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Chapter 2

PSYB30-Chapter 2 Notes .docx

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Connie Boudens

PSYB30- Chapter 2 Personality Traits: A Good Theory  Behavioural Residue: Physical traces left behind by everyday actions, which provide hints and cues to the personality of the occupant.  Traits: descriptors of personality (e.g. anxious, easily upset, sociable and so on) 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- that is, in a continuous stretch, from low to high.  Because traits cannot be directly measured in the same way that, height and weight can psychologists think of traits as hypothetical concepts. For this reason some psychologists view traits are purely descriptive summaries of behaviour without thinking about where they came from or why a person acts that way. (Mario is very sociable, just look at how he‟s getting along with everyone)  Other psychologists see traits as internal, causal properties. (Well of course Mario is getting along with everyone he‟s a sociable person)  There are two main ways that psychologist have approached the study of traits: through the detailed study of a single individual and through the combined study of numerous people. These approaches have been called idiographic and nomothetic. Two Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits  In the idiographic approach the 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.  In the nomothetic approach the 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.  Hans Eysenck realized that one could study both the general (nomothetic) and the specific (idiographic) within a single person and develop a theory of personality from there. 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 single individuals. What Do We Know About Personality From the Idiographic Approach? Studying Individual Personalities: The Idiographic Approach  Using the idiographic approach to personality Allport identified three different kinds of traits: central traits, secondary traits, and cardinal traits. - Central traits: are traits that are of major importance in understanding the person. They are the 5 or 10 traits that people who know you might mention in your letter of recommendation or to someone who doesn‟t know you when describing you. - Secondary traits: are traits of lesser importance, less consistently displayed or seldom displayed or only revealed so that only very close friends might notice. - Cardinal traits: traits that completely dominate a personality, it occurs in people who may have one and only one trait that describes him or her. What Do We Know About Personality From the Nomothetic Approach? Finding Universals: The Nomothetic Approach  There are at least three 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.  One 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: Is a theory or common wisdom about human personality. - The Lexical Approach: explores a particular language and identifies the number of synonyms that describe personality. The reasoning is that if a concept is important to speakers of 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. - The Measurement Approach: attempts to discover important aspects of personality and tries to measure personality. Research Methods Illustrated: Factor Analysis  Factor Analysis: is a statistical technique that mathematically identifies a meaningful underlying structure among a set of variables. Suppose some questions are related to each other- but not to other questions; then we can say that we have identified a unique factor in participants‟ responses.  To know whether some questions go together, we must look at the correlations among all of the questions in our data.  Correlation (r) represents the strength of a relationship between two variables. The sign of r tells us that the two variables are either directly related (positive) or inversely related (negative).  The pattern of correlations will tell us which variables go together or correlate with each other and which variables don‟t seem to fit.  Each factor can explain a certain amount of variation, called variance, in answers between participants, which is called the eigenvalue of the factor. 
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