CHAPTER 14- PERSONALITY
Personality- particular pattern of behavior and thinking that prevails across time
and situations and differentiates one person from another.
Goal of psychologists who study personality is to discover the causes of individual
differences in behavior.
Research on human personality requires 2 kinds of effort:
1. Identifying personality characteristics
2. Determining the variables that produce and control them.
In the study of personality, we must be careful to avoid nominal fallacy (false belief
that the causes of an event are explained by simply naming and identifying them).
TRAIT THEORIES OF PERSONALITY
Personality Types and Traits:
- Earliest known explanation for individual differences in personality (proposed by
Hippocrates and refined by his successor, Galen): Body was thought to contain 4
humours/ fluids and people were classified according to disposition supposedly
produced by the predominance of one of these humours in their systems---yellow
bile (choleric; bad-tempered and irritable), black bile (melancholic; had gloomy and
pessimistic temperaments), phlegm (phlegmatic; sluggish, calm, &unexcitable), and
blood (sanguine; cheerful &passionate).
- Later, biological investigations, of course, discredited the humoral theory.
- Personality types- different categories into which personality characteristics can be
assigned based on factors such as developmental experiences or physical
- Rather than focusing on types, many current investigators prefer to measure the
degree to which an individual expresses a particular personality trait.
- Personality trait- an enduring personal characteristic that reveals itself in a
particular pattern of behavior in a variety of situations. - E.g. It is not that people are only either tall or short (personality types) but that
people vary in the extent (degree) to which they show tallness or shortness
- Personality traits are not simply patterns of behavior: They are factors that underlie
these patterns and are responsible for them. Once our personality traits are
developed, they reside in our brains.
- If our personality traits are changed through learning, those changes must have a
neurological basis in the brain.
Identification of Personality Traits
Allports Search for Traits
- Gordon Allport- one of the first psychologists to search systematically for a basic
core of personality traits.
- He began his work by identifying all words in an unabridged dictionary of the
English language that described aspects of personality. He described only stable
personality characteristics. Words that represented temporary states (e.g.
flustered) or evaluations (e.g. admirable) were eliminated.
- He believed hat the considerable extent to which trait labels appear in English
attests to the importance of traits in how people think about themselves and
- People with a particular trait react similarly across situations because they
experience a unique sense of similarity across those situations that guides their
feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
- Not all traits have equal influence on their possessors.
- Most powerful trait: Cardinal traits- characterize a strong unifying influence on a
- Central traits- less singular in their influence than cardinal traits, but capture
important characteristics of an individual (e.g. when we say that someone is honest
and warm to distinguish him/her from others). - Secondary traits- include characteristics that have minor influence on consistency
of behavior (e.g. persons tendency to frequently change jobs).
Cattell: Sixteen Personality Factors
- Raymond Cattell used Allports list of 18,000 trait words as a starting point for his
theory of central traits. He winnowed it down to 171 adjectives that he believed
made up a relatively complete set of distinct surface traits (those that refer to
- He then used factor analysis (Chap. 11) to identify clusters of these traits that he
believed in turn represented underlying traits.
- He eventually identified 16 personality factors that he referred to as source traits
because, in his view, they were the cornerstones upon which personality is built.
Eysenck: Three Factors
- Hans Eysenck also used factor analysis to devise a theory of personality.
- Identified 3 important factors: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. These
factors are bipolar dimensions. E.g. extroversion is the opposite of introversion.
- Extroversion- refers to an outgoing nature and a high level of activity; take risks;
tendency to seek company of other people; to be spontaneous; to engage in
conversation and other social behaviors with them.
- Introversion- shy, reserved, and careful; tendency to avoid the company of other
people; to be inhibited and cautious. Opposite of extroversion.
- Neuroticism- fraught with worry and guilt; are moody and unstable; tendency to be
anxious, worried, and full of guilt.
- Emotional Stability- even-tempered; tendency to be relaxed and at peace with
oneself. Opposite of neuroticism.
- Psychoticism- aggressive; egocentric, and anti-social nature (not a mental illness, in
- Self-control- kind and considerate nature, obedient of rules and laws. Opposite of
psychoticism. - Most important aspects of a persons temperament are determined by the
combination of the 3 dimensions (extroversion, neuroticism, psychoticism).
- Eysenck emphasizes biological nature of personality. He believes that the
functioning of a neural system located in the brain stem produces different levels of
arousal of the cerebral cortex. E.g. Introverts have relatively high levels of cortical
excitation, while extroverts have relatively low levels.
- To maintain optimum arousal level, extroverts require more external stimulation
than do introverts; therefore, they seek stimulation by interacting with others or by
pursuing novel and highly stimulating experiences.
The Five- Factor Model
- Languages reflect observations of a culture; i.e. people invent words to describe
distinctions they notice. Analysis of such distinctions by Tupes and Christal,
replicated by Norman, has led to the five-factor model.
- Five-factor model- proposes that personality is composed of five primary
dimensions: neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and
conscientiousness (acronym: OCEAN). This theory was developed using factor
analyses of ratings of the words people use to describe personality characteristics.
- Factors are measured by the NEO-PI-R (Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness
Personality Inventory; R stands for revised because the name was chosen before
agreeableness and conscientiousness were added).
- NEO-PI-R- consists of 240 items that can potentially be used to describe the person
being evaluated. Can be answered by participant or someone he/she knows well.
Person completing the test rates accuracy of each item on a scale of 1-5, from
strong disagreement to strong agreement. Sums of answers to different sets of
items represent scores on each of the 5 factors.
- Self-ratings on NEO-PI-R agree closely with ratings of family members and other
people who know a person well.