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42- Trait Theories, social-cognitive theories, and the self.docx

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University of Guelph
PSYC 1000
Benjamin Giguere

TRAIT THEORIES, SOCIAL-COGNITIVE THEORIES AND THE SELF Trait theories  In psychology, trait researchers attempt to define personality as stable and enduring behaviour patterns  Personality can be described in traits: a characteristic pattern of behaviour or a disposition to feel and act, as assessed by self-report inventories and peer reports.  Gordon Allport came to define personality in terms of identifiable behaviour patterns. He was concerned less with explaining individual traits than describing them.  Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Briggs wanted to describe important personality differences  They attempted to sort out Carl Jung’s personality types  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been taken by more than 2 million a year mostly for career counselling, leadership training, and work team development  A National Research Council report noted, however, that despite the test’s popularity in business and career counselling, its initial use outran research on its value as a predictor of job performance, and the popularity of the instrument in the absence of proven scientific worth is troublesome. Exploring Traits  Classifying people as one or another distinct personality type fails to capture their full individuality  We are each a unique complex of multiple traits Factor Analysis  Factor analysis is a statistical procedure used to identify clusters of test items that tap basic components of a trait  Hans and Sybil Eysenck believed we can reduce our normal variations to two or three dimensions, including extraversion-introversion and emotional stability-instability Biology and Personality  Studies indicate that extraverts seek stimulation because their normal brain arousal is relatively low  PET scans show that frontal lobe area involved in behaviour inhibition is less active in extraverts than in introverts  Dopamine and dopamine related neural activity tend to be higher in extraverts  Biology influences personality  Genes have much to say about temperament and behavioural style that help define personality  Differences in child’s shyness and inhibition is related to autonomic nervous system reactivity What two primary dimensions did Hans and Sybil Eysenck propose for describing personality variation? Introversion-extraversion and emotional stability-instability Assessing Traits TRAIT THEORIES, SOCIAL-COGNITIVE THEORIES AND THE SELF  If stable and enduring traits guide our actions, can we devise valid and reliable tests?  Personality inventory: a questionnaire (often with true-false or agree-disagree items) on which people respond to items designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviours; used to assess selected personality traits.  MMPI: the most widely researched and clinically used of all personality test. Originally developed to identify emotional disorders (still considered its most appropriate use), this test is now used for many other screening purposes  The MMPI items were empirically derived: a test (such as the MMPI) developed by testing a pool items and then selecting those that discriminate between groups  Most projective tests are scored in subjectivity; personality inventories are scored objectively  Objectivity does not guarantee validity though  Individuals taking the MMPI for employment purposes can give socially desirable answers to create a good impression, but in doing so they may also score high on a lie scale that assesses faking (when people respond false to a universally true statement such as I get angry sometimes) The Big Five Factors  Today’s trait researchers believe that simple trait factors, such as Eysencks’ introverted- extraverted and stability-instability dimensions are important but do not tell the whole story  5 factors- do better job (conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion)  Big five research has explored these questions:  How stable are these traits? These traits are quite stable with some tendencies  How heritable are they? Heritability varies with the diversity of people studied, but roughly 50% for each dimension genetic influence. Many genes have small effects which combine to influence our traits. Researchers have also identified brain areas associated with 5 traits- such as frontal lobe are is sensitive to reward and is larger in extraverts  Do the big five traits predict other behavioural attributes? Yes. Shy introverts are more likely than extraverts to prefer communicating by email than face to face. Highly conscientious people are more likely to do better in school. More likely to be morning people. Lower on agreeableness, stability, and openness- marital and sexual satisfaction may suffer. Traits influence language- emotional instability and emotional words What are the Big Five personality factors and what are the strengths of using these factors? The big five personality factors are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism (emotional stability vs. instability), openness, and extraversion (CANOE). These factors may be objectively measured, with validity, and research suggests that these factors are relatively stable across the life span and apply to all cultures being studied. Evaluating Trait Theories  Is personality changing or stable? The Person-Situation Controversy TRAIT THEORIES, SOCIAL-COGNITIVE THEORIES AND THE SELF  Our behaviour is influenced by the interaction of our inner disposition with our environment  Which is more important?  Person-situation controversy we look for traits that persist over time and across situations  Correlation that as people grow older their personality stabilizes  Interests, careers, relationships change, but people recognize their traits as their own  Most side that personality is stable and socially significant (influence health, our thinking and job performance).  Although personality traits may be both stable and potent, the consistency of our behaviours from one situation to next change  People do not act with predictable consistency  This inconsistency in behaviours also makes personality test scores weak predictors of behaviours  However peoples average traits are predictable  In unfamiliar, formal situations our traits remain hidden as we carefully attend to social cues. In familiar informal situations we feel less constrained allowing traits to emerge How well do personality test scores predict our behaviour? Our scores on personality tests predict our average behaviour across many situations much better than they predict out specific behaviour in any given situation Social-Cognitive Theories  Social cognitive perspective: views behaviour as influenced by the interaction between people’s traits (including their thinking) and their social context  We learn many of our behaviours either through conditioning or by observing or imitating  Emphasize the importance of mental processes: what we think about our situation affects our behaviour  How we and the environment interact Reciprocal Influences  Bandura views the person-environment interaction as reciprocal determinism  Behaviour, internal personal factors, and environmental influences all operate as interlocking determinants of each other  3 ways individuals and environment interact: 1. Different people choose different environments 2. Our personalities shape how we interpret and react to events 3. Our personalities help create situations in which we react Personal Control  Social-cognitive psychologists emphasize our sense of personal control- whether we learn to see ourselves as controlling, or as controlled by, our environment  2 ways to study the effect of personal control: one is to correlate people’s feelings of control with their behaviours and achievements. Two is experiment, by rai
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