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Chapter 2

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Connie Boudens

Personality - Chapter 2  when people live in an environment they leave behavioral residue behind - such physical traces left behind by everyday actions are hints or cues to the personality of the occupant 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  temporary states (such as emotions), attitudes (liberal, 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 a particular trait, say talkativeness, are more likely to strike up a conversation  because traits cannot be directly measured, psychologists think of traits as hypothetical concepts - that is, psychologists assume traits exists even though we cannot see them  some psychologists view traits as purely descriptive summaries of behavior without thinking about where they came from or why a person acts that way; ex: Mario is very sociable; just look at how well he's getting along with everybody  other psychologists see traits as internal, causal properties (ex: Well, of course Mario is getting along with everybody; he's a sociable person) and view a trait as a capacity that is present even when the trait is not being directly expressed  two main ways that psychologists have approached the study of traits: through the detailed study of a single individual and through the combined study of numerous people Two Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits  idiographic approach - goal is to understand the personality of a single individual with all of his/her quirks or idiosyncrasies and characteristics that make them unique  by using techniques of good science such as striving for objectivity and minimizing biases, psychologists are able to use case studies and other idiographic methods to study individual personalities  nomothetic approach - goal is to discover universals - concepts that can apply to everyone - by identifying traits that can describe all people or that can be applied to any person  the idiographic and nomothetic overlap and both contribute to a complete understanding of human personality  Hans Eysenck found a way of reconciling these two seemingly different approaches to the study of human psychology 1 Personality - Chapter 2  he hypothesized that the human personality is organized into a hierarchy, which we can think of as a pyramid  this pyramid categorizes human personality from the most general level at the top to the most specific level at the bottom  general means a trait is universal or applicable to other people, whereas specific means a trait is more unique to a single individual  at the very bottom level of the pyramid are specific behaviors including responses, acts, cognitions or reactions to everyday life - because these are only observed once, they may or may not be related to personality  if certain habits occur over time and across situations, then we might say the person is exhibiting a personality trait  if certain traits ten to occur together in people then we can say that we've identified a personality type  the lower we go on the pyramid the more idiosyncratic our reactions are  the higher we go on the pyramid, the more similar we become to people who may be of a similar 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: central traits, secondary traits and cardinal traits  central traits: traits that are major importance in understanding the person; they are the 5 - 10 traits that people who know might mention in your letter of recommendation  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  cardinal traits: single traits that completely dominate a personality ; an unusual person may have one and only one trait that describes him/her; these traits are so pervasive and extremely influential that practically every aspect of a person's life is touched by this "ruling passion"  the occurrence of a cardinal trait is so unusual in the population that when it does occur we name individual traits after the 'celebrity' What Do We Know About Personality From the Nomothetic Approach? Finding Universals: The Nomothetic Approach  there are at least 3 different ways to identify the most meaningful and applicable words to describe personality  researchers typically use a combination of the theoretical approach, the lexical approach, and the measurement approach (sometimes called the questionnaire or assessment tradition) 2 Personality - Chapter 2  once the basic traits have been identified by one of these methods, psychologists use statistical techniques, such as factor analysis to verify and validate that they have indeed found important traits The Theoretical Approach  personality psychologists start with a theory or even common wisdom about human personality  ex: anal personality who is incredibly organized and uptight 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  if the same personality trait is found across many different languages, such a trait may qualify as a human universal  in this way of analysis of language, specifically looking for many synonyms and commonalities across languages, may help personality psychologists identify key terms for describing human personality The Measurement Approach  important aspects of personality and trying to measure personality  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  Raymond Cattell started with the 5, 504 trait terms identified by Allport and Odbert - he reduced these terms to 160 by eliminating similarities in the list - he used an early and crude form of factor analysis - and discovered 16 factors that formed the basis of his questionnaire: The 16 Personality Factors Research Methods Illustrated: Factor Analysis  factor analysis is a statistical technique that mathematically identifies a meaningful underlying structure among a set of variables  the pattern of correlations will tell us which variables go together or correlate with each other and which variables don't seem to fit  then the computer uses complex matrix algebra to try to re-create this pattern of correlations from a combination of one or more mathematical equations  the result of all this combining and weighting of participants' responses is the formation of factors  a small number of these factors are usually able to re-create the variation among responses in our data set almost as well as all of the original answers themselves  each factor can explain a certain amount of variation, called variance, in answers between participants - this is called eigenvalue of the factor  from the eigenvalues, we calculate factor loadings - which is an estimate of how strongly each question fits into a given factor 3 Personality - Chapter 2  the first factor that emerges generally accounts for the greatest amount of variation  once the right numbers have been identified, the researcher must name the factors - do this by looking at the items that fall together on each factor and see what concept they all appear to be getting at  factor analysis is a useful, but limited statistical method and is only as good as the researcher behind it because researchers make choices and their choices impact the results The Great Nomothetic Search for Universal Principles of Personality  others, building on Cattell's statistical work, identified a solution of 5 remarkably similar factors known as the Big Five Three Superfactors: Eysenck  identified 3 broad dimensions of personality: Psychoticism, Extraversion, and Neuroticism  also identified narrow traits, associated with each of these factors; ex: cold, aggressive, carefree, shy, moody,  together, these 3 superfactors form the basis of Eysenck's PEN model of personality  psychoticism - describes how tough-minded or antisocial people are o also think about this as impulsivity or disinhibition versus constraint or as under controlled versus over controlled o people who are high in psychoticism tend to be selfish and antisocial o narrow traits associated with psychoticism are aggressive, cold, lacking empathy,
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