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PSYC 2P25 (4)
Chapter 2

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Michael Ashton

Chapter 2: Personality Traits & Inventories That Measure Them The Idea of a Personality Trait  A personality trait refers to differences among individuals in a typical tendency to behave, think, or feel in some conceptually related ways, across a variety of relevant situations and across some fairly long period of time Differences Among Individuals  The description of an individual’s personality is meaningful only to the extent that it gives us, directly or indirectly, a comparison with others In a Typical Tendency to Behave, Think, or Feel  Refers to a likelihood of showing some behaviours or of having some thoughts or feelings  When we say that a person has a high or low level of a trait, we don’t suggest that a person always (or never) exhibits certain behaviours, thoughts, or feelings; instead, we suggest that they have a relatively strong (or weak) inclination or predisposition to exhibit those behaviours, thoughts, or feelings In Some Conceptually Related Ways  The idea is that a trait is expressed by various behaviours, thoughts, and feelings that appear to have some common psychological cause  Sometimes, those expressions of the trait might share some obvious similarities to each other Across a Variety of Relevant Situations  A personality trait is not simply a habit that is confined to one specific situation; instead, it is shown across a variety of settings in which people differ in the ways that the trait is expressed Over Some Fairly Long Period of Time  Means that there is some pattern that can be observed over the long run, rather than simply on a temporary basis  It is difficult to specify exactly what a “fairly long period of time” should be, but it can probably be considered as at least a few years  Note: the idea of a trait doesn’t require that the person show the same tendency across the entire life span. Instead, it is possible that an individual might change considerably during the course of a lifetime Do Personality Traits Exist? Research Studies Testing the Existence of Traits  Hartshorne and May (1928) o Examined the behaviours of 11,000 elementary and high school students, who were observed in a variety of situations in which individual differences in traits of “moral character” would emerge o Altruism, self-control, and honesty o Children were observed several times in each situation, so that a reliable score could be calculated to indicate his or her tendencies to be altruistic, self-controlled or honest o Found that altruistic behaviours in any two situations were rather wear  Many children who were highly altruistic in one situation, were not in another o Similar results were found for self-controlled and honest behaviours  Epstein (19790 and Rushton, Brainerd, and Pressley (1983) calculated each child’s average level of altruism within each of two sets of several situations, and then found the correlation between the scores on the two sets o Suggests that if a person is above average in altruism as averaged across one set of several situations, then there is a 75 or 80% chance that the same person will be above average in altruism as averaged across another set of several situations Measuring Traits by Self- or Observer Report: Structured Personality Inventories  Most frequently used  Structured personality inventories = questionnaires o Questions scored 1-5 o Most assess several different personality traits, each assessed by its own scale o Some suggest the opposite of the trait in question [negatively keyed or reverse coded]  A high score doesn’t necessarily indicate a high level of the trait Strategies of Personality Inventory Construction The Empirical Strategy  Psychologist begins by writing a large number of items that describe a very wide variety of actions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as items that ask for ratings on various characteristics. o Items may be in a true/false yes/no format, or on a scale (1-5 or 1-9) in which the individual indicates their level of agreement or disagreement with that statement o Self-reports (or observer-reports) are then obtained  On the basis of observed evidence of the relations of those items with some other information that is believed to give and accurate indication of the
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