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Chapter 2

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Zachariah Campbell

PSYB30 Chapter 2 Personality Traits: A Good Theory What is a Personality Trait?  Traits: describe a person’s typical style of thinking, feeling, and acting in different kinds of situations and at different times  There are commonalities in reactions to different situations between different people, as well as differences o Because of the concept of traits  Temporary states (emotions), attitudes (liberal) and physical attributes are not personality traits  Traits are measured on a continuum – level of low and high  Some psychologists look at traits as pure descriptions of behavior  Others see traits as internal, causal properties o Trait is a capacity Two Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits  Idiographic approach: to understand the personality of a single individual o Start with what a single individual thinks is important to know about him or her o Case studies are used as well as other methods to avoid biases  Nomothetic approach: goal is to find universal concept that apply to everyone; traits that describe all people/applied to anyone  Idiographic and nomothetic overlap and contribute to human personality understanding  Eysneck hypothesized that human personality could be organized into a hierarchy (categorized as most general at the top and more specific at the bottom)  Bottom level are behaviors including responses, acts, cognitions or reactions to everyday life o Reactions may be done once (not really part of personality) or done many times (usually a personality trait) o If certain reactions occur together, it’s usually a personality type What Do We Know About Personality From the Idiographic Approach? Studying Individual Personalities: The Idiographic Approach  Allport identified 3 different kinds of traits: o Central traits: traits that are of major importance in understanding the person o Secondary traits: traits of lesser importance, less consistently displayed o Cardinal traits: traits that completely dominate a personality  Pervasive and extremely influential to the person’s life The Idiographic Approach Applied: The Case of Jenny  Jenny’s husband died, has strains with her son who she revolved her whole life around  Was meticulous, particular and planned well  Allport studied her letters and got others to study them and list the traits that described her What Do We Know About Personality From the Nomothematic Approach? Finding Universals: The Nomothetic Approach  Nomothematic approach seek to identify the basic traits that make up the human personality  Three different ways to identify the most meaningful and applicable words to describe personality: o Theoretical approach PSYB30 o Lexical approach o Measurement approach The Theoretical Approach  Personality psychologist start with a theory or even common wisdom about human personality The Lexical Approach  Explores a particular language and identifies the number of synonyms that describe personality  Reasoning; if a concept is important to speakers of a language, then that concept will be encoded in their language in multiple ways The Measurement Approach  Discovering important aspects of personality and trying to measure personality  Use factor analysis to see if various trait terms cluster together  Raymond Cattel – reduced the 4504 trait terms identified by Allport and Odbert o Reduced them to 160 o Then used a crude way to reduce these to 16 factors (16 Personality Factors – 16PF)  Since computers, researchers use a combination of these approaches to identify and organize personality traits Research Methods Illustrated: Factor Analysis  Factor analysis: a statistical technique that mathematically identifies a meaningful underlying structure among a set of variables  By looking at the correlations (r) among all of the questions in the data, we can see how some questions go together  Then use a computer: complex matrix algebra try to re-create this pattern of correlations from a combination of one or more mathematical equations  Eigenvalue: The certain amount of variation (variance) in answers between participants  Factor loadings: estimate of how strongly each question fits into a given factor o Higher numbers indicate a strong correlation between the item and the factor o Positive or negative sing indicate direction of relationship  Researchers look at the questions and try to identify what underlying concept the questions are all getting at  First factor that emerges generally accounts for the greatest amount of variation in the data o Since these are mathematically derived they are not always accurate o Researches move around the factors to find which questions go together the best  Rotating the factors; allows us to understand factors better o Only changes what questions go together, not the relationship or the number of factors  Researchers usually stop when a new factor doesn’t add much  Once right numbers have been identified, factors are named
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