Personality chapter 1.docx

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31 Mar 2012

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Book notes chapter 1
- Personality: the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual that are
organized and relatively enduring and that influence his or her interactions with, and
adaptations to, the environment ( including the intrapsychic, physical, and social
- Psychological traits: characteristics that describe ways in which people are unique or
different from or similar to each other
Saying someone is shy mentions one way they differ from others
But in similarity, saying people who are shy are similar to each other, in that they are
anxious in social situations
- Someone who is described as talkative can be talkative most of the time, but can certainly
have quiet days and such. Over time, those with the trait of talkativeness tend to emit
verbal behavior with greater frequency than those who are low in talkativeness. In this
sense, traits describe the average tendencies of a person.
- Average tendencies: tendency to display a certain psychological trait with regularity. For
example, on average, a high-talkative person will start more conversations than a low-
talkative person. This idea explains why the principle of aggression works when
measuring personality
Research on personality questions
- Research on personality traits ask 4 main kinds of questions:
How many traits are there?
How many fundamental traits are there? Dozens? Hundreds? A few?
How are the traits organized?
Ex: how is talkativeness related to other traits, such as impulsivity and
What are the origins of traits?
Where are they from and how do they develop? Does heritability influence
What are the correlations and consequences of traits?
Do talkative people have many friends? Do they have a more extended social
network to draw upon in times of trouble? Do they annoy people who are trying
to study?
Usefulness of personality traits
- They help describe people and help understand the dimensions of difference between
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- They help explain behavior. The reason people act may be partly a function of their
personality traits
- They help predict future behavior. For example, the sorts of careers individuals will find
satisfying, who will tolerate stress better, and who is likely to get along well with others.
- Therefore, traits are useful because they describe, explain and predict the differences
between individuals
- Psychological mechanisms: they are like traits, except that the term mechanisms refer
more to the processes of personality. For example, most personality mechanisms involve
some information-processing activity. Someone who is extraverted may look for and
notice opportunities to interact with other people. An extraverted person is prepared to
notice and act on certain kinds of social information
- Most psychological mechanisms have 3 essential ingredients:
Decision rules
- 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 towards certain categories
of action (outputs).
- Not all traits and psychological mechanisms are activated all at the same time
Ex: courageousness is activated only under particular conditions, such as when people
face serious dangers and threats to their lives. Some people are more courageous than
others, but one will not know until the right situation presents itself
Within the individual
- Within the individual means that personality is something a person carries with
themselves over time and from one situation to the next.
- The definition of personality stresses that the important sources of personality reside
within the individual and, hence, are at least somewhat stable over time and somewhat
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 organized because the
mechanisms and traits are linked to one another in a coherent fashion
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