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PSYC 332 (121)


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McGill University
PSYC 332
Richard Koestner

Chapter 4 – Personality Traits: Fundamental Concepts and Issues The author begins the chapter with very broad, mainly positive-to-neutral traits about his family. He describes this as trait talk. He explains to us that when anyone describes another person, this is how we do so… “the currency of every day trait talk is the generalization”. They may be true or useful, but they do not apply to every instance of a person’s behaviour. Trait attributions are relative, approximate and very general. He explains that even though we have these general traits, we may act out of character in different situations, or even just from time to time. “Nobody, no matter how strong a given trait, is perfectly consistent; no single trait can characterize any person”. Trait attributions are not even close to perfect in their predictive power and in their truth value. Trait talk is useful in the sense that one can somewhat predict how a certain person may behave in the future and have certain expectations of them. Of course, there are also negatives to it. Traits can become “labels” or “stereotypes” that objectify people. Most general level of individual differences between people  the level of dispositional traits. What personality psychologists do: - Built and validated good measures of individual difference in traits - Linked traits to trends in behaviour - Examined the interactions of traits and situational variables to predict behaviour - Studied  the stability and change in personality traits over the life course  the extent to which traits are products of genetic differences between people and products of environmental effects - Begun to explore the psychophysiology of traits The Idea of Trait What is a Trait? - There are consistencies within a given person and differences between different people. - Personality psychologists consider many aspects of personality traits. o First… traits are internal dispositions that are stable over time and across situations. o Second… traits are bipolar. Traits are viewed on a continuum with two extremes. [Ex: extraversion vs. introversion/ friendliness vs. unfriendliness] People are usually in the middle of the continuum, yet there are still some at the extremes. o Third… traits are additive and independent. You add together a person’s many independent traits to form the type of person that one individual is. o Fourth… traits refer to broad individual differences in socioemotional functioning. [Intelligence is out of the personality domain for this chapter – personality traits are concerned mainly with socioemotional functioning]. - Personality traits refer to individual differences between people in characteristic thoughts, feelings and behaviours. o Traits are general, global and stable dispositions. - Page 110  Table 4.1 – Four Positions of the Nature of Traits [Read Table for info…all in there] Each position highlights an important aspect of the idea of a trait. o First position – biology o Second position – dispositional nature of traits [the one closest to what most personality psychologists view them as now] o Third position – traits connect to functionally similar behaviours o Fourth position – trait labels are useful in every day social cognition - Different cultures view traits in different ways. A Brief History of Traits th - In the 4 century B.C.E… Theophrastus generated one of the first taxonomies in Western civilization. o He drew out different types of people. Each sketch was a different trait. o An example of one of his sketches:  “The Penurious Man”  page 112: Basically describing a cheap person. - In 130-200 A.D., Galen developed the most famous ancient system for personality traits… the four humors [bodily fluid associated with a particular behavioral trait] o Blood: sanguine personality – bold, confidant and robust. o Black Bile: melancholic – depressed, anxious, pessimistic and brooding. o Yellow Bile: choleric – restless, irritable and wont to explode in anger. o Phlegm: phlegmatic - aloof, apathetic, cold and sluggish.  Galen believed that an ideal person was a harmonious mixture of the four. th - In the 18 century, Immanuel Kant recast the four temperaments along the dimensions of activity and feelings: o Cholerics – strong activity o Phlegmatics – weak activity o Sanguines – strong feelings o Melancholics – weak feelings - In the late 19 century, William Wundt argued that the 4 sprang from emotional strength and variability. th - In the mid 20 century, Hans Eysenck recast the 4 types along the lines of superordinate traits: extraversion and neuroticism. - Ernst Kretschme (1921) and William Sheldon (1940) developed a theory of constitutional psychology. o Parts of the body were associated with different characteristics. o Sheldon did many studies correlating men’s body types:  Endomorph – someone with a round and soft body, with an overdevelopment of fat and underdevelopment of muscle and bone • Easygoing, affable, very desiring of social approval and oriented toward relaxation and comfort  Ectomorph – thin and bony, underdevelopment of fat and muscle • Restraint, privacy, introversion and self-consciousness.  Mesomorph – relatively muscular, neither round nor skinny and suggestive of physical vigor and stamina. • Aggressive, dominant, adventurous, courageous and sometimes callous toward the feelings of others. - Late 19 century was when the first scientific studies of traits were conducted. o Galton being one of the first to focus empirical attention on individual differences.  He proposed that important differences in personality could be gathered from language.  Researchers began collecting data on traits from looking into the way people self-rated themselves, and how their peers did so as well.  Advances in statistics paved the way for quantitative studies. - Gordon Allport - He wrote a book establishing personality psychology as a legitimate intellectual discipline AND introducing one of the first modern trait theories. - He defined a trait as: “a neuropsychic structure having the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent and to initiate and guide equivalent forms of adaptive and expressive behaviour”. o Trait labels are more than semantic conveniences. o Traits account for consistency in human behaviour. - Three kinds of evidence for the existence of a trait: o Frequency o Range of situations o Intensity - Common Trait: Dimensions of human functioning upon which many different people are likely to differ. - Personal Disposition: A trait that is especially characteristic of a given individual, depicting their uniqueness. o Cardinal Disposition: general and pervasive trait for a given person…seems directly or indirectly involved in a wide range of the person’s activies. o Central Disposition (more common): wide range of dispositions that may be characteristic for a given person and called into play on a regular basis. People have typically 5-10. - Famous case study by Allport (1965) o Analyzed the letters written to her son’s friends to derive personality descriptors of the writer (Jenny).  She had 8 central distributions: • Quarrelsome-suspicious, aesthetic-artistic, self-centered. • Secondary dispositions: more limited, less critical to the description of the overall personality. They are narrower, more contingent on particular situational cues and less central to the overall personality. - He believes people’s behaviour is highly variable from one situation to the next - He also believes that it is important to examine personal dispositions of a person as oppose to only comparing to others. - Raymond B. Cattell - In the 1940s, his ultimate goal was to predict behaviour… he did so using quantification and statistical analysis in research. - He defined personality as: “that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation”. - Coined unique traits what Allport called personal dispositions. - Page 115  Table 4.2 – Cattell’s 3-part Classification of Personality Data. o L-data (Life data) – info pertaining to a person’s real life behaviour [ex: public transcripts, diaries, etc…]{observers’ ratings} o Q-data (Questionnaire data) – self-ratings on personality traits and self- report scores on various questionnaires. {self-ratings} o T-data (Test data) – observations of an individual in a well controlled assessment situation. {test behaviour} - A combination of all three can enhance behavioural prediction. - Cattell used factor analysis to derive a complex classification scheme for traits  examine ways responses to different questions are clustered together… this enables the researcher to reduce a large number of items to smaller sets = “factors”. - His studies produced many surface traits  related elements of behaviour that cluster together. They are observable in behaviour. - This goes deeper into source traits. Many surface traits combine together to be under the category of one source trait. - He came up with one of the first hierarchical models for trait organization. o Dynamic Traits – set the individual into action to accomplish a goal. o Ability Traits – the effectiveness of the individual achieving the goal. o Temperament Traits – speed, energy and emotional reactivity of response. - He believed that one individual could be described by 16 source traits. o Measured on his Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF)  Presenting the participant with 187 questions with alternative choices for answers. • Page 117  Table 4.3 - 15 Source Traits of the 16 PF o To enhance behavioural prediction, he combined scores on different traits into a specification equation  Weighing each trait according to its relevance for a given behavioural situation. - He liked correlated factors – oblique factors. - Hans Eysenck - Also used factor analysis. - Working with J.P. Guilford, he believed that the resultant trait factors obtained should be statistically independent of one another; they must be uncorrelated or orthogonal (at right angles) to one another. - He believed there were 3 source traits o Extraversion/introversion; Neuroticism; Psychoticism. (see p.118  Figure 4.1 – The 4 Ancient Personality Types)  The first two factors recapture the ancient humours. - Longitudinal studies show that individual differences in extraversion-introversion and neuroticism are highly stable over long periods of time. - Twin studies have proved that these traits are genetically determined. - These two factors are also linked to identifiable biological substrates, in patterns in the central nervous system. The Big Five and Related Models - Galen’s lexical hypothesis – personality descriptions can be found by examining the lexicon, or words in the dictionary. - By browsing the dictionary, Allport and Odbert (1936) found 18 000 words referring to psychological states, traits and evaluations and 4500 being stable personality traits. o Cattell reduced this list of 4500 to 171 by grouping together similar words. o By then asking people to rate others using these 171 words, he was able to cluster more together to form 35-40 clusters. o Donald Fiske (1949) worked with these and narrowed them down to five basic traits.  More and more research was done on this, reaching a consensus on the five-factor model of personality traits, or the Big Five (Goldberg). • Extraversion-Introversion; Neuroticism; Agreeableness; Conscientiousness; and Openness to Experience  They are pretty consistent within other languages… except for a study among Filipino high school students who lacked the trait “neuroticism”. th  Another study using 7 languages found a 6 trait: Honesty/Humility. o Some believe that the Big 5 leaves out other important dimensions. o Each of the 5 traits can be subdivided into 6 facets.  Ex: Neuroticism  anxiety; anger hostility; depression; self- consciousness; impulsiveness; and vulnerability.  See p. 121  Table 4.4 – Big 5 Traits and their Facets - Figure 4.2 p.122, shows an example of a measuring of the big 5 traits. - A criticism to this taxonomy is that it does not specify how particular traits relate to one another. - Interpersonal circumplex  a comprehensive model of interpersonal tendencies (motives, needs, traits) depicting an interpersonal space as a circular array of variables organized around the two principle axes of Dominance and Love. See Figure 4.3 on page 123. o On opposite sides of the circle, are opposite meanings and 90 degrees from each other are unrelated. - Wiggins uses the circumplex model of traits to bisect the circle with agency (power/dominance) and communion (love/warmth). o He believes it gives definition to the intersection of extraversion and agreeableness.  The Big 5 can all be compared to agency and communion. - John Digman (1997) factor-analyzed correlations from 14 studies supporting the Big 5, 5 studies based on teens and 9 studies on adults. o 2 General Factors:  General principle of socialization [Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Neuroticism involved here].  Growth of the self [Extraversion and Openness are involved here] - Feature 4.A - Many people assess their own personality type using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). - It classifies people into 16 different types based on the crossing of: extraversion vs. introversion; sensing vs. intuiting; thinking vs. feeling; and perceiving vs. judging. One resultant type is a combination of one of each of the choices. - It is appealing because each type is very positive. - The evidence behind this test is very “skimpy”. - Researchers say it is problematic because of its either/or manner, instead of a continuum. - It is not valid nor reliable…results are not consistent. Measuring Traits Constructing a Trait Measure - Self-reports and Rating scales are the most popular methods used to assess traits. o Rating own behaviour by answering yes/no, or making a 1-7 rating on a scale of how much they agree with an item. - Most personality psychologists endorse a construct approach to test construction of the tests. o Begins with a clear definition of the trait (usually taken from a larger personality theory, such as Cattell’s 16 source traits for example) o Then, they must write out items  test questions/statements [See examples of these on p.126 written in smaller font at the bottom of the page]  Answers to these questions would be yes/no (yes = trait, no = opposite of the trait) But some people will just always say yes, wanting to have the trait, so the psychologist uses “reversed” items, where no = trait and yes = opposite of the trait)  Their goal when writing out the items is to cover the whole domain of the trait in question. • Sometimes they will even cover things outside the domain to fully cover all boundaries of the trait in question. o Then, they administer the item pool to a large number of individuals and examine the results to determine which items are kept or not for the final version.  To examine the empirical results, they perform an item analysis determining the contribution each item makes to the scale. They do so by correlating the scores on each item with the total score. • Those with a low correlation are taken out of the test.  They may also perform a factor analysis  each item is correlated with each other to determine clusters. These may form different facets of the trait OR two traits independent of each other. o In the final step… they examine the extent to which the trait predicts behaviour.  Participants participate in a lab experiment after having taken the personality test.  Or instead of a lab experiment, they compare the results of the test with activities the participants do in their daily lives  Or, they compare their scores with ratings that their peers give them. • Evidence for positive associations between different measures of the same trait constitute convergent validity  the two measures “converge” on the same trait. • Traits must be independent of one another. Facets falling under different traits should not correlate with the trait we are testing for. o Evidence for this would support the discriminant validity of our measure. Criteria of a Good Measure - Construct validity: the extent to which a test measures what it says it measures. It is a scientific process. It simultaneously validates a test and the construct that the test is measuring. - Constructs are ineffable abstractions… traits, terms, we cannot touch, see, smell, hear or taste. - Process of construct validity:
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