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PSYC 2740 (174)
Chapter 3

Chapter 3

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PSYC 2740
Stephen Lewis

Chapter 3: Traits and Trait Taxonomies Personality psychologists hypothesize – traits (a.k.a. dispositions) reasonably stable over time and at least somewhat consistent over situations Central goal = formulate a comprehensive taxonomy of all important traits Traits as Internal Causal Properties  presumed to be internal in sense that individuals carry desires, wants, needs from one situation to next  explain the behavior of individuals who possess them (causal)  do not equate traits with external behavior in question  traits can lie dormant – capacities remain even when behavior isn’t actually expressed Traits as Purely Descriptive Summaries  make no assumptions about internality or causality  use traits to describe trend in persons behavior Act Frequency Approach  starts with – traits are categories of acts  3 key elements: 1. Act nomination – identifies which acts belong in which trait categories 2. Prototypically judgement – identifies which acts are more central to, or prototypical of each trait category 3. Recording of act performance – securing information on the actual performance of individuals in their daily lives (usually use self-reports, or reports from close family/friends) Evaluation of Act Frequency Formulation  Doesn’t specify how much context should be included in description of trait-relevant act  What about failure to act and covert acts that aren’t directly observable?  Helpful exploring meaning of traits and identifying behavioral regularities  Helpful identifying cultural similarities and differences in behavioral manifestation of traits  Can predict important outcomes in everyday life ex. salary, job success, rate of promotion Lexical approach – approach to determining fundamental personality traits by analyzing language ex. trait adjective with more synonyms probably represents more fundamental trait (good starting point) Lexical hypothesis – all important individual differences have become encoded with the natural language  People invent words to describe people  Trait terms are extraordinarily important for people in communicating with others  2 clear criteria for identifying important traits 1. Synonym frequency - if attribute has more than 1 or 2 traits to describe it (like 6, 8 or 10 words) it is more important dimension of individual difference 2. Cross-cultural universality – if trait is sufficiently important in all cultures so that members have codified terms in own language to describe trait, must be universally important in human affairs, also if only occurs in a few languages must be only locally relevant Statistical Approach –having large number of people rate themselves on certain items, then employing statistical procedure to identify groups or clusters of items that go together (very valuable)  Starts with pool of personality items (can be trait words or series of questions)  Goal is to identify major dimensions, or “coordinates” of personality map  Use factor analysis – identifies underlying structure in personality ratings or items, identifies groups of items that covary with each other but tend not to covary with other groups of items Theoretical approach – starts with theory then determines which variables are important to measure  Example of theoretical strategy = Sociosexual orientation – theory that men and women will pursue 2 alternative sexual relationship strategies 1. Mating strategy entails seeking single committed relationship characterized by monogamy and tremendous investment in children 2. Greater deal of promiscuity, partner switching and less investment in children  Tells us which variables are important – saves time Many personality researchers use combination of the 3 theories. Taxonomies of Personality Eysenck’s Hierarchical Model of Personality  Most strongly rooted in biology  Based on traits believed to be highly heritable and had likely psychophysiological foundation – super traits(PEN) 1. Psychoticism (P)  Aggressive, egocentric, creative, impulsive, lacking sympathy, lacking empathy, antisocial  Higher score – solitary individual, “loner”, cruel or inhumane, (men tend to score 2x higher than women), insensitivity to suffering of others, aggressive (physically and verbally), prefer violent films and unpleasant paintings,  Low score – more deeply religious, 2. Extraversion – In
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