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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Clues to Personality - Textbook Notes

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McMaster University
Richard B Day

Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee Part 1: Research Methods Chapter 2: Clues to Personality: The Basic Sources of Data  Looking at personality, can do four different things 1. Ask the person directly for her own opinion about what she is like 2. Find out what other people who know the person would say about her 3. Check on how the person is fairing in life 4. Observe what the person does and try to measure her behaviour as directly and objectively as possible  “Funders Second Law” – there are no perfect indications of personality; there are only clues, and clues are always ambiguous Data Are Clues  The observable aspects of personality are best characterized as ambiguous clues – personality resides hidden inside each individual  Must infer existence and nature since you cannot see personality directly  Inferences must be based on indications that can be observed  Information gathered can be misleading – but the only other alternative is not gathering any information  “Funders Third Law” – something beats nothing, two time out of three Four Kinds of Clues Advantages and Disadvantages of the Main Sources of Data for Personality Advantages Disadvantaged S Data: Self reports 1. Large amount of information 1. Maybe they can’t tell you 2. Access to thought’s, feelings, and intentions 2. Maybe they won’t tell you 3. Some S data are rue by definition (eg/ self-esteem) 3. Too simple and too easy 4. Casual force 5. Simple and Easy I Data: Informants 1. Large amount of information 1. Limited behavioural information reports 2. Real world basis 2. Lack of access to private 3. Common sense experience 4. Some I data are true by definition (eg/ likeability) 3. Error 5. Casual force 4. Bias L Data: Life outcomes 1. Objective and verifiable 1. Multi-determination 2. Intrinsic importance 2. Possible lack of psychological 3. Psychological relevance relevance B Data: Behavioural 1. Wide range of context (both real and contrived) 1. Uncertain interpretation observations 2. Appearance of objectivity S Data - Ask the Person Direction  S Data – self judgments  Most common basis for personality assessment  Often done using a questionnaire that has face validity o Degree to which he is dominant, friendly, conscientious etc o 9 point scale, answer true or false to statements etc  Face Validity – intended to measure what they seem to measure, taken at face value o S Data is straightforward and simple because psychologist does not try to interpret what participant says  The way people describe themselves matches the way they are described by others  Can be obtained by asking open-ended questions o Eg/ Personal strivings; objectives you are typically trying to accomplish or attain – participants own descriptions of goals; responses are used to access the nature of peoples goals  Advantages 1. Large amount of information o “Wherever you go, there you are” (aphorism) – illustrates that you are the only one who is with you all the time o Unique perspective on the general nature of your personality o S data you can provide can reflect complex aspects of character that no other data source could access 2. Access to thoughts, feelings and intentions o Inner mental life and emotions is experienced by only you – others can only see these aspects if you reveal it to them (intentionally or not) o The psychological meaning of a behaviour lies in what it was intended to accomplish other people must infer this intention, whereas your knowledge is more direct 1 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee 3. Definitional truth o Have to be correct, because they are themselves aspects of the self-view o Eg/ If you have high self esteem, then you do – doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks 4. Causal force o Efficacy Expectations – what you attempt to do and your goals depend on what you think you’re capable of and what kind of person you are o Self-Verification – people work hard to bring others to treat them in a manner that confirms their self-conception o Your view of yourself doesn’t just reflect what you think about yourself, but it also may be a cause of what you do 5. Simple and easy o Other data – costs and time are involved  Eg/ look up public records, find some way to observe participant, recruit information o S data – simple and easy  Eg/ ask what you want to know; make a survey, post question on internet  Disadvantages 1. They may not tell you o A persons knowledge about how she acts in all situations of her life and about the nature of her private experience only translates into S data f the individual is willing to reveal it o Accuracy of data is compromised if participant withholds information o Eg/ May be ashamed of some aspect in her life, may not admit to doubting certain abilities (1) (2) o Unique knowledge of intentions and some aspects of personality are self-views – doesn’t relay into data if participant chooses to withhold information 2. They may not be able to tell you o Memory is finite and imperfect; information he happens to remember may not be the most important or characteristic – exceptional events tend to stand out in memory  Eg/ Stingy person remembers the time he was very generous o Truth might have trouble emerging because of fish-in-water-effect – common failing of self judgment  People may be so used to the way they characteristically behave and react and behave that their own actions stop seeming remarkable  We become accustomed to customary behaviours of culture o Information can be distorted in memory – self-judgments might be wrong about some of the most important aspects of personality  Repression – ego prevents painful memories from emerging into consciousness o Lack of insight; people may lack the ability to see all aspects of own personality accurately  Eg/ Narcissism – to characteristically have an exaggerated idea of own abilities and accomplishments 3. Too simple and too easy o Overused I Data - Ask Somebody Who Know  “I” stands for “Informant”  I Data – judgments by knowledgeable informants about general attributes of the individuals personality (such as traits)  Informants do not need formal knowledge of psychology, just need to know individual being studied  Judgments – derive from somebody observing somebody else in whatever contexts they happen to have encountered them and then rendering a general opinion on the basis of observation  judgmental, subjective, irreducibly human  Eg/ Letter of recommendation, gossip  Advantages 1. Large amount of information o Goes beyond the degree of knowledge attained by any single acquaintance – can get multiple informants  Can average data into a single, aggregate rating 2. Real world basis o Derived from observation of behaviour in real world – most information comes from contrived tests, or on the observation of behaviour in a carefully constructed and controlled environment 3. Common sense o I data takes into account the context and intention of behaviour to a degree that no other external source of information can equal  I data are not counts or mathematical combinations; they comprise of informants judgments about what the behaviours mean  I data are distillations of behavioural observations that are filtered through the informants common sense o Take two contexts into account 2 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee  Immediate Situation – the psychological meaning of a behaviour can change as a function of the situation that prompted it  Eg/ If you see acquaintance crying; you draw different conclusions based on whether they’re crying due to a family death or due to the fact that its raining  Other behaviours of the individual that an informant might know about  Eg/ Your acquaintance is upset after an argument with a friend; interpretation of this reaction depends on whether this acquaintance is someone who is easily upset or someone who tends to be disturbed only under extreme circumstances 4. Definitional truth o Some aspects of your personality reside in the reactions of other people o Eg/ You cannot assess how charming you are; charm exists in the eyes of other people 5. Causal force o Behavioural Confirmation/Expectancy Effect – people become what others expect them to be  Disadvantage 1. Limited behavioural information o Informant might have seen persons behaviour in large number of situations; has not seen them in all of them o Informant knowledge is limited in two ways:  There is a sense in which each person lives inside a series of separate compartments; each compartment contains different people  Eg/ School vs. Home  encounter different people in each environment; you may be a different person in each environment  Situation 1/ student goes from small town to university – personality changes; when return to small town parents are frustrated with new personality, student anxious and frustrated about old expectations  allows for growth; may return to old personality when experimentation is over o Neither description from parents or university friends is accurate  People are more comfortable if those who inhabit the compartments of their lives do not cross over into compartments where they do not belong  Situation 2/ encounter your boss, who you’re comfortable with at work, at a bar dancing on the table  o Roles affect they way we behave (eg/ see a professor at the supermarket; roles are no longer relevant, even though students and profs know how to act around one another o People are different in different environments 2. Lack of access to private experience o Each person has a private, inner mental life that is only known to informants if it has been revealed or shared 3. Error o Judgments of personality that they offer is sometimes mistaken – no informant can remember everything he has seen another person do o Behaviours that are likel
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