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Chapter 1

Personality - Chapter one

Course Code
Marc A Fournier

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Chapter 1 – Personality
The ultimate e goal of personality psychology is to construct a scientifically credible account of
psychological individuality. Such an account must situate a person in a biological and cultural
context while specifying how that person is similar to and different from other persons.
Individual differences: Is what Personality psychologists study in people.
What do we know when we know a person? (Scenario of Amanda in textbook)
a)Sketching an outline: Dispositional Traits ->
How well do you know Amanda after this scenario? You have seen her in one setting so it is
difficult to generalize, but surprised of how tense she was at the beginning of the evening and
how comfortable she was at the end. What does this all mean? In general we would say Amanda
seems to be moody but very warming and caring. By saying this we have begun to sketch a
personality portrait. Organizing what I think I might now know about Amanda into general
statements concerning her characteristic patterns of behavior though and feelings. It may turn out
that I may be completely wrong but you have to start somewhere, the place to start is with
dispositional traits.
What are personality traits? General, internal and comparative dispositions that we attribute to
people in our initial efforts to sort individuals into behavioral categories. These kinds of trait
attributions (saying Amanda is warm moody caring etc) might guide you in future interactions
with her.
Quantifying individual differences in dispositional traits – most common procedure is self
report questionnaires, rationale behind this is that most people have a good idea of what their
basic traits are. (20 questions)
How many dispositional traits might there be? 18000 words in the English Lang (by 2
psychologists Allport and Odbert), 4500 of them are relatively stable. Since then the list went
down, different dispositional traits that might be invoked to outline psychological individuality
can be grouped in 5 categories. Called the big five trait category, which sketches the outline of
the person.
OCEAN – page 7
b) Filling in the Details : Characteristic Adaptation
With my evening with Amanda I have learned a lot of things that do not fit neatly into the
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categories of personality traits. Ex, leaned that she likes jazz, junk food, wants to be a lawyer but
doesnt know much about law. All of this material helps to fill in the details of Amandas
psychological individuality. As I spend more time with her I will gather more details.
Trait attributions are useful because they tell us about trends in behavior over time and across
difference situations and contexts. Characteristic Adaptations: moving on past general trait
attributions to consider aspects of personality that are contextualized in time place and or role.
Ex, Amanda as a child was Baptist now she is atheist (time). At parties she likes to warm up one
on one (places/situations) as a student she works hard, as a citizen she is unaware of current
events (social roles).
Characteristic adaptations address many of the most important questions in personality
psychology ex, what do people want, how do people develop plans and goals? How do people
seek what they desire and avoid what they fear? Etc. Many theories have addressed these
questions regarding characteristic adaptations. We can group these theories into 3 major
categories (pg 9)
*By now you have outlined Amandas individuality with dispositional traits and filled in some of
the details by characteristic adaptations that speak to motivational, social-cognitive, and
developmental concerns*
c) Constructing a story : integrative life narratives
Life stories
A full psychological account of individual human life must consider from three standpoints.
1) Dispositional traits that speak to general tendencies in behavior across situations and over
2) Confronting and adapting to motivational, cognitive and developmental tasks and concerns
that are contextualized in place time and or role
3) What kind of identity he or she is articulating in life through construction of stories about the
Psychological individuality is conveyed therefore through the patterning of traits, adaptations
and stories. Summary on page 11
Science and the person
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