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Chapter 12

PSYA02H3 Chapter 12: Personality

Course Code
Steve Joordens

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Learning Objectives:
define personality and the idiographic and nomothetic approaches to it
■list some components of a well-designed personality inventory (test)
provide some criticisms of a poorly designed personality inventory
summarize the components of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and its validity scales
describe the trait approach to studying personality
■list the Big Five personality dimensions and provide examples of each
describe the trait approach to studying personality
list the Big Five personality dimensions and provide examples of each
describe the trajectory of change in personality traits across the lifespan
discuss the evidence regarding the heritability of personality traits, noting the contributions of both
genes and environment
discuss cultural and biological influences on personality
describe how the other four personality theories depart from the trait approach
- Hint: The trait approach is often called the trait-biological approach!
briefly summarize the main arguments of the behaviourist and social cognitive theories of personality
characterize the psychodynamic structure of the mind, including the id, ego, and superego
list and give examples of eight defense mechanisms and explain how each helps reduce anxiety for an
Three forces in psychology: psychoanalysis, behaviourism, and the humanistic approach
Personality is an individual’s characteristic style of:
- Behaviour act
- Thought cognitive processes
- feeling
The individual differences we have in the psychological domain that we are looking at
The way you organize your room/living space + what you decorate it with are reflective of yourself and
your personality
How do our personality and circumstances work together in shaping our behavior?
Personality is relatively stable across time and situations
We act relatively similar to ourselves as children and as adults (ex responsible child)
Regardless of situation, we will act relatively the same
There are moderate differences

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There are two different ways of looking at personality:
1. Idiographic approach
a. Focuses on creating detailed descriptions of a specific person’s unique personality
b. Helpful in examining the full range of human experience
c. Individually
d. Personality inventories
2. Nomothetic approach
a. Examining personality in large groups of people with the aim of making generalizations
about personality structure
b. Is a certain ‘type’ of person more likely to exhibit a certain behaviour pattern
c. Common trends of personality across the population
d. Tendency of people in their 30s to be more outgoing than people in their teens
e. Ex. gordon flett @ york 4 personality predictors of alcohol/drug abuse and depression in
university students
i. Lawrence walker @ ubc wants to identify the ‘moral personality,’ looking for
personality factors that predict courage and heroism
ii. Jacob hirsh @ rotman examined personality predictors of proenvironmental
There are two different types of components in the study of personality
1. Describing personality
a. What are the characteristics of an individual’s personality
b. Personality inventories
How to measure personality?
- We could observe the individual’s behaviour
- What are the drawbacks of observation
- We react to being observed (Hawthorne Effect)
- Personality measurements usually take one or two forms
- Personality inventories (tests or scales)
- Projective techniques
Personality inventories are one of the simplest forms of personality assessment
These are self-reported
Subjective descriptions of one’s own behaviours, thoughts, and feelings
Usually administered in an interview or written questionnaire
Children and illiterate communities are better suited for interviews
Written Questionnaires:
The quiz given as an example is not particularly good or special
Possibly designed to measure introversion/extroversion
Multiple choice questions usually not a good idea: forces you to make a choice that you
wouldn’t otherwise (doesn’t fit you perfectly); easy to see which ones lead to the answer you

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The Barnum effect, also called the Forer effect, is a common psychological phenomenon whereby
individuals give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored
specifically to them, that are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.
Most online personality tests have weaknesses in reliability and validity
Can be manipulated or do not measure that which they claim to
It is easier to make people believe you are measuring their personality than to actually
measure it
Ex. Magazine Quizzes
In the 40s, Forer gave participants a personality test and then gave them all the same
description, having them be under the belief that it was perfectly tailored to themselves
They all p much said it described them well, with a scalar rate of 4.26 (from 0-5)
Some inventories have high validity and reliability
Ex. the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a widely reliable clinically valid
personality test
Has true/false/idk answers with an explanation box
It is about 500 questions
Get tired answering it and the fatigue helps break down barriers to get you to
answer more truthfully
Most of us tend to think of ourselves as average, which makes scalar inventories problematic
Test administrator can be biased
Less of a problem with true/false
Maybe find the person likable and record the answers in a way that paints them positively
Test taker may not know everything about herself
Test taker can be biased
Often report socially desirable traits
Validity scales:
Sets of questions meant to attempt to mitigate bias
Used to figure out how the person is taking the test
F-Scale: high rates of true responses can indicate severe psychopathology or over-reporting
Ex. evil spirits possess me at times; there is smt wrong with my mind
Lie Scales: high rates of false responses may indicate lying
Ex. I don’t always tell the truth; sometimes I feel like swearing; occasionally, I think about
things that are too bad to talk about
The question mark scale: high rates of idk may indicate an invalid test
Openness to new experiences and extroversion are two different things
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