approaches to personality: A theoretical view of personality that focuses on some phenomena and ignores
aka paradigm: Reps a theoretic view of personality that focuses on some phenomena and ignores others
5 Basic approaches:
1) Trait approach: The theoretical view of personality that focuses on individual differences in personality and
behaviour, and the psychological processes behind them;
a) Focus on how people differ psychologically
2) Biological approach: The view of personality that focuses on the way behaviour and personality are influenced
by (a) biochem , (b) evolution, (c)genetics, and (d) neuroanatomy;
a) focus on understanding the mind in terms of the body
3) Psychoanalytic approach: the theoretical view of personality, based on the writings of Freud, that emphasizes
the unconscious processes of the mind
a) focus on the unconscious mind and internal mental conflicts
4) Phenomenological approach: the theoretical view of personality that emphasizes experience, free will, and the
meaning of life. Closely related to humanistic psych and existentialism
a) focus on the conscious experience of the world; Includes: humanistic approaches, and Cross-cultural
5) Learning and cognitive (learning approach): the theoretical view that focuses on how behaviour changes as a
function of rewards and punishment; aka behaviourism
a) Social learning: focuses on how mental processes (observation and self-evaluation) determine which b are
learned and how they’re performed
b) Cognitive processes: focus on perception, memory, and thought
These approaches are not mutually exclusive, they generally address different questions
Ongoing debate about whether or not we could ever have a single theory of personality that captures
everything (One Big Theory). Though the author believes it is best to have different theories that specialize in
different aspects than one whole theory that is too broad.
Or do we need multiple theories/approaches, each of which do well at explaining their particular area of
Learning: a change in behaviour due to previous experience
Classic behaviourists focus on overt behaviour and the ways reward and punishment affect it.
Lecture 1 (second part) & Chapter 2: Clues to PersonalitThe Basic Sources of Data
How we study Personality
Collect data by addressing each part of the psych triad (thoughts, feelings and b)
Funder’s Second Law: There are no perfect data of personality; only clues which are always ambiguous
We need to address each part of the psychological triad (thoughts, feelings, and behaviours
4 data types/clues (ref. Table2.1)
1) S data: self-reports/ self-judgements people give of their own personality attributes or behaviour;
a) usually questionnaires or surveys, and is the most common source of data in personality psych
b) high on face validity (degree to which an assessment tool appears to measure what it intends to measure)
because Qs on questionnaires, for example, while ask the same question using different phrases. Personality (PSYB30)
i) Eg) friendliness personality questionnaire will include items like: “I really like most people” and “I go to
many parties”, to which they’ll answer T/F or they’ll rate it on a likert scale. Basically, the
questionnaires asks “are you a friendly person” in different phrasings
1. based on large amount of info: assumption that people are the best expert of themselves and can provide
info that no other means can
2. access to inner thoughts, feelings, and intentions (no one has access to these but you)
3. Some S data have definitional truth: data must be correct, because they are themselves aspects of the self-
Eg) if you say you have high self-esteem, then you do- other’s opinion don’t matter
self-esteem: you’re the only one who can tell others what your self-esteem is like. Assuming you’re
honest, you’re the only one who can give researchers this answer.
4. Causal force: self-perceptions may have important effects on b;
E.g.) self-verification: The process by which people try to bring others to treat them in a manner that
confirms their self-relevant thought. If you think you’re friendly, then you’ll put effort to ensure others
see you as such.
S-data’s important bc it reflects what you think of yourself AND it may be the cause of your
5. Simple and easy data: cost effective and easy to collect
1. Maybe they won’t tell you
Info is made into S data ONLY if they’re willing to reveal it
Eg) unwillingness to reveal true intention behind their b
2. Maybe they can’t tell you: Can’t tell you bc imperfect mem, lack of self-insight, active distortion
3. Too simple and too easy: s data can often be overused due to its simplicity and low cost
2) I Data/ informant’s report: judgements by knowledgeable informants about general attributes of an
a) E.g. acquaintances, co-workers, fam members, clinical psychs etc
b) Based on obs people in whatever context they know them from
c) Used in daily life eg) ref letters, gossip
Based on a large amount of info
Based on many behavioural obs in many situations
Can collect judgements from multiple informants
Based on obs of b in real world
Not in lab situations, more likely to be relevant to important outcomes since it’s based on real world
Based on common sense about what an individual’s b means
Informants filter behavioural observations through their common sense.
Through informants, final I data take into account the context and intention of the b
Two types of contexts are taken into account:
1) Immediate situation: The psychological meaning of a behaviour can change as a function of the
situation that prompted it. Eg) you'll have diff conclusions on someone someone yells at someone
who brushed them in a crowd, vs at someone who intentionally hit their car.
2) Intent behind the one’s behaviour can be given an informant who knows them well
a) E.g. if a generous person gives their enemy a gift, it can be seen as a peace offering. But if a
sneaky person givers their enemy a gift, it can be seen as a manipulative scheme of some sort.
Definitional truth: certain aspects of personality are defined by how others see you (e.g. charm, likeability) Personality (PSYB30)
You can’t rate how charming you are because charm exists in the eyes of others. To assess your own
charm, you need to recall whether other have reacted to you in ways that insinuate such a trait.
Thus, I data are generally better than S data for predicting outsomes like academic achievement and
occupational success, both of which depend on how one is evaluated by others
Causal force: I data reps a person’s reputation, which can have important effects on their b and outcomes
To a certain degree, people become what others expect them to be
Expectancy effect: when others expect you to act a certain way, you end up acting that way. Aka
Limited b info: informants may only know a person in a specific context – thus you get an incomplete
picture of target person
Lack of access to private experience
Inner mental life (hopes and dreams) can only be revealed via I data only to the extent that they have
been revealed to someone else.
Error: more likely to remember more extreme events than ordinary events, and thus infer a general
personality trait where none may actually exists; mem is imperfect
Bias: systematic errors, due to disliking someone, prejudices, etc
3) L data: life outcomes
a) Verifiable, concrete, real-life outcomes/facts that may hold psychological significance
The result or “residue” of personality rather that a direct reflection of personality itself eg) marital status,
criminal record, education level, work experience
Eg) a person low on conscientiousness will perform less well at work and be less likely to be promoted.
Their L data of annual income will be a lower number.
Can be collected in many diff ways: records etc
Facebook can be used to collect L-data.
The content of one’s fb page or twitter is a direct reflection/residue of what they’ve done, thus
providing L data.
Objective and verifiable
Information can be looked up for verification. Thus L data are objective and specific. eg) background
checks, marital, and health status
L data are significant bc they constitute exactly what the psychologist needs to know
The goal of every applied psychologist is to predict, and have a positive effect on, real-life
outcomes (criminal b, employment stat, school, etc) of their clients.
Hence, L data = RL outcomes
L data = one’s professional existence for example
L-data are significant bc they are strongly affect by, and uniquely informative about, psychological
There are real-life outcomes that psychologists want to focus on.
Eg) the L-data “40yo never married” = reliable marker of psychopathology. Though it is L data again
which will give this context. For example, working in a signle sex workplace, economically unstable, or
L data is influenced by too many factors to reveal much, by themselves, about one’s psychology Personality (PSYB30)
L data can be influenced by many diff factors, including many factors that aren’t psychological (SES,
friends, debt etc)
a psychologist can predict a particular outcome from psychological data only to the degree that the
outcome is psychologically caused. L data are psychologically caused only to a small degree
Personality is only ONE piece of a whole picture
4) B data: behavioural observations/direct observations of another’s b that are translated directly or nearly
directly into numerical form.
a) Can be gathered in 2 contexts:
a) Based on real life
b) Methods of gathering B data naturally
i) Old method had participants right down exactly what they were doing once their pager beeped.
Recently: P carry handheld computers and enter their reports directly to a database
ii) An acquaintance reports on specific b of target person. Though the researcher must beware of biases in
the accounts due to mixture of B data w/ S data or I data (since the report will be from participant or
(1) Eg) people exaggerate about themselves on self-reports, but acquaintances will
iii) Electronic activated recorder (EAR)
(1) Digital audio recorder P carries around. It samples sounds w/in their surrounding env periodically. R
then records P’s activities (laughing, tv, talking etc)
iv) Observe p in fake natural setting = eg) nursery school w/ one-way mirror allows children to act
normally, and researchers to take notes w/out affecting them with their presence
c) Pro: realistic
d) Con: costly in resources and time; the context that you wish to observe may rarely occur; the participant is
the one who makes the actual behavioural observation, not the psychologist So b-data from lab settings
are more common
ii. Contrived (laboratory b data). 3 types:
a) Experiments: make a situation happen and record b, seeking to recreate real-life contexts.
i) Eg) measuring how long it will take for P to leave a room filling with smoke
ii) Allow us to see how people react to very subtle aspects of a situation, and the b measured can reveal
(1) Eg) a study primed old people with gray, wise, bingo, lonely, retired, wrinkle, puzzles, florida. Those
+ primed walked down the hall faster than those primed with stereotypical old people prime.
b) Certain personality tests: tests that are designed to see how a person responds to questions o stimuli, not
just what they say about themselves. Eg) Rorschach picture
i) Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) – most used. P answers T/F to statements
ii) Projective test
(1) Thematic apperception test (TAT): The projective test that asks P to make up stories about pictures
(2) Rorschach: A projective test that asks P to interpret blots of ink
c) Physiological measures: physiological measurements of the biological “behaviour” of an individual (e.g.,
HR, BP, brain activity)
Range of contexts: can create all kinds of situations in the lab and researchers can present P w/ stimuli and
observe their reactions, as opposed to waiting for that reaction to occur naturally
Appearance of objectivity: tend toward high reliability and precision since researcher is observing them
directly. though subjective judgements must still be made (e.g. Rorschach – researcher must interpret the
interpretation of P)
Con Personality (PSYB30)
Uncertain interpretation: behaviours may be precisely measured but behaviours may not mean what we
think they do
We need other types of data to interpret that b sometimes
A problem with the delayed- gratification test is what if the child does not like the treat so much, so
they don’t wait too long. Or what if they do, so they wait. The author retests this test using the child’s
favourite candies and he in the delayed gratification test, the child’s ability to wait, until the adult
returns, for a better treat is a greater indicator of their ability to cooperate and abide, and not so much
their ability to withhold inner desire.
Mixed types of data
Personality data often do not fit into only one category
Wide range of possible types of data, that combine and mix the four basic types
Any type of data has advantages and disadvantages
No perfect clues
There are only clues, and clues are always ambiguous (p55)
It is most useful to collect multiple types of data
Consistent findings using different types of data increases your confidence in the results
Discrepancies between types of data can be interesting and informative
Two examples of personality research
Looking at fb profiles as clues to personality
Looking at word usage as clues to personality
January 15: Lec2, Ch3: Research Methods in Personality Psychology
1. Data Quality: Reliability, Validity, and Generalizability
2. Research design: case method, experimental method, correlational method
3. Statistical significance
4. Research ethics
1. What are some basic research methods and statistical concepts that are particularly important in personality
2. What is the difference between scientific education and technical training?
3. What are reliability, validity, and generalizability?
4. What are some basic ethical issues in psychological research?
Emphasis on methods
Research methods are centrally important
Focus on developing and improving hypotheses, and less focus on listing facts
Focus: seeking new knowledge
Scientific Education vs Technical Training
Technical training: focuses on teaching what is already known about a topic, so that this knowledge can be applied
Scientific education: Teaching what is known AND also how to find out the unknown
Learning how to explore the unknown (ie. Research)
Essential to research is gathering data
Vary in quality; Two aspects of quality are: “is it reliable?” and “are the data valid?” and is it generalizable?
(lec) Personality (PSYB30)
Reliability: (a)The tendency of a measurement instrument to provide basically the same information on repeated
occasions; (b) getting the same results more than once; (c) refers to the accuracy, dependability, consistency, or
repeatability of results
Measurement error aka error variance: The variation of a number around its true mean due to uncontrolled,
essentially random influences;
Measures with high reliability have lower measurement error
All measures include some error. We must minimize this
If true score is 90%, Error = 10; true score=65%, error=35
4 Factors that undermine reliability
4 general factors can lead to greater measurement error, thus interfering w/ the reliability of the measurement
1) Low precision of measurement
a) Mistakes in recording of data, scoring, or data entry lowers reliability
b) Need to make measurements exactly and carefully as possible
2) State of the participant
a) Participants’ response or behaviour may be influenced by factors that have nothing to do with the study
i) Eg) sickness, fatigue, distraction, mood, etc.
b) If they aren’t themselves that day, their results would probably be different than if they participated
3) The state of the experimenter
a) Experimenter might treat certain participants differently, influencing the results
b) Certain participants may respond differently to the experimenter, based on age, gender, etc.
c) Experiment’s state (e.g. unrested and therefore inattentive, mood etc) may affect the experiment/ data
d) BF Skinner use a skinner box in order to stimulate a controlled environment to study his animal subjects;
though to research humans, we need them to interact w/ other h
4) The environment
a) The setting in which the study takes place can impact the results in unexpected ways
i) E.g. temperature, noise outside, air quality
4 factors that enhance reliability
1) Be careful with all research procedures
a) Helps achieve precision
b) e.g.) double-check measurements; checking system for data entry, etc.; proofreading data sheets, and
ensuring the procedures for scoring data are clearly understood by everyone
2) Use a Constant/ standardized procedure or protocol
a) Have a script for running the study
b) Use the same procedure for all participants
c) Careful training of all research assistants: Explicitly explain procedures even if they appear obvious on
d) Senior researcher(s) should periodically check to make sure protocol is being followed
3) Measure something that is important and not trivial
a) Experimental procedures which engage participants = reliable data
i) People’s responses about a topic they care about are more likely to be reliable than for a topic they
don’t care about since the answer doesn’t mean much to them
b) Measurement of very specific, trivial variables is less likely to be reliable than measurement of big,
i) Eg) degree of extraversioness (important variable) vs whether the subject is talking w/ someone at a
given time (narrow trivial variable)
4) Aggregation (or averaging)
a) Averaging across multiple measurements of something is more reliable than a single measurement
b) Allows random influences to cancel each other out
c) Especially important if you want to predict behaviour Personality (PSYB30)
i) Any single instance of a behaviour can be influenced by many factors
Validity: the degree to which a measurement actually reflects what one thinks or hopes it does
Refers to the meaning and usefulness of data; Does the measurement tool measure what it is supposed to
In order to be valid, a measure has to be reliable
A measure needs to give you the same info every time in order for it to be valid info
But: a reliable measure is not necessarily valid
You can measure something very consistently, but not actually measuring what you think you are. So
reliability is a nexassary but insufficient condition for validity
Constructs: something that cannot be directly seen or touched, but which affects and helps to explain many
different things that are visible (by methodologists Lee Cronbach and Paul Meehl)
E.g. intelligence, extraversion, narcissism, gravity, etc.
No one has seen or touched intelligence, but it affects many aspects of b and performance (like test
scores and RL achievements)
How can we know if we have a valid measure of something we cannot see?
Construct validation: the strategy of establishing the validity of a measure by comparing it to a wide range of other
measures (thought to measure a similar construct)
Use as many different measurements as you can of the construct you are interested in, and see which ones
Eg) different measures consistently point to the same people as high on extraversion
Generalizability: The degree to which a measurement or result applies to other tests, other situations, or other
asks, “To what extent do the results generalize?”
To modern psychometricians, It’s a broader concept that includes reliability and validity
Historical use of all male samples
60s: normative for American psychological researchers to gather data from all male Ps.
Currently: greater proportion of female participants in undergrad samples; and females are more likely to
volunteer and attend on time.
Problematic bc we are generalizing data from these “willing males” who are actually different from the
majority of males who don’t participate.
People who participate in research vs. those who don’t
Shows vs. No-shows
If these two groups differ in systematic ways, what are the implications for the generalizability of research
Research P may often not be rep of the general pop
The tendency of a group of people living at a particular time in history to be different from those who lived
earlier or later
Eg) line of research sugg. Current cohort of young adults in the U.S. endorse more “narcissistic” characteristics
that previous cohorts (Twenge et al., 2008)
most psychology research is based on white, middle-class, university/college students
WEIRD participants (Henrich et al., 2010):
western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic
Authors review literature on topics that have been largely assumed to be psychological universals
Examine the extent to which WEIRD people are representative of the rest of the world Personality (PSYB30)
To what extent can we generalize results from research with WEIRD people to the rest of human beings?
The behavioural science database is drawn from a very narrow slice of humanity
In top journals of six sub-disciplines of psychology, from 2003 to 2007:
68% of participants came from the U.S.
96% of participants came from Western industrialized countries (North America, Europe, Australia, Israel)
In a recent review of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
67% of American samples were composed purely of undergraduate students in psychology courses
70% of all psychology citations come from the U.S.
Psychology researchers often assume that their findings generalize to all of humanity
Findings are often implicitly presented as universal
This is particularly problematic because WEIRD people are in fact not very representative of the rest of the
There are exceptions, topics where there is careful cross-cultural work
Multiple examples of how WEIRD people differ from other groups
e.g., Visual perception, economic decision-making, self-concept, individualism, etc.
American undergraduates also differ from the larger American population
It is worth keeping these analyses in mind when learning and thinking about psychological findings, including in
Ongoing efforts in psychology to expand sample diversity, recognize the limitations of the current approach
Every research project requires a basic plan, or research design. Three basic types:
1) Case Method: closely studying a particular event or person of interest in order to find out as much as possible
Can offer explanations of particular events, general lessons, suggest scientific principles, and generate
A number of famous examples in the history of psych
Tend to describe whole phenomena, not just isolated variables
Can capture a lot of complexity
Source for ideas and new hypotheses
Is sometimes necessary in certain scenarios (no other method possible)
No control - Cannot determine which factors or variables are important or not to understanding the case
Require additional confirmation, often using other methods
2) Experimental: A research technique that establishes the causal relationship between an independent variable
(‘x’) and a dependent variable (‘y’) by randomly assigning participants to experimental groups characterized by
differing levels of ‘x’, and measuring the average behaviour ‘y’ that results in each group.
Key characteristic: experimental manipulation or control of the independent variable(s)
You can then examine the difference b/w the experimental groups using statistical tests, to determine whether
or not the group difference Is larger than would be expected by chance
Did the experimental manipulation have an impact?
3) Correlational: A research technique that established the relationship between two variables by measuring both
variables in a sample of participants.
Cannot determine any causal relationship between the variables, but only the strength of their relationship
Correlation is not causality
Experimental Methods vs. Correlational Method
Both methods are interested in the relationship between variables Personality (PSYB30)
The experimental method manipulates the hypothesized causal variable, while the correlational method simply
measures it w/out manipulation
Only experiments can examine causality
Funder: the two methods are not as different as they are often made out to be
Experiments are often presented as the better method, but this is not always the case.
Uncertainty about the actual experimental manipulation
Can be quite artificial, removed from real life
Sometimes experiments are simply not possible.
e.g., We cannot experimentally manipulate personality traits.
The two types of methods can complement one another
Often need both to get a more comprehensive understanding of a topic
Experiments can determine whether or not one variable can affect another.
Correlational studies can show to what extent variables are related to one another, in the real world.
Are The results representative of what happens beyond the lab?
A less addressed concern: “Is there generalizability across stimuli and responses?”
Eg) would a different method produce the type of response?
Using rep designs ( solves this issue): Research should be designed to sample across the domains to which the
investigator will wish the generalize the results
Eg) a study of the effect of anxiety on performance should include several different ways to induce anxiety and
several different measures of performance
A statistically significant result = a result that would be unlikely to appear due to chance alone.
Statistical significance: a result that would only occur by chance less than 5% of the time
Null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST) I don’t understand this..pg 87
“What are the chances that we would have found this result, if nothing were really going on?”
Null hypothesis: no relationship between the variables
Statistical significance does not necessarily mean important or meaningful
Significance is impacted by sample size
p < .05 is an arbitrary rule of thumb
Non-significant results are often interpreted as “no result”
Ongoing debate in psychology regarding significance testing and methods for determining “significance”
Move towards the use of effect sizes: An index of the strength of the relationship between variables
More meaningful than p-level
Recommended by APA
Correlation Coefficient: the most commonly used measure of effect size
Not only used in correlational studies
Can be used to describe the strength of results from different kinds of studies
A number between -1.0 and 1.0 Personality (PSYB30)
A fundamentally important topic, that requires more time to fully discuss
Must be well-understood before carrying out any psychological research
A few key points, relevant to personality psychology
Need to consider the potential uses of psychological research findings
Does potential harm outweigh potential good?
Are there topics that are “too risky” to investigate?
Truthfulness throughout the research process is crucial
Honesty and transparency in data collection, analysis, reporting
Trust among researchers and with the public is fundamental to the research endeavour
Deception: Telling research participants something that is not true
Usually used in order to help make the research realistic or appropriate for investigating the particular
Involves debriefing afterwards: Explaining the real purpose of the study, the role of the deception, making
sure participants understand the protocol and the use of deception
A controversial topic in psychological research
Carefully reviewed by research ethics boards
Funder (textbook author) takes a strong stand against deception
Most researchers likely take a compromise position
Usual arguments in favour of deception:
Participants always provide informed consent
It usually does no harm
It is required in order to study certain topics or scenarios
Arguments against deception:
Consent is not really informed if there is deception involved
Deception can harm the credibility of psychology
There should be real-world scenarios in which to study particular topics (i.e., deception is not
Can deception be justified?
Who, if anybody, might be harmed by the use of deception in research?
What does the video suggest about the potentially longstanding effects of using deception? Personality (PSYB30)
Although the Milgram experiments would most likely not receive ethical approval today, might more
subtle forms of deception still leave lasting effects?
What are some basic research methods and statistical concepts that are particularly important in personality
What is the difference between scientific education and technical training?
What are reliability, validity, and generalizability?
What are some basic ethical issues in psychological research?
Jan 22: Lec 3, ch4: Trait Approaches: Personality Traits, Situations, and Behaviour
The person-situation debate
Personality and life outcomes
Reconciling personality and situation
1. What are some defining characteristics of the trait approach to personality?
2. What is the question at the heart of the person-situation debate?
3. What is the current state of the literature regarding the person-situation debate?
4. What types of life outcomes does personality help to predict?
5. How can personality psychologists reconcile the personality trait perspective with the situationist perspective?
The Trait Approach to Personality
Tends to fit with our everyday descriptions of people in our lives...
She’s helpful, He’s generous, She’s absent-minded, He’s self-centred
The trait approach in personality psychology is based on empirical research
Mostly from correlational studies
Emphasis is placed on accurate measurement of traits
Ultimate objective is for traits to be able to predict behaviour
This approach focuses on individual differences
This focus can be both a strength and a weakness
Strength: Attempt to understand how people differ, compare people to one another
Weakness: Tend to neglect aspects of personality common to all people, and also the ways that each
individual is unique
“Every man is in certain respects (a) like all other men, (b) like some other men, (c) like no other man.”
(Kluckhohn & Murray, 1961, p. 53, as cited in Funder, 2012, p. 108)
The trait approach focuses on (b) -- the ways in which every person is like some other people.
Focus on properties of personality that can help us to group people
Traits represent the building blocks of personality.
A characteristic of a person that makes that person unique, with a unique style of adapting to stimuli in the
Personality characteristic that makes one person different from another and/or that describes an
Continuous dimension that an individual can be seen to possess to a certain degree
However, how meaningful can traits be if people behave inconsistently on a regular basis?
Underlines the person-situation debate
A fundamental challenge to the trait approach: Personality (PSYB30)
If People are inconsistent, Personality traits are not the only factors that influence behaviour
So, Situations matter too
Is it possible that personality traits do not really exist?
Perhaps if People are so inconsistent and traits don’t predict b, then perhaps traits are either unimportant
(bc situations are so powerful) or even non-existent
Is it really all about the situation?
The Person-Situation Debate
Important debate that began in the late 1960s
What is more important for determining what people do, the person or the situation?
questions the importance/existence of personality traits
These psychs are called: Situationists vs. Personality trait theorists
Example of a situationist perspective by Dr. Sam Sommers, social psychologist
How we react to the world is driven by situations
We rely on personality; but understanding the people are more than just personality = greater
Uses the bystander effect to exemplify of how powerful the situation/context is over traits
Thus, context/situation is very important to understanding events and people
Though, this guy is a social psych, a field that is focused on how people interact. Thus, to personality
psychs, traits are still important.
Back to The Person-Situation Debate
An important debate, because it gets at the very question of how we think about personality
Are people all basically the same, and different behaviour is all guided by situations?
Or do people have some stable personality defined by a set of traits, even if they behave inconsistently at
That we can still have a stable personality despite the fact b = inconsistent
Three main parts to the “situationist” argument:
1. Predictability: Traits are not very good predictors of behaviour
2. Situationism: Situations are more important than traits in determining behaviour
3. Common perceptions of people based on personality traits are flawed
There is an upper limit to how well one can predict what a person will do based on any measurement of that
person’s personality, and this upper limit is low.
It’s a low maximum for predicting b.
Thus, Traits cannot predict behaviours well enough to be useful
Correlations between traits and behaviours tend not to exceed .30 or .40
Response from Trait Proponents
1. The early literature review of situationists was selective and unfair
Inconsistency in the literature, difficult to summarize into one position
2. Methodology issues
The 0.40 limit may be due to poor methodology
The research can be improved, to show that traits are even more important
More “real-world” studies are needed for stronger correlations
Focus more on behavioural trends rather than single instances of behaviour Personality (PSYB30)
Bc we may have an off day. So we need to study them longitudinally
3. A correlation of .40 is not small
Such a correlation between a trait and a behaviour suggests that knowing the trait will predict the
behaviour with 70% accuracy. Thus, .40 isnt that low
How does .40 compare to the correlation between situations and behaviour?
Argument: Situations are more important than personality traits in determining behaviour
But...how well do situations determine behaviour?
1. Often, situationists simply assume that situations explain everything that personality traits do not
e.g., If conscientiousness explains 20% of the variance of a certain behaviour, than situational factors must
But this is Faulty logic bc Says nothing about what aspects of the situation are important
Doesn’t take into account other individual factors, other traits, and doesn’t take into consideration the
“situation” (how it plays a role)
2. Social psychological experiments offer results that can provide a better examination of the impact of situations
e.g., different versions of the Milgram obedience to authority experiments
Review of this literature by Funder and Ozer (1983) found correlation coefficients between situation and
behaviour of .36 to .42
Examining SiTuationism (s26)
Hurry (situational V) vs helping (b V) = negative correlation; the more you are in a hurry, the less likely
you are to help
Obedience (sv) vs isolation of victim (bv) = positive correlation; milgrim shock study
The size of the correlation coefficients are very similar when looking at traits and situations in determining
Both personality and situations are important determinants of behaviour
The Third Situationist Argument
If traits are not very useful, then personality assessment is not worthwhile and our common intuitions about
people (which assume that personality matters) are fundamentally flawed.
The fundamental attribution error: Tendency to focus on internal factors rather than external factors to
explain other people’s behaviour
Situations say we do this when we explain people.
Response From Trait Proponents
1. The effects of personality traits on behaviour are large enough to be perceived accurately
2. The important of personality traits is reflected in our everyday language
So we shouldn’t label people as flawed bc we tend to describe people in that manner
3. Personality traits are useful for predicting and understanding important life outcomes
Personality has info to give us info about broader things in life
“It’s the Situation, Not the Person”
What might trait proponents say in response to this story?
What is it that drove her to change the environment
She needed a caring trait in order to want to change the layout of her office so her employees would feel
that they have her whole undivided attention
What could be another way to interpret the story, that might support the role of personality traits? Personality (PSYB30)
Personality and Life Outcomes
Personality is important on more than just theoretical grounds
Personality is linked to important life outcomes
Health, well-being, relationships, career success, etc.
Review by Ozer and Benet-Martínez (2006): Personality and the Prediction of Consequential Outcomes
Used the Big Five framework to examine the link between personality traits and important life outcomes
across a number of domains
Ozer & Benet-Martínez (2006) looked at three different types of outcomes:
Personality and individual outcomes
Happiness and subjective well-being (SWB)
Personality is a strong predictor of most components of SWB
People with high extraversion + low neuroticism have higher SWB:
See situations in more positive light
Less responsive to negative feedback
Tend to discount opportunities that are not available to them
Physical health and longevity
Extraversion (seeking out social connections) and conscientiousness predict longer lives
Low agreeableness (hostility) predicts poorer physical health and earlier mortality
Different processes by which personality may be linked to health outcomes:
1. Personality traits are associated with certain factors that can cause disease
e.g., hostility is linked with sympathetic nervous system activation that is associated with coronary
2. Personality traits may lead to certain behaviours that protect or diminish one’s health
e.g., Extraversion is associated with more social relationships and support, which are linked to better
3. Personality traits are related to the successful use of coping behaviours and adherence to treatment
e.g., conscientiousness vs. neuroticism
Different sets of personality traits have been linked to certain psychological disorders
Higher openness and lower conscientiousness linked to substance abuse disorders
Higher neuroticism is linked to anxiety disorders
Higher neuroticism with low extraversion is linked to depression
Personality disorders are largely seen as extreme expressions of personality traits
Neuroticism has the strongest relationship with personality disorders
Personality and Interpersonal Outcomes
Peer and family relationships
Low agreeableness (hostility) and low extraversion (withdrawn) are associated with rejected peer status among
children Personality (PSYB30)
Extraversion appears to be the most important predictor of social popularity, status, and social acceptance for
Neuroticism and low agreeableness are predictors of negative relationship outcomes (e.g., relationship
dissatisfaction, conflict, dissolution)
Conscientiousness and agreeableness have been shown to predict satisfaction among dating couples
Extraversion has been shown to predict satisfaction among married couples
Personality and Social/Institutional Outcomes
Occupational choice and performance
Different personality traits are related to different broad occupational interests
Extraversion: social and enterprising interests
Agreeableness: social interests
Openness: investigative and artistic interests
Conscientiousness predicts job performance in all occupational types that have been studied
Some other traits have more narrow links to job performance
e.g., agreeableness is important when teamwork outcomes are examined
Extraversion and low neuroticism (emotional stability) are valuable for understanding how people feel about
Both are associated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment
Political attitudes and values
Openness is found to be negatively correlated with conservative political beliefs and right-wing
Growing literature on the role of personality traits in the political process
e.g., role of voters’ own personalities and their perceptions of candidates’ personality
Volunteerism and community involvement
Extraversion and agreeableness are positively associated with various measures of prosocial behaviour and
Extraversion linked to helpfulness
Agreeableness linked to empathy towards others
Low conscientiousness (low constraint/low impulse control) and high neuroticism (negative emotionality) have
been linked with antisocial behaviour and criminal behaviour
Ozer and Benet-Martínez (2006) focus on the general pattern of association between broad personality traits
and important life outcomes
Do not provide effect sizes in their review
Are not necessarily claiming that personality effects are “large”, but rather that:
“personality effects are ubiquitous, influencing each of us all the time, and when aggregated to the
population level such effects are routinely consequential” (p. 416).
Conclusions of their paper: “Arguments about whether personality is consistent over time an