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Chapter 2

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Connie Boudens

CHAPTER 2 – Personality Traits: A Good Theory Behavioural residue: when people live in an environment, they leave behind traces that hint at the personality of the person. What is a personality trait? Def.: describe a person‟s typical style of thinking, feeling, acting in different kinds of situations and at different times.  Temporary states (emotions), attitudes, physical attributes are not considered traits. Traits are measured over a continuum – a continuous stretch from low to high. They can‟t be directly measured (like height/weight) so psychologists view them as hypothetical concepts. Two Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits Idiographic: goal is to understand personality of a single individual with all of the idiosyncrasies/characteristics that make them unique Nomothetic: goal is to discover universals – concepts that can apply to everyone – by identifying traits that describe all people or can be applied to any person. Eysenck found that both approaches could be used to study a single person and develop a theory of personality from there. He hypothesized that the human personality is organized into a hierarchy. According to Eysenck, the lower on the pyramid = the more idiosyncratic. The higher = more similar to other people who may have same personality trait.  This pyramid categorizes human personality from most general level at the top to most specific level at bottom. o General = trait is universal. Specific = trait is more unique to one individual  The very bottom level = specific behaviours like responses, acts, cognitions, and reactions to everyday life. o While these may not be unique, if they occur many times = habit or typical way of responding  When certain traits tend to occur together in people then it is said that a personality type/syndrome/superfactor/ “observed constellation of traits” has been identified. What do we know about personality from the idiographic approach? Studying individual personalities Allport identified three different kinds of traits:  Central traits: traits that are a major importance in understanding person. 5 or 10 traits that people might use to describe one person to another. (“They‟re talkative, outgoing etc.)  Secondary traits: traits of lesser importance, less consistently displayed or seldom displayed or only slightly revealed so only a close friend might recognise them.  Cardinal traits: these are for unusual people where only trait can describe them. They are extremely pervasive and extremely influential that practically every aspect of the person‟s life is touched by the „ruling passion‟. o Example: Oscar the Grouch What do we know about personality from the nomothetic approach? Finding universals Theoretical Approach Def.: personality psychologists start with a theory or even common wisdom about human personality Lexical Approach Def.: explores a particular language and identifies the number of synonyms that describe personality The reasoning is that if a concept is important to the speakers of a language, then that concept is encoded in their language in multiple ways.  If this same personality trait is found in many languages may = human universal The Measurement Approach Def.: discovering important aspects of personality and trying to measure personality One of these methods is factor analysis: statistical technique that mathematically identifies meaningful underlying structure among a set of variables.  Cattell started with 4504 trait terms identified by Allport and reduced them to 160 by eliminating the similarities that eventually narrowed down to Cattell‟s 16 Personality Factors More on Factor Analysis Achieved by looking at the correlations between all of the questions of the data. Patterns of correlations will tell which variables go together and which ones don‟t fit. This finally results in the formation of factors. Eigenvalue of a factor: Each factor can explain a certain amount of variation (variance) in answers between participants. Factor loadings: calculated from the eigenvalue, an estimate of how strongly each questions fits into a given factor.  May lead to finding underlying concept When doing factor analysis, the first factor generally accounts for the most amount of variation. It doesn‟t guarantee making sense because it is derived mathematically. This leads to rotating the factors to find which questions go together best.  Researchers may take pragmatic approach and only keep factors that are actually interpretable. Once the right numbers have been identified, the factors must be named – this is accomplished by looking at the items that fall together on each factor and see what concept they seem to be getting at. The great nomothetic search for universal principles of personality The Big Five followed a series of different approaches. 1. Allport‟s lexical approach 2. Cattell‟s factor analysis down to 16 factors 3. Other‟s built on Cattell‟s factors to narrow them down to only five The five factors seemed to summarize a large number of more distinct lower level traits. Many popular questionnaire tests also seemed to reveal the five traits. They also seemed to be based in biological/evolutionary and are therefore universal. The Big Five is composed of Surgency (Extraversion), Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and Culture. Three Superfactors: Eysenck Eysenck‟s PEN model of personality: Identified three broad dimensions of personality, based on physiological/biological differences between people:  Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism Also identified narrow traits (more specific traits) associated with each of the factors. Psychoticism: how tough-minded or antisocial a person is. People high in psychoticism tend to be selfish and antisocial. Narrow traits:  Aggressive, cold, egocentric, impersonal, impulsive, antisocial, unsympathetic, creative, tough-minded Extraversion: how outgoing people are to social/physical environment. People high in extraversion tend to be outgoing and experience many positive feelings.  Sociable, lively, active, assertive, sensation-seeking, carefree, dominant, surgent, venturesome Neuroticism: refers to negative emotionality and emotional reactivity. People high in neuroticism tend to be easily upset and vulnerable to negative emotions. People low in neuroticism tend to be even-tempered and calm, somewhat unemotional, and recover quickly af
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