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Chapter 2

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Richard Eibach

Chapter 2: Data, Methods, and Tools Why a Science of Personality? : Beyond Hindsight Understanding - We see only though our own eyes, and are convinced we see the truth, without realizing how different other accounts of the same event can be when seen through different eyes - E.g. in Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Rashomon – tale of woman raped and man murdered - Each story makes sense when taken by itself, but together, they do not add up and the contradictions become evident - The film never tells what really happened, leaving the viewer feeling of ambiguity and an appreciation of how what we see depends on who we are - In that spirit, it makes sense to begin the study of persons by asking individuals how they see and understand themselves, and what they are like in their own eyes – while also recognizing that this personal “internal” vantage point will necessarily be limited and incomplete - Gary W. the text’s case – Gary’s self-description The Range of Personality-Relevant Measures - Psychologists approaching personality at different levels of analysis obtain information about people from many sources and through a wide range of strategies - The result is a collection of diverse observations about many aspects of persons - A central goal of personality psychology is to figure out how these diverse aspects about an individual relate to each other and help us to understand what is going on in the individual as a whole - But first we need to see just what kinds of data are available; and the range is huge Interviews - A verbal exchange between the participant and the examiner, favored particularly by workers at the Psychodynamic-Motivational Level and those at the Phenomenological level - The interview is the oldest method for studying personality, and it remains the most favored for psychodynamic research and assessment Tests and Self-Reports - A test is any standardized measure of behaviour, including verbal behaviour - Many tests are in the form of self-reports – a term that refers to any statements people make about themselves - Self-reports offer quick ways of getting information the person is willing and able to reveal - Some tests involve performance measure – example, researchers interested in seeing how personality measures in childhood predict academic performance in later life might use measures like the SAT as an outcome assessment Projective Measures - Popular in clinical use - With these methods, assessors present the person with ambiguous stimuli and ask them ambiguous questions that have no right or wrong answers (e.g. showing inkblot and asking what it could remind you of?) Naturalistic observation and Behaviour Sampling - Through observation we form impressions and learn about events and people Remote Behaviour Sampling: Daily Life Experiences - Researchers and clinicians can collect samples of behaviour form respondents as they live their daily lives - A tiny computerized device carried by respondents pages them at randomly determined times of the day - When the “beeper” sounds, respondents record their current thoughts, feelings, or behaviours, depending on what the researcher or therapist is assessing - Respondents may also report on the kind of situation they are in so that situation – behaviour interactions can be examined - The data can either be stored in the computer or transmitted directly to the assessor - Remote sampling procedures can be used over weeks or even months to collect a large behaviour sample across many situations - This method has great promise, allowing researchers to detect patterns of personal functioning that might not be revealed by other methods - Experience samples also are used to study reactions to common life problems such as adjusting to college life in terms of such personal tasks as getting good grades and making friends Physiological Functioning and Brain Imaging - Personality researchers have long searched for practical methods to assess emotional reactions - One of the classic measures of physiological functioning is the polygraph, an apparatus that records the activities of the autonomic nervous system - Measures of bodily changes in response to stimulation also provide important information, especially when the stimuli are stressful or arousing - A popular component of polygraphic measurement is the electrocardiogram (EKG) - As the heart beats, its muscular contractions produce patterns of electrical activity that may be detected by electrodes placed near the heart on the body surface - Another component is the changes in blood volume that may be recorded by means of a plethysmograph - Other useful measures include changes in the electrical activity of the skin due to sweating (recorded by a galvanometer and called the galvanic skin response or GSR), changes in blood pressure, and changes in muscular activity - Intense emotional arousal is generally accompanied by high levels of “activation” in the brain - The degree of activation in the cerebral cortex may be inferred from “brain waves” recorded by the electroencephalograph (EEG) - Positron emission tomography (PET) scans measure the amount of glucose (the brain’s main fuel) being used in various parts of the brain and provide an index of activity as the brain performs a particular function - Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), measures the magnetic fields created by the functioning nerve cells in the brain and with the aid of computers depicts these activities as images Laboratory Methods of Social Cognition - In current personality and social psychological research, some investigators are trying to understand individual differences in emotional and cognitive reactions to different kinds of social stimuli that occur often outside the individual’s awareness and control - To illustrate, one method is called the sequential priming-pronunciation task - Use to test the hypothesis that certain types of people are more prone to become hostile when they fee rejected - They tested it by “priming” - Priming refers to presenting a stimulus just prior to another stimulus - The stimulus presented first is called the prime, and the stimulus presented shortly after the prime is called the target - Participants are asked to ignore the prime, but perform a task with the target, such as reading it aloud - Researchers have found that the time it takes for people to start the task, called the reaction time, is affected by the nature of the prime - Do participants start reading the hostility-related target word more quickly when it was preceded by a rejection-related prime word, compared to non-rejection-related prime words? - It turned out that the answer depends on the participants’ level of sensitivity to personal rejection - A great deal of research in cognitive psychology has shown that people can process stimuli faster when they are already having thoughts
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