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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Personality Traits

12 Pages

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Marc A Fournier

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LECTURE 4 CHAPTER 4PERSONALITY TRAITS The Idea of a TraitWhat is a Trait Personality psychologists consider traits as internal dispositions that are stable over time and across situationsTraits are typically conceived in bipolar terms they are couched in language of opposites eg one is either highly friendly or highly unfriendlyDifferent traits are generally seen as additive and independent different traits combine as independent ingredients to form the personalityTraits usually refer to broad individual differences in socioemotional functioningOverall personality traits refer to individual differences between people in characteristic thoughts feelings and behaviorsTraits are typically viewed to reside in a person in some sense as general global and stable dispositionsTraits are viewed as comparative dimensions and ones position on a trait continuum is always relative to the positions of othersPersonality traits typically refer to consistencies in thought feeling and behavior associated with social interaction and the socioemotional aspects of life There are 4 different positions that have been staked out over the years o First positiontraits literally exist in the central nervous system called neuropsychic structures casual mechanism in human functioning o Second positiontraits exist as dispositions that exert a significant impact on behavior casual mechanism in human functioning o Third positionactfrequency approach traits are language categories of discrete behavioral acts they dont influence behaviors instead they are behaviors o Fourth positiontraits do not exist in any objective sense instead they are convenient fictions that people invent in their efforts to understand social life The four positions contradict each other in many ways o Contradiction between first and fourth positionslogic tells us that traits cannot be neuropsychic structures that cause the behavior of actors if at the same time they are convenient fictions in the minds of observersMost contemporary personality psychologists view traits are dispositions but they acknowledge that traits line up with certain predictable behaviorsA Brief History of Traits Personality traits have been found in ancient texts GenesisMost ancient system for personality traits is attributed to Galen who developed the theory of the four humors o Bloodsanguine personality bold confident robust in temperament o Black bilemelancholic personality depression anxious pessimistic brooding o Yellow bilecholeric personality restless irritable angry o Phlegmphlegmatic personality aloof apathetic cold sluggish Galen maintained that a balanced and ideal temperament resulted from a harmonious mixture of the four humorsKant recast the temperaments along dimensions of activity o Cholericsstrong activity phlegmaticsweak activity o Sanguinesstrong feelings melancholicsweak feelings Eysenck recast the four temperaments sprang along two superordinate traits o Extraversion o Neuroticism Kretschmer and Sheldon developed theory of constitutional psychology o They argued that the bodys constitution was associated with particularpersonality characteristics o Person with round soft body with overdevelopment of fat and underdevelopment of bone and muscle is an endomorph easygoing affable very desiring of social approval and oriented towards relaxation and comfort o Person with thin and bony body with underdevelopment of fat and muscle is an ectomorph restraint privacy introversion and selfconsciousness o Person with relatively muscular physique is a mesomorph aggressive dominant adventurous courageous o Constitutional psychology never focused much on women The first scientific studies of traits were conducted by Galton who also proposed that important individual differences in personality could be gleaned from language Allport defined a trait as a neuropsychic structure having the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent and to initiate and guide equivalent forms of adaptive and expressive behaviorAllport insisted that trait labels were more than sementic conveniencesTraits are among the more important causal factors in human behavior we can infer the existence of traits from observing behaviorBy rendering different stimuli functionally equivalent traitsaccount for consistency in human behaviorExistence of a particular trait in a persons life may be ascertained from 3 kinds of evidence frequency range and intensityCommon traits are dimensions of human functioning upon which man different people are likely to differPersonal dispositions are traits that are special characteristics of given individuals and is an instrument for depicting that individuals uniqueness Personal dispositions can be broken down into varieties o Cardinal dispositiongeneral trait many people may not have any at all or 12
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