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Chapter 8

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Dave Miranda

Trait Theory: the five-factor model: applications and evaluation of trait approaches to personality The five-factor model of personality: research evidence • The idea that five personality factors are the foundation of individual differences in personality rests on factor analyses of three types of data: • Trait terms in the natural langague • Cross-cultural research testing the universality of trait dimensions o The relation of trait questionnaires to other questionnaires and ratings ANALYSIS OF TRAIT TERMS IN NATURAL LANGUAGEAND IN QUESTIONNAIRES • Instead of creating a scientific language, five factor theorists put faith in the natural language, that is, the regular, everyday language of people use to describe personality • Individual words (primarily adjectives) that describe persons • The question to be answered are these: o How many different factors are needed to understand thte patterns of correlation in the data? o What specifically are the factors? • Norman (1964) • “Big Five” • “Big” was meant to refer to the finding that each factor subsumes a large number of more specific traits; the factors are almost as broad and abstract in the personality hierarchy as Eysenck’s superfactors. • See table page 265  OCEAN The Fundamental Lexical Hypothesis • The Big Five were designed to capture those personality traits that people consider most important to personality • Fundamental lexical (language) hypotheses: the most important individual differences in human transactions will come to encoded as single terms in some or all of the world’s languages • Over time humans have found some individual differences particularly important in their interactions and have developed terms for easy reference to them • Socially useful because they serve the purpose of prediction and control • They help us predict what other swill do and thus control our life outcomes CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH:ARE THE BIG FIVE DIMENSIONS UNIVERSAL? • Translations can be tricky. Language may lack one-to-one translations and even words that translate the same • Hofstede and colleagues (1997) identified 126 words that they could translate fairly directly across previous lexical studies • When researchers work with such translations, the same five factors result with great regularity • It is possible that he process of translating English-language questionnaires into another language forces the issue • The authors suggest that cultural variations in the perception of negative emotions in different interpersonal settings may explain the difference between Italian and English- language results • The existence of variations in results from one country and language to another leads some to suggest that personality factors may exist that are unique to particular cultures • At least three of the factors are frequently found across cultures and language groups, the other two are commonly found, while there also appear to be factors specific to some languages and cultures THE BIG FIVE IN PERSONALITY QUESTIONNAIRES The NEO-PI-R and its hierarchical structure: facets • Costa and McCrae have developed a questionnaire, the NEO-PI-R, to measure the Bi Five personality factors • Focus was on three factors o Neuroticism o Extraversion o Openness • They added the factor of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness to conform to the five-factor • Facets; are more specific components that make up each of the broad Big Five factors • See table 8.2 page 272 • When the NEO-PI-R is administered in research and clinical contexts, subjects indicate for each item the extent to which they agree or disagree, using a five-point rating scale Integration of Eysenck’s and Cattell’s Factors within the Big Five • Much evidence suggests that the answer is yes. • Scores on the NEO-PI-R correlate as predicted with scores on other personality questionnaires, including Eysenck’s inventories and Cattell’s 16 personality factors • The correlations are important theoretically. They allow one to integrate the older factor-analytic models with the Big Five and thus with each other. Self-Ratings and Observer Ratings • Three major findings have emerged from research using both self-report measures (s-data, as you learned in Chapter 2) and observer-report data (O-data) of the Big Five factors o Five factors are found inboth self-reports and observer ratings o Observers agree reasonably well with each other about the standing of individuals on each Big Five dimension o O-data sometimes is a better predictor of performance than S-data Proposed theoretical model for the Big Five • McCrae and Cost (1999) – five-factor theory claims that the five primary traits are more than mere descriptions of ways that people differ. The traits are treated as things that really exist; each is seen as a psychological structure that each and every person has in varying amounts • See figure 8.1 page 275 • The traits are said to causally influence each individual’s psychological development Phrased more technically in five-factor theory the idea is that the five factors are basic dispositional tendencies that are possessed universally that is, by all individuals • Mccrae and Costa propose that the factors have biological basis • Determined by genetic influences on neural structures brain chemistry and so on • The claim that external influences have no influence on a individual’s personality traits is a relatively unique claim of five-factor theory • Of the theory is the one we discussed above, namely, the claim that the traits are not merely descriptions of individual differences • But also causal structure • Five-factor theory views traits as causal factors that influence the life course of each and every individual • The five traits are said to be the “universal raw material of personality” • “dimension of individual differences that applies to populations rather than people: but also is (2) “the underlying causal basis of consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings” • Three issues: o The first problem is how to link personality structures to personality processes. A further limitation is not merely that these dynamic processes are not filled in yet but that it is not at all clear how, even in principle, they could be filled in • The other two problems concern the two unique features of five-factor theory noted earlier. o One is the idea that traits are not affected by social factors. The problem is that research findings contradict this theoretical idea. Particularly interesting data come from analyses of changes in personality trait scores that are observed across historical periods o The third concern regarding five-factor theory is conceptually subtle, yet deeply important. Five-factor theory claims that all individuals possess the five factors. The claim, in other works, is that all individuals possess psychological structures corresponding to each of the factors, with individuals varying in their level on each trait • The problem is that this theoretical claim does not follow, in any direct or logically necessary way, from the available research evidence • To most other personality theorists, the five-factors do not solve the problem taken up by Fred, by Rogers and by theorists discussed in subsequent chapters of this book: identifying personality structures in the head of the individual that explain his or her typical experiences and action Growth and Development AGE DIFFERENCES THROUGHOUTADULTHOOD • There is much stability • Even over long periods of time, the correlations between measures from one time to another remain significant • Personality trait psychologists can be confident in concluding that the personality trait variables of their theories are capturing personal qualities that are substantially stable, over substantial periods of time, for substantial numbers of people • The teenage years and early 20s are the times of greatest discontent, turbulence and revolt • Differences might be due to historical factors rather than age factors • Srivastava, John, Gosling and Potter (2003) – internet survey – completed a five- factor inventory • It revealed significant age-linked change in most of the Big Five traits for both men and women • Cramer(2003) – results indicated that the use of defense mechanism in early adulthood predicted personality trait change in later adulthood • Although trait scores are quite stable over time, there also is much indication that they can change in a meaningful, systematic manner INITIAL FINDINGS FROM CHILDHOOD ANDADOLESCENCE • It is safe to suggest that earlier temperamental characteristics, such as sociability, activity and emotionality develop and mature into dimensions we know as extraversion and neuroticism in adulthood • Personality structure appears to be more complex and less integrated in childhood than in adulthood • Instead of one broad extraversion factor, the researchers found separate sociability and activity factors, and instead of one broad neuroticism factor, they found separate fearfulness and irritability factors • The expression of personality may change over the course of development during the course of adolescence, initially separate dimensions merge together to form the broader, more fully integrated personality dimension we know in adulthood STABILITYAND CHANGE IN PERSONALITY • Personality development is largely biologically determined and continuous that “the child is father of the man” • Another view is that although there is evidence of trait consistency across the life course, it is not so high as to warrant conclusion that change does not occurs • A third view is that although general trait structure and levels remain fairly stable, there is evidence of change in individual trait levels • At this point in time the data would appear to suggest the following: o Personality is more stable over short periods of time than over long period of time
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