Chapter 8 19/01/11 10:10 PM
Self and other: Social- Cognitive Aspects of Personality
• Like computers, we take in, process, store, and retrieve information
from the environment.
• Information comes to us through our sense organs, but like any
good computer we do not simply receive that input in a passive
manner. We work on it. We perform operations on the information,
• manipulating it and using it according to the complex software of
the human mind.
• The ultimate output of this activity is human behavior. Human
beings process information in order to act. Our perceptions,
impressions, inferences, judgments, and memories eventually
inﬂuence what we do.
• Psychology begin with the assumption that human beings are
complex information-processing systems that operate in social
• Social-cognitive approaches to personality focus on how people
make and use mental representations of themselves, of others, and
of their social worlds and how those representations are implicated
in social behavior.
• Put simply, cognition inﬂuences social behavior, and social behavior
• People differ from one another with respect to the kinds of self-
representations and social construals they characteristically
formulate and act upon.
o Consequently, an essential domain of psychological
individuality is the social-cognitive representations that
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONAL CONSTRUCTS
George Kelly’s theory
• Kelly’s radical dismissal of the concept of motivation is really only
partial for his theory implies a fundamental principle of motivation
o A person is motivated to predict or anticipate what will
happen to him or her. What moves people to act is their desire to know what the world has in store for them.
Fundamentally, the person is like a scientist, seeking to
predict and control events.
• According to Kelly, each of us classiﬁes his or her world by
developing personal constructs, which are characteristic ways of
construing how some things are alike and some things are different
from one another.
• Every construct is bipolar specifying how two things are similar to
each other and different from a third thing.
• People are best understood in terms of their own construct
systems. Each person develops his or her own construct system
that contains a number of constructs organized into a hierarchy
• This means that within any construct system certain constructs are
superordinal (encompassing many other constructs) and others are
subordinal (being encompassed by larger constructs).
TABLE 8 . 1 KELLY’S FUNDAMENTAL POSTULATE AND ELEVEN COROLLARIES
-Fundamental Postulate: A person’s processes are psychologically channelized by
the ways in which he or she anticipates events.
Construction Corollary: A person anticipates events by construing their
-Individuality Corollary: Persons differ from one another in their construction of
-Organization Corollary: Each person characteristically evolves, for his or her
convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal
relationships between constructs.
-Dichotomy Corollary: A person’s construction system is composed of a ﬁnite
number of dichotomous constructs.
-Choice Corollary: A person chooses for him- or herself that alternative in a
dichotomized construct through which he or she anticipates the greater possibility for extension and deﬁnition of his or her system.
-Range Corollary: A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a ﬁnite range of
-Experience Corollary: A person’s construction system varies as he or she
successively construes the replications of events.
-Modulation Corollary: The variation in a person’s construction system is limited by
the permeability of the constructs within whose range of convenience the variants
-Fragmentation Corollary: A person may successively employ a variety of
construction subsystems that are inferentially incompatible with each other.
-Communality Corollary: To the extent that one person employs a construction of
experience that is similar to that employed by another, his or her psychological
processes are similar to those of the other person.
-Sociality Corollary: To the extent that one person construes the construction
process of another, he or she plays a role in a social process involving the other
• Within a given person’s construct system, particular constructs
differ from one another with respect to their range of convenience
• Some constructs are highly permeable whereas others are not
(‘‘modulation corollary’’). A permeable construct is open to modiﬁcation and
the introduction of new elements. A person with an especially permeable
construct system is likely to be seen by others as very open-minded.
• By contrast, a person who is unable to modify his or her constructs in light
of new information and expanding experiences is likely to be viewed by
others as relatively rigid and inﬂexible.
• Complete permeability, however, is not altogether good.
• When a person’s constructs are mutually incompatible and contradictory
(‘‘fragmented’’), then he or she is likely to have a difﬁcult time making consistent sense of the world and anticipating events in an adaptive way
• In Kelly’s cognitive view, ‘‘the unconscious’’ is merely those constructs that
are nonverbal, submerged, or suspended.
• For certain constructs, we are unable to assign a verbal name; thus, we
may not be aware of them.
• Other constructs are submerged beneath other constructs or suspended
from the construct system because they do not seem to ﬁt.
• Kelly views ‘‘anxiety’’ as ‘‘the recognition that the events with which one is
confronted lie outside the range of convenience of one’s construct system’’.
o In other words, when we confront inexplicable events in the
world for which our construct system does not seem to be
prepared, we experience anxiety.
o Ultimately, then, anxiety is a fear of the unknown
• ‘‘Guilt’’ is a ‘‘perception of one’s apparent dislodgment from his core
• ‘‘Core role structure’’ is the construction a person has of who he or
she is in relation to signiﬁcant people, such as parents. It is
embedded within the person’s general construct system.
Exploring personal constructs: the REP test
• One of the best ways to get a feel for Kelly’s approach is to
participate in the Role Construct Repertory Test (Rep Test), a
personality assessment procedure designed by Kelly to explore
personal constructs in people’s lives.
o One version of the Rep Test asks you to make a series of
comparisons among those people who play important roles in
your life. Kelly deﬁned a role as an understanding or
expectation of what particular people in a person’s life do.
• One line of research examined individual differences in cognitive
complexity as revealed by the Rep Test.
o People who use many different kinds of constructs are said to
manifest higher levels of cognitive complexity. They tend to
view the world in a highly differentiated manner.
o People who use few different kinds of constructs are viewed
as having a simpler, more global construct system. • Another line of research examined construct similarity among
friends and acquaintances
o In general, students who have similar construct systems tend
to become close friends and to remain friends for longer
periods of time.
• In another study, similarity of constructs was a more signiﬁcant
predictor of friendship formation than was similarity on self-report
measures of traits.
o In other words, friends may be drawn together not so much
by a perception that they behave in the same kinds of ways
but rather by the perception that they see the world in the
• For personality psychology, Kelly presented an innovative and
refreshingly sensible perspective for understanding the whole
o By imagining people as everyday scientists and focusing on
how we seek to categorize, predict, and control our social
worlds, Kelly signaled the importance of social-cognitive
adaptations in human personality and the role of mental
representations of self and others in everyday behavior.
COGNITIVE STYLES AND PERSONALITY
• Cognitive styles are people’s ‘‘characteristic and typically
preferred modes of processing information’’.
• Cognitive styles are not the same thing as cognitive abilities.
• While cognitive abilities assess how well a person performs on
cognitive tasks, cognitive styles tap instead into a person’s
characteristic way or manner of processing information.
• Cognitive style is partly captured in the Big Five trait taxonomy, via
the trait cluster of Openness to Experience
o People high in O tend to process information in a more
nuanced, differentiated, and abstract manner, research
suggests, while those low in O see fewer distinctions and
adhere to concrete and clearly deﬁned categories.
• Two dimensions of cognitive style that have received a great deal of
attention from personality psychologists. o (1) ﬁeld independence –dependence.
o (2) integrative complexity.
• Field-dependent style ppl’s perception and judgment of
perpendicularity depend on the ‘‘ﬁeld,’’ or environment.
• The people who bypass the ﬁeld and make their perception and
judgment according to inner cues show a ﬁeld-independent
• Field independence – dependence ia a broad and pervasive
cognitive style that underlies many important personality
differences The dimension has two poles.
o At one extreme, highly ﬁeld-independent people process
information in an especially analytical and differentiated style.
o At the other extreme, highly ﬁeld-dependent people employ
external frames of reference available in the ﬁeld. They tend
to base their perceptions on the external context within which
o Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the ﬁeld
independence –dependence continuum.
• Field-independent people are adept at pulling information out of an
• In general, ﬁeld independence is associated with greater levels of
perceptual and cognitive restructuring.
• Field-independent people tend to reshape information from the
environment according to internalized plans, rules, and goals to a
greater extent than do people who are ﬁeld dependent.
• They tend to view information in the nonsocial world in a highly
• Field-independence predicts the ability to block out irrelevant
information and focus attention on central tasks and stimuli in
complex learning situations
• The ﬁeld-independent person approaches the world as a
hypothesis-tester, systematically differentiating causes and effects
and analyzing the world in terms of its separate parts. • Field-dependent people are more global and intuitive in processing
information about the world. They tend to engage in less cognitive
restructuring, accepting information from the environment in its
own contextual terms.
• Cognitive style appears to have signiﬁcant inﬂuences on
• The ﬁeld-dependent person is more sensitive to social context than
the ﬁeld-independent person.
• Field-dependent people pay closer attention to interpersonal cues
and social information.
• In general, women score toward the ﬁeld-dependent end of the
continuum, whereas men score toward the ﬁeld-independent end.
• Integrative complexity is the extent to which a person reasons
about issues in a differentiated and integrative manner
o People high in integrative complexity make many conceptual
distinctions and see many interconnections when interpreting
and making sense of intellectual and social issues.
o People low in integrative complexity, by contrast, see fewer
distinctions and tend to reason about the world in a holistic
• Freedom and equality are the two fundamental values upon which
Western political rhetoric is often evaluated.
o Conservatives tend to value freedom over equality.
o Extreme liberals (socialists, communists) value equality over
o Moderate liberals, however, value both.
• Porter and Suedfeld (1981) correlated integrative complexity scores
with various historical events and personal changes in novelists’
o They found that integrative complexity scores decreased
during times of war but increased during periods of civil
o War appeared to exert a simplifying effect on literary
correspondence. o By contrast, civil unrest (such as major political changes)
appeared to evoke a more ﬂexible and integrative outlook.
• With respect to personal changes, Porter and Suedfeld (1981) found
that integrative complexity decreased during times of illness, was
unrelated to other stressful events, increased with age, and
decreased shortly before death.
• In general, research suggests that high levels of integrative
complexity are associated with making more informed and well-
balanced decisions, with open-mindedness and tolerance for
ambiguity in confronting complex issues, and with cognitive self-
o High scorers sometimes ﬁnd it difﬁcult to make a clear-cut
decision based on ﬁrm moral principles.
• In some situations there would appear to be an interpersonal
downside for high integrative complexity.
SOCIAL COGNITIVE THOERY AND THE PERSON
• Contemporary social-cognitive approaches in personality psychology
view the person as a more-or- less rational and planful knower who
actively seeks information in the social world and draws upon a rich
storehouse of social knowledge in order to regulate his or her own
behavior and enact plans and goals in a wide range of social
• Social-cognitive theories also underscore themes that are at the
heart of some humanistic approaches to personality, including
especially Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory.
• Nancy Cantor and John Kihlstrom argue that the key to
understanding personality coherence is social intelligence
o Each person brings a set of skills, abilities, and knowledge to
every social situation.
• People differ in social intelligence.
• Some people appear to have more than others.
• People use their social intelligence in different ways to interpret and
solve current tasks and problems in life. • In Cantor and Kihlstrom’s view, social interaction involves problem
solving. The social world confronts each of us with a series of
mundane and momentous problems that call for socially intelligent
• Social intelligence consists of three different kinds of organized
Concepts and episodes may be grouped together as
aspects of declarative knowledge.
Concepts are the abstract and categorical things
contained in the storehouse, such as concepts of who
you are and what you typically expect to happen in
social life. Concepts are aspects of what Cantor and
Kihlstrom call declarative-semantic knowledge.
Episodes are more concrete and particular kinds of
things contained in the storehouse, such as memories
of particular scenes in your life.
These make up declarative-episodic knowledge. The
distinction between the two forms of declarative
knowledge —concepts (declarative-semantic
knowledge) and episodes (declarative-episodic
knowledge) —is a fundamental distinction in cognitive
Rules are aspects of what Cantor and Kihlstrom identify
as procedural knowledge.
Whereas concepts and episodes are like things
contained in the mind’s storehouse, rules are not things
but rather procedures or processes that determine how
things are used.
• Among the most important concepts that make up declarative-
semantic knowledge are your concepts of self, others, and social
• Concepts of self are perhaps the most salient co