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Chapter 4

Chapter 4.pdf

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Jennifer Ostovich

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Chapter 4: Personality Traits, Situations and Behavior - trait approach is based on empirical research thatmostly uses Correlational designs o trait psychologists put lots of effort into construction of methods (e.g. personality tests) o is the score predictive? Look at correlation between score and some separate indication of that behaviour - trait approach focuses exclusively on individual differences o it is on a relative scale to other people (i.e. about howmuch more or less this person is sociable compared to someone else), not on a absolute sense o important to asses how people are different from one another but it may also be a weakness  prone to neglect aspects of psychology that are common to all people, as well as the ways in which people are unique The measurement of individual differences - everyman is like all other men, like some other men, like no other men o we all have aspects that are like all others (e.g. biological needs for food), there are aspects in which we differ from others but still allows us to be grouped together (e.g. consistently cheerful people), and yet other aspects that are very unique (biological makeup, viewof the world, experiences) - trait approach focuses on the middle one, neglecting the other two - assume that people are their traits - dimensions of individual differences are the building blocksof which personality is constructed People are inconsistent - inconsistency is seen all the time, people may act different depending on who they’re with,where they are (situations) - casual observation is sufficient to confirm that personality traits are not the only factors that control one’s behaviours - situations vary according to the people present and the implicit rules given - is there use then in characterizing personality? Perhaps traits don’t exist and people change continually according to situations? - Stability increases with age: 30 year olds aremore stable across time than children and adolescents, people between 50 and 70 most stable - People differ from each other in the degree to which they have developed a consistent personality for themselves o Difference related to psychological adjustment and age o Consistency is associated with general mental health more consistent people are less neurotic, more controlled, more pro-social The person-situation debate - debate triggered by Mischel’s Personality and Assessment o behaviour is too inconsistent to allow differences to be characterized in terms of broad personality traits - consistency controversy goes to the heart of how everybody thinks about people, and the way we resolve it has important implications for how we understand the bases ofindividual differences andimportant life outcomes - does the personality of an individual transcend the immediate situation and provide a consistent guide to her actions or is what a person does utterly dependent on the situation? - Are common, ordinary intuitions about people fundamentally flawed or basically correct? (given that we use personality trait terms all day long) - Why do psychologists continue to argue about consistency of personality when basic empirical questions were settled long ago? - The situationist arguments has 3 parts o There’s an upper limit to how well you can predict behaviour based on the traits (and this limit is low)  Rebuttal: Fair review of literature reveals that predictabilityof behavior from traits is better than is sometimes acknowledged  improved research methods can increase predictability and that the putative upper limit yields better outcomes than is sometimes recognized o Therefore, situations are more important (situationism)  Rebuttal: Many important effects of situations on behaviorare no bigger statistically than the documented size of the effects of personality traits on behavior o Professional practice of personality assessment is mostly awaste of time and everyday intuitions about people are fundamentally flawed. Trait words used are not legit and people tend to see others as being more consistent than they really are Predictability The situationist argument - the test of usefulness of personality trait depends on whether it can be used to predict behaviour  if you know someone’s score on a trait, you should be able to predict - situationist argue that this predictive capacity is very low - S and B- ability of trait judgements to predict behaviour - I and B- - ability of trait judgements to predict behaviour - B and B- consistency of behavior across situations (e.g. if you’re sociable at party A, will you also be in another situation) - Data reported in Mischel’s reviews were not taken from real life for themost part o E.g. measured self control by seeing how long kids could wait for candy, measured attitude towards authority by asking them of their opinions towards photographs o Rarely assessed in naturalistic situations (still is, due to price and difficulty) - How well can a person’s behaviour be predicted either from behaviour or from trait score? o Predictability and consistency both indexed by correlation coefficient (+1 to -1, near 0 = variables unrelated) o Mischel: correlation between personality and behaviour: 0.3; Nisbett: 0.4  either way, correlations are small and personality traits are unimportant in shaping behaviour - These results had huge influences since the upper limit of 0.4 is low The response (rebuttals from thepro-personality side) Unfair literature review - Mischel’s review was selective and unfair - It was short and focused on a few studies which obtained disappointing results rather than the more numerous ones which had more impressive findings - He did not seek for the best studies in the literature o E.g. first study filled withmethodological and empirical flaws- participant number deliberately sabotaged the research questionnaires - Some studies are bound to find positive results on the basisof chance alone We can do better - weak findings summarized by Mischel do not imply that personality is unimportant, but just that psychologists need to do better research - need tomove out of the lab, where it is dull and un-involving  personality becomes more relevant in situations which are more real, vivid and important (e.g. parachute jump) - some people may be more consistent than others: behaviours of those who said they were consistent in being sociable was easier to predict accurately (check for variations in consistency) o high vs. low self monitors: high selfmonitors change behaviour according to situation, while low are more likely to express personality consistently from one situation to the next o some behaviours are probablymore consistent than others (e.g. how loudly one speaks is more consistent than trying to impress someone) - need to focus on general behavioural trends instead of single actions at particularmoments o predict how someone will behave on average over the next year instead of how friendly they will be next Tuesday at 3pm o behaviours of a person varies around their average level from occasion to occasion o your average level of aggressive or shy behaviour is more predictable than what you will do in any particular moment or place - this brings us to the concern ofmeaning and purpose of personality-trait judgements o when we say someone is friendly  are we predicting one specific behaviour at one time or a prediction of how that person will generally act over a long haul? – usually the latter o need to know how person will act, in general, across the various relevant situations (in general, usually)  because specific actions depends on the moment/situation - it is difficult to fulfill these three criterias: hard to follow someone in real life, individual differences in consistency may be subtle and difficult to measure, prediction of trends requires many direct observations - therefore, there’s still not enough evidence that behavioural consistency regularly gets much higher than what’s reflected by 0.4 A correlation of 0.4 is not small - the assumption that’s made is that 0.4 is a small upper limit(assumed when you are affected by the situationist critique) - absolute standard: consider how many correct or incorrectpredictions of behaviour a trait measurement with this degree of validity would yield in a hypothetical construct o according to the Binomical Effect Size Display (BESD) by Rosenthal and Rubin, a prediction of 0.4 means that prediction of behaviour based on personality trait score is likely to be accurate 70% of the time  70% can be enough to be used for many useful purposes (e.g. using a test with 0.4 validity can raise the possible susccesful trainings from 50 to 70  savemoney) - relative standard: compare this degree of predictability with the accuracy of other methods used to predict behaviour o to evaluate ability of personality traits to predict behaviour,draw comparisons with the ability of situational variables to predict behaviour Situationism - situationists: personality does not determine behaviour, situations do - how do we evaluate degree to which behaviour is affected by situational variable? - Assumed by default that if behavioural explained 16% of variance, then other 84% explained by situation o Could just attribute to other personality variables o You don’t know what aspect of situation is important - Social psych experiment: two ormore separate groups of participants placed in one of the two different situations (conditions) o If average behaviour of participants in one condition turns out to be sig different t experiment successful o Eg. incentives on attitude change (did they come to believethat game was not dull)  if the two groups change their attitudes differently to different degrees  difference in incentives was effective cause of this difference - Literature of social psych offers many examples of situational effects  but how large are they compared to effects of personality variables? o They don’t usually pay attention to the size, just on the significance  cannot compare? o Experimental stats can be converted into correlations of the sort used by personality - Chose 3 studies, converted results to
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