PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY – CHAPTER 2
Certainly people decorate their rooms to impress others or to create certain images—and there was a lot of that
going around our first year—but at the heart of it all, to what extent does an individual’s personality manifest
itself in the design and content of a dorm room?
Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, and Morris (2002) asked this very question in a systematic way.
They reasoned that 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 (Gosling
et al., 2002).
o For example, specific items may be left behind either carelessly, like a snowboard that wasn’t put away
properly, or on purpose to convey a certain image (e.g.,“Hey, I’m cool, I’m edgy, I’m a snowboarder!”). Items
have personal meaning to them or reinforce their own self-views (e.g., “I’m a nature lover”).
ways we express personalities and leave, perhaps inadvertently, cues for observers
In this study, anywhere from 1 to 6 observers, ordinary folk with no particular training, visited actual rooms of
83 college student volunteers.
EXPERIMENT: The researchers covered names and any photos in the rooms so that observers would not know
for sure the race or gender of the occupant. The observers then glanced around the rooms and made ratings on
a 7-point scale of the extent to which they thought each of 44 descriptions applied to the occupant of the room.
Some of the descriptions included: (Anxious, easily upset, etc.)
RESULT: a great amount of consensus. That is, observers readily agreed on what they thought an occupant was
like. Even more amazing, observers were often very accurate in guessing the personality of the occupants.
(neatness=conscientious, books=open, creative)
Gosling repeated the same study on office spaces and got pretty much the same results , but rooms were
more accurate because you can creatively express yourself In your room
there are many ways of describing human personality: charming, sociable, flirty, outgoing, conservative, daring,
conventional, uncreative, disorganized, careless, extraverted, enthusiastic, critical, quarrelsome, anxious, easily
upset, and some 17,937 others (Allport & Odbert, 1936)! Such descriptors of personality are called traits.
Ten item personality inventory (TIPI)- you have to
look at behavioural characteristics and determine if
the characteristics describe you or NOT
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
Traits describe a person’s typical style of thinking,
feeling, and acting in different kinds of situations
and at different times (McCrae & Costa, 1997b). Although we might act differently
in specific situations (e.g., a job interview compared to hanging out with a close friend), or at
different times (e.g., think of what you were like in high school compared to now), some commonalities and consistencies in your reactions (Allport, 1927).
generally persistent ways of acting and reacting are captured by the concept of traits
temporary states (such as emotions), attitudes (liberal, conservative), and physical attributes (short, muscular)
are not considered personality traits.
Traits are characterized from (LOW TO HIGH) This means that people who score high on a particular trait, say
talkativeness, are more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger than a person who is low on
Because traits cannot be directly measured in the same way that, say, height and weight can,
psychologists think of traits as hypothetical concepts. Assume traits exist even though we can’t see them.
purely descriptive summaries of behavior without thinking about where they came from or why a person acts
traits occur due to internal, causal properties (“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
TWO APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF PERSONALITY TRAITS
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.
What a single individual thinks is important to know about him or her and seeks to answer the question, “What
unique combination of traits best describes this person?”
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 (for example, see the
Swann, Pelham, & Krull, 1989, and Pelham, 1993 experiments on self-concept).
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.
The Great Nomothetic Search for Human UniversalsThe right number of trait terms is a source of some
debate, as we will soon see.
Just as the practice of medicine is essentially idiographic—doctors must diagnose and treat their individual
patients—their methods of diagnosis and standards for treatment are based on solid nomothetic sciences of
biochemistry, bacteriology, and so on. That is, the idiographic and nomothetic overlap and both contribute to a
complete understanding of human personality
Allport - “individuality cannot be studied by science”
Hans Eysenck took up Allport’s challenge and found a way that one could study both the general (nomothetic)
and the specific (idiographic) within a single person and develop a theory of personality from there (Eysenck,
Human personality is organized into a hierarchy, which we can think of as a pyramid (see Figure 2.2).
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.
bottom level of the pyramid are specific behaviors including responses, acts, cognitions, or reactions to everyday
life Because these reactions are observed only once, they may or may not be related to one’s personality. However, if the same reaction occurs many times then we might say that the response has become a habit or
a typical way of responding.
If certain habits occur over time and across situations, then we might say the person is exhibiting a personality
trait. Further, if we notice that certain traits tend to
occur together in people then we can say that we’ve identified a personality type, a syndrome
(Cattell, 1946), a superfactor, or an “observed constellation of traits” to use Eysenck’s words
(Eysenck, 1998, p. 36).
lower we go on the pyramid the more idiosyncratic our reactions are. Similarly, the higher we go on the
pyramid, the more similar we become to people who may be of a similar personality type.
Lakeisha spent Thursday night with her hall-mates watching TV in the lounge. Does this make Lakeisha an
extrovert? Lakeisha regularly says “Hi!” to people she passes on campus and often meets up with friends for
lunch. We might judge that she has the habit of being friendly toward others or seeking the company of others.
If she exhibited these habits over time and across different situations (e.g., at home, school, a summer
internship), then we might say that Lakeisha shows the trait of sociability.
This example started by studying
a single individual—Lakeisha—
and ended by drawing
conclusions about groups of
people, Eysenck cautions that
our conclusions must be based
experimentally to build a valid
PERSONALITIES: The Idiographic
“What kind of person are you? List the traits that best describe yourself.” Such a description, where the
psychologist focuses on understanding a specific person and where that person chooses which traits are
important to him or her, is an example of the idiographic approach to personality.
Using this approach, Allport identified three different kinds of traits: central traits, secondary traits, and
cardinal traits (Allport, 1937).
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 slightly
revealed so that only a very close friend might notice them (e.g., “shy with new people,” “leader like at times”).
Finally, an unusual person may have one and only one trait that describes him or her. Such single traits that
completely dominate a personality are called cardinal traits-. are extremely influential that practically every
aspect of a person’s life is touched by this “ruling passion” or “master sentiment” o Just think of Don Juan, Don Quixote, Oscar the Grouch, or any of Snow White’s seven little
friends! Mother Teresa, Hitler , etc.
IDIOGRAPHIC APPROACH APPLIED : The CASE OF JENNY
Around 1946 Allport had the unique opportunity to apply the idiographic approach to a real person: “Jenny”
(Allport, 1965; Anonymous, 1946).
Jenny Gove Masterson was a pseudonym for a woman who wrote a detailed correspondence to two friends
over a period of 10 years.
Allport edited and published these letters with psychological commentary (Allport, 1965).
Jenny was born in Ireland in 1868 and as a young woman moved to the United States with her husband. Soon,
they had a baby and, tragically, her husband passed away leaving Jenny a single mother to fend for herself and
baby Ross far away from her native country. To say that Ross became the center of his mother’s life was an
understatement, and this led to tension between mother and son when Ross was an adult. Jenny wrote to
Ross’s college roommate, Glenn, and his wife, Isabel, some 10 years after Ross’s college years, about the time
when their relationship was the most strained.
Jenny’s personality came out naturally in the letters she wrote. By analyzing her letters, might we be able to
identify the traits that made Jenny a unique person? After editing, Allport enlisted the aid of 36 people who read
the letters and described Jenny’s traits. They used 198 trait terms, which Allport then arranged in clusters of
related words: quarrelsome-suspicious, self-centered, independent-autonomous, dramatic-intense, aesthetic-
artistic, aggressive, cynical-morbid, sentimental, and some 13 that remained unclassified
FINDING UNIVERSALS: THE NOMOTHETIC APPROACH
psychologists who follow the nomothetic approach seek to identify the basic traits that make up the human
Some people might organize their individual tracks into playlists by artist, album, genre (e.g., rock,
blues, classical), purpose (e.g., working out, driving, studying, relaxing, partying), mood (e.g., angry, melancholy,
happy), or even a combination of these. The best way to keep your collection organized depends on your
purpose. The same logic applies to traits
Researchers typically use a combination of the theoretical approach, the lexical approach, and the measurement
approach then use techniques such as factor analysis, to verify and validate that they have indeed found
start with a theory or even common wisdom about human personality – theoretical approach
Niccolò Machiavelli-Two researchers were so taken by his book of advice to the prince of Florence, The Prince
(Machiavelli, 1532/1940), that they devised a personality scale to measure Machiavellianism, or
Other times, psychologists start with a theory. Carl Jung hypothesized that people differ
in how they evaluate information: either rationally, what he called the thinking function, or
Jung (1921) spoke of at least two types of personality, feeling types and thinking types. Sigmund Freud (1915/2000) had a theory that if a child had problems with weaning or toilet training this
would affect later adult personality.
oral personality who is overly dependent or anal personality who is incredibly organized and uptight. These are
examples of how psychologists use theory to identify meaningful traits.
The lexical approach to personality traits explores a particular language and identifies the number of synonyms
that describe personality, also looks for commonalities across languages
if a concept is important to speakers of a language, then that concept will be encoded in their language in
Presumably describing what your loved ones and neighbors are like is very relevant and useful,
so crucial individual differences have become encoded in language (Allport, 1937).
personality trait is found across many different languages, such a trait may qualify as a
personality psychologists have been working separately on discovering important aspects of
personality and trying to measure personality (Hogan, 1996), called the measurement approach.
For a while it seemed that each researcher devised an original questionnaire to measure what he or
she deemed were the most important personality traits (John et al., 2008). The field almost seemed to
care more about how accurate their measurements were than about what they were actually measuring
YOU NEED SOME systematic method of identifying and classifying trait terms that unified them into a
USE factor analysis to see if the various trait terms cluster together in some way.
o For example, Raymond Cattell started with the 4,504 trait terms identified by Allport and
Odbert (1936). He reduced these terms to 160 by eliminating similarities in the list. Then he
added all traits that had been identified by other psychologists in previous research. Finally, he
used an early and crude form of factor analysis—and discovered 16 factors (Cattell, 1946) that
formed the basis of his questionnaire: The 16 Personality Factors (16PF;
Cattell didn’t realize that the 5 factors that are so widely accepted today were staring him
right in the face in his own data (Digman, 1996).
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 these questions.
Depending on what we’re studying—say personality or intelligence—it’s possible to identify a number of
factors that underlie participants’ responses.
How do we know that some questions go together? We look at the correlations among all
of the questions in our data. Recall that correlations (symbolized by r) represent the strength of
a relationship between two variables, with larger numbers indicating that the two variables are highly related.
The sign of the 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.
The result of all this combining and weighting of participants’ responses is the formation of factors
Each factor can explain a certain amount of variation, called variance, in answers between
participants. This is called the eigenvalue of the factor.
From eigenvalues, we calculate factor loadings, which is an estimate of how strongly each question fits into
a given factor. We can interpret factor loadings much like correlations, with higher numbers indicating a
stronger correlation between the item and the factor and the positive or negative sign indicating the
direction of the relationship.
factor is defined by the questions with the highest factor loadings. Researchers look at the questions and
try to identify what underlying concept the questions are all getting at.
When we do a factor analysis, the first factor that emerges generally accounts for the greatest amount of
variation in the data. But because this is mathematically derived rather than inspired by our actual
questions, there is no guarantee that the factor makes any sense.
At this stage a researcher might move around the factors to find which questions go together the best.
This is called rotating the factors and allows us to understand the factors better (kind of
like rotating a map to match the direction you are facing to better see where you’re going). This
doesn’t change the number of factors, nor does it change the relationship among the factors,
but it does change which questions cluster together. By rotating the factors—and there are a
number of mathematical ways of doing this—the combining and weighting of questions that make up that
factor shift slightly so that the researcher is better able to see what the underlying factor is.
How do we know how many factors best explain the data? Researchers may stop when a new factor
doesn’t add much, often determined mathematically (e.g., by accepting all eigenvalues greater than 1) or
researchers take a pragmatic approach and keep only the few factors that are actually interpretable.
Later factors may capture only measurement error or response bias instead of a meaningful
Once the right numbers have been identified, the researcher must then name the factors. The
way to do this is to look at the items that fall together on each factor and see what concept they
all appear to be getting at.
Rentfrow and Gosling (2003) designed the Short Test of Musical Preferences, called the STOMP, in which
participants rated how much they liked each of 14 musical genres. The researchers then used factor
analysis to see if there was some underlying construct that could explain similarities and differences in
participants’ musical tastes.
Can you think of an adequate name for each of the factors? - factor analysis is a useful, but limited
statistical method and is only as good as the
researcher behind it.
- From choosing which questions to ask (and
submit to factor analysis), to determining the right
number of factors, to interpreting the factors, factor
analysis has its shortcomings (Fabrigar, Wegener,
MacCallum, & Strahan, 1999).
THE GREAT NOMOTHETIC SEARCH FOR UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF PERSONALITY
- Allport and Odbert conducted a lexical analysis and uncovered 4,504 trait terms. From this list of trait terms,
Cattell, using factor analysis, identified 16 factors—not realizing the import of only 5 of his factors (Cattell,
1946; Cattell et al., 1970).
- Others, building on Cattell’s statistical work, identified a solution of 5 remarkably similar factors- BIG FIVE
o Each of the Big Five factors describes personality at a high level of abstraction
- All personality tests were using the five factors , and the five factor personality traits were rooted in
THREE SUPERFACTORS- EYESNECK
- Psychologist Hans Ey