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PSYB30-Chapter 8: Self and Other: Social-Cognitive Aspects of Personality
Social-cognitive approaches to personality is that human beings are complex information-processing systems that
operate in social environments; how people make and use mental representations of themselves, of others, and their
social worlds and how those representations are implicated in social behaviour.
The Psychology of Personal Constructs
George Kelly’s Theory
Kelly said that people act by virtue of being alive.
What moves people to act is their desire to know what the world has in store for them; person is like a scientist, seeking
to predict and control events.
Each of us classifies their world by developing personal constructs which are characteristic ways of construing how
some things are alike and some things are different from one another; every construct is bipolar.
The construct helps to predict and control the interpersonal world.
Constructs are organized into hierarchy (organization corollary); some constructs are superordinal and others are
subordinal. To see the world through someone else’s eyes is to have sociality corollary.
Constructs differ from one another with respect to their range of convenience called range corollary.
Constructs are more like hypotheses; ways of anticipating what may or many not happen.
Anticipations guide behaviour and experience
Some constructs are highly permeable called modulation corollary; meaning they are open to modification.
Complete permeability is not good thought.
When constructs are incompatible (fragmented) it is difficult to make consistent sense of the world.
Kelly’s cognitive view, the unconscious is merely constructs that are nonverbal, submerged or suspended.
Other constructs are submerged beneath other constructs.
Anxiety is the recognization that events lie outside the range of convenience of one’s construct system; fear of the
Guilt follows perception that one is no longer living to one’s personal-construct system.
Exploring Personal Constructs: The Rep Test
Role construct Repertory Test (Rep Test): asks the individual to make comparisons among people who play important
roles in their lives.
People who use many different constructs have higher levels of cognitive complexity; they view the world in a highly
differentiated manner. People with fewer view the world as having a simpler, more global construct system.
Construct similarity among friends and acquaintances is another line of research; similarity of constructs was a
significant predictor of friendship formation, because they see the world in the same way.
Cognitive styles and Personality
Kelly’s individuality corollary stressed that people differ from one another in the manner in which they construe events.
Cognitive styles are people’s characteristic and typically preferred modes of processing information; they assess way
or manner of processing information.
Cognitive style is captured in trait clusters of O; people high in O process information in an abstract manner, while
those low in O see fewer distinctions.
Two dimensions of cognitive style that has had a great deal of attention are 1) field independence-dependence and 2)
People who use the room as the reference for their adjustment exhibit a field-dependent style for solving problems.
People who bypass the field and judge according to inner cues show a field-independent style.
The dimension has two poles, highly field-independent people process information in an analytical and differentiated
style; they rely on internal frames of references.
Highly field-dependent people employ external frames of references available in the field; base perceptions on the
Filed-independent people pull information out of an embedding context; a good assessment is the embedded figures
Field independence is associated with levels of perceptual and cognitive restructuring; these people reshape
information from environment according to plans, rules and goals (they can block irrelevant information)
Field-independent people approach the world as a hypothesis-tester.
Field-dependent people engage in less cognitive restructuring and accept information, they tend to be more interested
in humanitarian and social-welfare professions; they are sensitive to social context, they pay closer attention to
interpersonal cues, look at people rather than inanimate objects. They prefer to be physically closer to people vs.
interpersonal distance had no effect on field-independent speakers.
Women usually score towards field-dependent; children are also more field dependent than adults.
Certain socialization practices have been associated with differences in cognitive styles.
A tightly organized context encourages field dependence; individuals that were field-dependent reported an emphasis
on parental authority in their families.
Migratory hunting-and-gather tribes tend to be filed independent, where societies organized around subsistence-level
agriculture are more field dependent.
Is the extent to which a person reasons about issues in a differentiated and integrative manner.
People high in integrative complexity make many conceptual distinctions and see interconnections when interpreting
intellectual and social issues.
People low in it, see fewer distinctions and reason about the world in a holistic manner.
Differences in this are assessed through content analysis of written material; the degree of differentiation and
integration show is what is rated in the passages.
Different perspectives and explanations receive high scores for integrative complexity.
Tetlock – found that integrative complexity was low while campaigning for presidency, but rose after he was elected;
meaning that candidates present issues in simplistic terms, and then adopt a complex reasoning pattern.
o Explains finding ins terms of value plurality; freedom and equality are two fundamental values which western
political rhetoric is often valued
o Liberal is more complex and conflicted; from the point of the conservative it may seem that liberals are afraid to
take a stand.
Suedfeld did research on the relation between social events and literary correspondence; scores of integrative
complexity in novels, decreased during times of war and increased during periods of civil unrest.
Integrative complexity decreased during times of illness, and increases with age. High levels of integrative complexity
is associated with making a good decision, open-mindedness, and tolerance for ambiguity; but high scorers may find it
difficult to make clear-cut decisions based on moral principles.
Low integrative complexity was viewed as simple, warm, giving and more self controlled.
Social-Cognitive Theory and The Person
Contemporary social-cognitive approaches view the person as a rational knower who seeks information in the social
world and draws upon knowledge in order to regular behaviour and enact plans and goals in different social
Human begins are rational and effect; intelligent and flexible in the strategies we employ to obtain our goals. Behaviour
is responsive to situational demands.
Cantor and Kihlstrom – key to understanding personality coherence is social intelligence; each person brings a set of
skills, abilities, and knowledge to every social situation.