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Chapter 1

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McGill University
PSYC 332
Richard Koestner

PSYC332 - Chapter 1 Notes Studying The Person: • Personality psychology is the scientific study of the whole person and puts everything together • Ultimate goal of personality psychology is to construct a scientifically credible account of psychological individuality. It studies individual differences in people What Do We Know When We Know A Person: Sketching An Outline Of Dispositional Traits • Personality traits are those general, internal, and comparative dispositions that we attribute to people in our initial efforts to sort individuals into meaningful behavioural categories and to account for consistencies we perceive or expect in behaviour from one situation to the next and over time. One of the singular contributions of personality psychology is the construction and validation of scientifically useful measures • of individual differences in personality traits • Good trait measures are useful in predicting behaviour over time and across situations; in addition to discern the biological bases of human behaviour There used to be 18,000 words to refer to psychological states, traits, and evaluations. 4,500 seem to refer to relatively • stable and enduring dispositional traits • Today, we have managed to categorize all 4,500 traits/terms to what is known as The Big Five Traits. These include: • Openness to Experience (O) Conscientiousness (C) • • Extraversion (E) • Agreeableness (A) • Neuroticism (N) • The Big Five sketches an outline of a person, but if you want to fill in some of the details, you have to go beyond dispositional traits Filling In The Details: Characteristic Adaptations • We move beyond dispositional traits and look for ways to organize a person’s details • Personality psychologists including personality research includes concepts for thinking and talking about the details of psychological individuality • We may consider a person’s pattern of interests and values • Trait attributions are useful because they tell us about trends in behaviour over time and across different situations, settings, and contexts • Example: Amanda was a Baptist as a child but is now an atheist • Characteristic adaptations are contextualized facets of psychological individuality that speak to motivational, cognitive, and developmental concerns in personality Personality psychology have addressed questions regarding characteristic adaptations. We group these into three major • categories: • Human motivation: what people fundamentally want or desire in life • Freud suggests that humans are motivated by deep urges regarding sexuality and aggression Carl Rogers placed importance on needs for self-actualization and other growth-promoting human tendencies • • Henry Murray listed more than 20 basic psychological needs or motives • David McClelland studied the needs for achievement, power, and affiliation/intimacy • Theories of cognition and personality: The role of cognitive factors - values, beliefs, expectancies, schemas, plans, personal constructs, cognitive styles - in human individuality • George Kelly’s personal construct theory • Developmental: focusing on the evolution of the self and its relationships with others from birth to old age • Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and Jane Loevinger’s theory of ego development • Human motivation specifies such characteristic adaptations such as human needs, motives, goals, and strivings • Social-cognitive theories of personality speak to adaptations such as personal constructs, beliefs, values, schemas, and personal ideologies • Developmental theories address questions of stages, pathways, and developmental tasks in psychological individuality • As you move on from dispositional traits to characteristics adaptations in the study of persons, you move from a focus on personality structure to one that emphasizes personality dynamics, process and change Constructing a Story: Integrative Life Narratives • Identity is the problem of unity and purpose in life, a problem/challenge that many persons counter as they move from adolescences into young adulthood • Many people seek tan integrative framework or model for their own lives that gives them a sense that the various pieces of who they are come together into some kind of sensible whole - integrate their lives in time • The challenge of modern identity is to come up with a ways of understanding and talking about the self such that a) despite the many different parts of me I am whole and coherent, and b) despite the many changes that attend the passage of time, the self of my past led up to or set the stage for the self of the present, which in turn will lead up to or set the stage for the self of the future • This integration of self into an identity is accomplished through the construction and revision of a “life story” • A life story is an internalized and evolving narrative of the self that integrates the reconstructed past, perceived present, and anticipated future in order to provide a life with a sense of unity and purpose • Over the years, we continuously change our life stories by rewriting it, thus changing our identity • The story is the identity, and thus as identity changes, so changes the story • Some approaches to interpreting people’s life stories suggest that people actively and more-or-less consciously make meaning out of their own lives in terms of narratives that are prevalent in their own cultures. They pick and choose among different stories that their cultures have to offer in order to create narrative identities that provide their lives with some measure of unity and purpose • These stories are shaped by forces over which individuals have little control, that life narratives are fragmentary and often false, and that individuals do not and typically cannot know what the real meaning of their lives are • Freud’s psychoanalytic traditions says that interpretation is always a matter of delving deep beneath the surface narrative • If lives are like texts, their meanings are hidden between the lines • Whereby Freud looked deep within a person, postmodern approaches look tot he confusing swirl of narratives in culture and society Postmodern view: people are storytellers who make themselves anew with each new conversation they have, each • new story they tell and perform Table 1.4 - Three Levels of Personality: Level Definition Examples Dispositional Broad dimensions of personality that describe assumedly internal, global, Traits and stable individual differences in behaviour, thought and feeling. Traits Dominance Tendency toward depression account for consistency in individual functioning across different situations Punctuality and over time Characteristic More particular facets of personality that describe personal adaptations to Goals, motives, and life plans Adaptations motivational, cognitive, and developmental challenges and tasks. Religious value and beliefs Characteristic adaptations are usually contextualized in time, place, Cognitive schemas situation, or social role Psychosocial stages Developmental asks Life Stories Internalized and evolving narratives of the self that people construct to integrate the past, present, and future and provide life with some sense of Earliest memory unity, purpose, and meaning. Life stories address the problems of identity Reconstruction of childhoods Anticipation of future self and integration in personality- problems especially characteristic of modern “Rags to riches’ stories adulthood Science and The Person: • Science depends on the human desire to know for the sake of knowing • Personality psychologists may study the person for a wide variety of reasons but the fundamental goal is to understand the person for the sake of understanding • Science proceeds according to three steps: 1) Unsystematic observation • • 2) Building theories • 3) Evaluating propositions Step 1: Unsystematic Observation • First step is to look at, listen to, feel, smell, and/or taste the thing we want to understand • We may be able to use our five senses only, but we may also use machinery such as X-ray machines, ultrasound, etc. • We must observe over a long period of time • Early observation is relatively unsystematic. We initially have few expectations but we still look for patterns, or regularities in the phenomenon, so that we can arrive at a tentative first ordering or classification of what we are observing • The right image of the scientist in Step 1 of the scientific process is that of a creative observer who perceives order or pattern where it has not been perceived before • Unsystematic observation is not a passive and casual sort of thing but rather an active attempt to discern and then describe organization, pattern, design, or structure in a phenomenon that initially seems to be unorganized and without design • The creative observer interacts in a highly subjective way with the phenomenon of study, in some cases, altering the phenomenon by virtue of observing it • Context of discovery seeks to discover new ways of seeing reality, formulating in a highly subjective manner new categories, new terminologies, and new distinctions to describe the careful observations that he or she undertakes • When scientist begins to organize observations into categories, he or she moves from the concrete and particular events that are discerned to the more
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