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Chapter 12.1

PSYA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 12.1: Trait Theory, Nomothetic, Behaviorism

Course Code
Kyle Danielson

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Focus Questions
What are the basic traits that make up human personality?
To what extend are our preferences, thoughts and behaviours determined by
situational factors in-the moment versus more stable personality traits?
Personality: their characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that is
unique to each individual and remains relatively consistent over time and situations
Psychologists have searched for a theory of personality that can describe and
explain how people develop these patterns, because we all want to find out
what kind of person we are
The Trait Perspective
Two broad approaches to personality measurement:
Idiographic Approach: focusing on created detailed
descriptions of a specific persons unique personality
Helpful for understanding yourself and your social world
Also for examining the full range of human experience
Abraham Maslow
Self actualized: people who had lived up to their fullest potential
Performed detailed analyses of the biographies of famous people
who were widely regarded as being wise and fully functioning
Eg. Criminal profilers may focus on a detailed study of a serial killer
Nomothetic Approach: examine personality in large groups
of people, with the aim of making generalization about
personality structure
May want to understand what personality factors, or traits, are
relevant to understanding people
Eg. Wanting to know whether a certain type of person is more likely
Chapter 12.1 (Contemporary Approaches to Personalit
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
9:24 AM

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Eg. Wanting to know whether a certain type of person is more likely
to exhibit a certain behaviour pattern
The key to nomothetic research is to identify the important personality
traits that are related to whatever it is that you are interested in
Early Trait Research
Personality trait: describes a specific psychological characteristic that makes up
part of a person's personality; how that person is "most of the time"
Trait descriptors are useful as shortcuts to understanding people
Traits summarize a great deal of information about a person and help to
predict how that person will behave across a range of situations
The first systematic attempt to identify all possible traits was made in 1930s by
Gordon Alport
Tallied nearly 18 000 English words that could be used to describe an
individual's physical and psychological attributes
Allport then developed a theory of personality structure by organizing these words
into traits, launching a strong trend in personality psychology that continues to this
Attempting to identify and measure the key personality traits
Trait researchers have devised many different types of personality "scales"
Some are rigorously evaluated
Others, like the ones in popular magazines, are rigorously evaluated
It is often easier to make people believe that you are measuring their personality
than it is to actually measure
Barnum effect: easy for people to be convinced that a personality profile
describes them well
Is evident back to the 1940s when psychologist Bertram Forer gave
research participants a personality test and then generated a
personality description that subjects believed was based on their test
Even though all participants were given exactly the same personality
description, they found the profile to be highly convincing and
descriptive of them as an individual
Barnum effect may be a key reason why personality tests of questionable
validity are so widely believed
Rigorous empirical research over the past several decades has narrowed the many
potential personality traits into a small number of factors
Factor analysis: statistical technique used to group items that people respond
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