PSYCH354R Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Extraversion And Introversion, Agreeableness
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Chapter 6: Personality and Personal History
- The formation, course, and quality of an intimate relationship are in some way
determined by each partner’s personality and unique personal experiences.
- We assume that intimate bonds are affected by the partners’ enduring
characteristics and experiences.
The Effect of Personality Traits on Intimate Relationships
- When choosing a partner for a long-term relationship, most of us opt for an average-
looking person with a great personality over a great-looking person with an average
- Scholars define personality as those distinctive qualities that characterize an individual,
that are relatively stable over time and across situations, that have some coherence or
internal organization to them.
- The earliest efforts to understand the causes of relationship success and failure focused
precisely on this issue of partners’ personalities and temperaments.
- Psychologist Lewis Terman, who achieved fame by studying the lived of gifted
people, sought to understand genius of different sort by identifying the factors that
differentiated between happy and unhappy couples.
- According to this view, enduring characteristics of the partners are the
driving force in intimate relationships.
- Terman was primarily a trait theorist. Researchers using the trait approach to
study relationships (or anything else) identify a core set of personality traits by
conducting extensive statistical analysis of the adjectives people use to describe
themselves and others.
- Consensus holds that just five traits are needed to capture personality
differences between individuals.
- The five traits are known as the Big Five: neuroticism,
extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness
- Many research findings linking personality to interpersonal functioning concern traits
that govern how emotions are experienced, regulated, and expressed.
- One surprising aspect of this evidence is that even measures of personality taken
in childhood predict relationships later in life.
- Even when children are assessed at a very young age, their dispositions
forecast their interpersonal adjustment years later.
- When personality is assessed later, in adulthood, again we see associations
between enduring emotional dispositions and the experiences people have in
- Individuals high in neurotic or negative affectivity, who tend to dwell
on their own negative qualities as well as those of other people and the
world in general, appear to be particularly vulnerable to poor relationships.
- Study by Kelly & Conley: Unhappy spouses are more likely to
proceed towards divorce (rather than remain unhappily married) if
the husbands have personality traits that make them prone to
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engage in behaviors that undermine the relationship, such as
infidelity, financial responsibility, and excessive drinking.
- How do personality traits operate within relationships to make them more or less
satisfying, more or less durable?
- We know that partners’ personalities are tied to the problems and
complaints they confront.
- E.g. Individuals relatively high in neuroticism tend to interpret
their partners’ negative behaviors in a more critical light than those
who are low in neuroticism and their interpretations appear to be
more stable and rigid over time.
- Another way of thinking about personality and relationship outcomes involves
considering both partners’ traits simultaneously.
- Birds of a feather do flock together, it seems, but the decision to flock
together has very little to do with personality.
- Even so, to the degree that partners are similar in their personalities, they
tend to have happier relationships – particularly when they are similar in
agreeableness and openness.
- Agreeableness and negative affectivity are particularly influential traits.
- Sandra Murray and her colleagues conducted a series of studies focusing on one aspect
of negative affectivity, low self-esteem, that have yielded new insights.
- Their dependency regulation model demonstrates that individuals with low
self-esteem underestimate how favorably their partner views them. There are four
key phases in this model:
- Low Self-esteem More of a personality trait than a mood state
- Underestimating the partner’s regard for self Individuals low in self-
esteem typically assume their partners do not regard them highly, and also
that others share the pessimistic view they hold of themselves.
- Perceiving the partner in an unfavorable light and expressing discontent
Individuals with low self-esteem look for evidence that the partner does
not care for them and at the same time, they tend to see rejection even
where it does not exist and to devalue their partner.
- Perceiving the relationship in an unfavorable light Murray and her
colleagues found that partners of people who were especially sensitive to
rejection became less happy with the relationship as time passed, thus
highlighting the interpersonal costs of heightened sensitivities of the mate
with low self-esteem.
The Influence of Childhood Family Experiences
- Most of us recognize implicitly that who we are as individuals, and presumably as
relationship partners, derives from how we were raised and nurtured.
- Social scientists call the family you were raised in the family of origin.
- The effects your family of origin has on who you are as a person, as well as on who you
are as a relationship partner later in life, are referred to as intergenerational
- Of all the changes occurring in families in developed countries over the past century,
few have attracted as much attention as the rise in divorce, and for good reason.
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