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Chapter 2

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Connie Boudens

Chapter 2: Personality Traits: A Good Theory WHAT IS A PERSONALITY TRAIT? Trait: describe a person’s typical style of thinking, feeling, and acting in different kinds of situations and at different times Temporary states (emotions), attitudes (liberal or conservative), and physical attributes (short, muscular) are NOT considered personality traits Traits are measured over a continuum - in a continuous stretch, from low to high - Ex: people who score high on the personality trait talkativeness are more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger than a person who is low on talkativeness (or high on the trait of quiet) 2 Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits: Idiographic approach- goal is to understand the personality of a single individual with all of his or her quirks or idiosyncrasies and characteristics that make them unique  3 kinds of traits: 1. Central traits- traits that are of major importance in understanding the person (about 5 to 10 traits) 2. Secondary traits- traits of lesser importance, less consistently displayed or seldom displayed or only slightly revealed so that only a very close friend might notice them (shy with new people, or a leader at certain times) 3. Cardinal traits- a single trait that completely dominates a personality, these traits are so pervasive and extremely influential that practically every aspect of a person’s life is touched by this “ruling passion” Nomothetic approach- goal is to discover universal concepts that can apply to everyone by identifying traits that can describe all people or that can be applied to any person  At least 3 different ways to identify the most meaningful and applicable words to describe personality: 1. Theoretical approach- personality psychologists start with a theory or even common wisdom about human personality  Carl Jung hypothesized that people differ in how they evaluate information: either rationally (thinking function) or through emotions (feeling)  Freud had a theory that if a child had problems with toilet training this would later affect adult personality 2. Lexical approach- explores a particular language and identifies the # of synonyms that describe personality  Reasoning is if a concept is important to speakers of a language, then that concept will be encoded in their language in multiple ways  People invent terms for salient or useful ideas and these new terms spread and become commonplace in the language 3. Measurement approach- discovering important aspects of personality and trying to measure it  One way of doing this is to use mathematical and statistical techniques such as factor analysis to see if the various trait terms cluster together in some way  Eigen value: variance in answers between participants  Factor loading: (from the Eigen values) estimate of how strongly each question fits into a given factor  The first factor that emerges generally accounts for the greatest amount of variation in the data  Cattell’s 16 personality factors THE GREAT NOMOTHETIC SEARCH FOR UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF PERSONALITY Eysenck’s 3 superfactors:  Psychoticism- describes how tough-minded or antisocial people are  Can also be thought as impulsivity or disinhibition versus constraint or as undercontrolled versus overcontrolled  People high on psychoticism tend to be selfish and antisocial  Narrow traits: aggressive, cold, egocentric, impersonal, impulsive, antisocial, lacking empathy, creative, and tough-minded  Low agreeableness and low conscientiousness  Extraversion- describes how outgoing people are, both to the social and the physical environments  Tend to be outgoing and experience many positive feelings such as happiness and joy  Narrow traits: sociable, lively, active, assertive, sensation-seeking, carefree, dominant, surgent, and venturesome  Neuroticism- negative emotionality and emotional reactivity  People high in neuroticism tend to be easily upset and vulnerable to negative emotions  Those low in this trait are even-tempered, calm, relaxed, carefree, unworried, somewhat unemotional, and recover quickly after an upsetting experience  Narrow traits: anxious, depressed, guilt feelings, low self-esteem, tense, irrational, shy, moody, and emotional The Five-factor model (According to the NEO-PI-R, each of the 5 factors are made up of 6 subscales called facets):  N: neuroticism, negative affectivity, nervousness (Factor IV)  How well a person adjusts to the “slings and arrows of daily life”  Refers to emotionality (falling apart under stress), psychological distress, and reactivity (worrying about what people think of you)  People low in neuroticism are even-tempered, calm, relaxed, and unruffled  People high in neuroticism show poorer coping skills in stressful situations, poorer health, and are likely to experience burnout and job changes, prone to negative emotions such as fear, sadness, embarrassment, anger, guilt, and disgust  Emotionally stable people show more commitment to work and great satisfaction with their personal relationships  Facets: anxiety, angry, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness (immoderation), and vulnerability to stress  E: extraversion, energy, enthusiasm (Factor I)  Contrasted with introversion (poorer relationships with parent and peers)  Describes how one “surges” or energetically engages with the social world  Extraverted people like other people  They are assertive, active, talkative, and
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