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Chapter 14

ch.14 detailed textbook notes

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John Bassili

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Chapter 14 (up to p.464)
Striking cases of identical twins reunited in adulthood suggest that heredity plays an important role in
shaping personality
Needs to be backed up by scientific evidence; can’t just rely on anecdotes
People differ so much - have different styles of thinking, of relating to others, of working, which relfect
differences in personality
Differences crucial to defining us as individuals
To psychologists, the definition of personality is narrow - a particular pattern of behaviour and thinking
that prevails across time and situations and differentiates one person from another
Psychologists assess personality from results of special tests designed to identify particular personality
Goal is to discover the causes of individual differences in behaviour
Research on human personality requires two kinds of effort - identifying personality characteristics and
determining the variables that produce and control them
Identifying and describing a personality characteristic is not the same as explaining it
Trait Theories of Personality
Trait theorists use the term personality in the way we often think of personality in everyday lie: a set of
personal characteristics that determines the different ways we act and react in a variety of situations
Personality Types and Traits
Humoural theory - earliest known explanation for individual differences in personality
Body was thought to contain four humours/liquids: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood
people classified according to the disposition produced by the predominance of one of these humours in
their system
Choleric people (yellow bile) bad tempered and irritable
Melancholic people (black bile) had gloomy and pessimistic temperaments
Phlegmatic people (phlegm) were sluggish, calm, an unexcitable
Sanguine people (blood) were cheerful and passionate
Notion that people could be divided into different personality types - different categories into which
personality characteristics can be assigned based on factors like developmental experiences - persisted
Idea that people can be assigned to discrete categories is rejected today by most investigators
They generally conceive of individual differences in personality as being in degree, not kind
Tooby and Cosmides - the nature of human reproduction makes evolution of specific personality types
unlikely - sex produces a reshuffling of the genes in each generation making it unlikely that a single,
unified set of genes related to personality type would be passed from one generation to the next
Most behavioural scientists agree that personality differences must be traced to impact of environmental
Preference to measure degree to which an individual expresses a particular personality trait - enduring
personal characteristic that reveals itself in a particular pattern of behaviour in different situations
Types vs. traits - ex. type: tall, short (either-or)
Height is best conceived of as a trait - a dimension on which people differ along a wide range of values
People fall between the extremes
It’s not that people are either one type of personality or the other, but people vary in extent to which they
are one or the other trait of personality
Personality traits aren’t simply patterns of behaviour,: they are factors that underlie these patterns and are
responsible for them
We carry our personality traits in our brains; and personality traits are changed by learning
Identification of Personality Traits
Goal is to explain what determines people’s behaviour
Allport’s Search for Traits:
One of first to search systematically for basic core of personality traits
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He believed that the considerable extent to which trait labels appear in English attests to the importance of
traits in how people think about themselves and others
Believed that traits were neuropsychological properties that led to behavioural consistency over time and
contexts by producing functional similarity in the way a given person interprets and experiences events
People with a particular trait react similarly across situations because they experience a unique sense of
similarity across those situations that guide their feelings, thoughts and behaviours
Some traits are consistent over time
Not all traits have equal influence on their possessors
Most powerful are cardinal traits - characterize strong, unifying influence on person’s behaviour; they’re
rare but people characterized by them stand out in a crowd
Ex. Hitler and his relentless exercise of oppressive power
Central traits are less singular in their influence than cardinal traits but capture important characteristics of
an individual
Ex. Being warm or honest
Secondary traits - characteristics that have minor influence on consistency of behaviour
Ex. Someone’s tendency to frequently switch jobs
Modern trait theorists maintain that only when we know how to describe an individual’s personality will
we be able to explain it
Cattell: Sixteen Personality Factors
Winnowed Allport’s 18 000 trait words into 171 adjectives that he thought made up a relatively complete
set of distinct surface traits (that refer to observable behaviours)
Analyzed questionnaire responses and eventually identified 16 personality factors - “source traits” - the
cornerstones upon which personality is built
Eysenck: Three factors
Extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism
They’re bipolar dimensions
Extroversion = opposite of introversion
Extroversion is outgoing nature and high level of activity
Introversion is shy, reserved and careful
Neuroticism = opposite of emotional stability
Neuroticism - fraught with worry and guilt, moody and unstable
Opposite is even tempered and have emotional stability
Psychoticism = opposite of self control
Aggressive, egocentric and antisocial nature
Self control - kind and considerate nature, obedient of rules and laws
Argued that the most important aspects of a persons temperament are determined by the combination of
the three dimensions of extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism
He emphasizes the biological nature of personality more than other trait theorists
Believes that the functioning of a neural system located int eh brain stem produces different levels of
arousal of cerebral cortex
Introverts have high levels of cortical excitation compared to extroverts; extroverts need more external
stimulation to maintain arousal level at optimum state
The Five Factor Model
Languages reflect the observations of a culture
People invent words to describe distinctions they notice
Model proposes that personality is composed of five primary dimensions: neuroticism, extroversion,
openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness
These factors are measured by the neuroticism, extraversion, and openness personality inventory -
NEO-PI-R (“r” stands for revised)
NEO-PI-R consists of 240 items that can be used to describe the person being evaluated
Person rates agreement to sentences like “I really like most people I meet” on scale of 1-5
McCrae, Costa and Busch attempted to validate five-factor model by performing a factor analysis on a list
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