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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Evaluating Personality Theories

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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYB30H3
Professor
Marc A Fournier
Semester
Winter

Description
Chapter 1-Introduciton: Evaluating Personality Theories  Personality is hard to define and is a reflection of the statement “Who am I?”  In common speech the term personality refers to someone’s public image  Personality comes from the Latin word Personae, which means the masks that Greek actors used in plays  There is little agreement among personality theorists about the use of the term personality o Allport believed that it led to characteristic behaviour and thought o Rogers believed it was the “Self” as a perception of the “I” o r “me” that lies at the heart of an individuals experiences o Skinner saw it as unnecessary o Freud saw it as unconscious and hidden What Is a Theory?  Theory comes from the Greek word thoeria which is the act of viewing, contemplating or thinking about something  A theory is a set of abstract concepts developed about a group of facts or events that explain them  Personality then is a system of beliefs that helps us understand human nature The Role of Personality Theory in Psychology  The question of what is personality was addressed in the early philosophies of Aristotle and Plato  Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychological laboratory and combined careful measurement with introspective observation (self examination) to understand the basic elements and structure of conscious mind  Wundt was successful in establishing a systematic method of study based on the experimental method  Watson (the father of behaviourism) criticized him, claiming it was almost impossible to observe mental processes, and that we should concentrate on overt behaviour  Because of Skinner’s influence, people became encouraged to emphasize extrospective observation—looking outward  Today however, psychologists are interested in mental processes shunned by Watson (cognitive psychology) however they retain the methodology of extrospective observation  Freud used introspection to examine past and present experiences and examined phenomena that could not be elicited in a laboratory  The study of personality has two approaches: o Academic psychology  Study of personality focused on uncovering general principles through research methods  Precursor: Wilhelm Wundt o Clinical practice  Study of personality through research on individuals by methods such as case histories  Precursor: Sigmund Freud  Macro theories of personality focus on the whole person and attempt to be global  Micro theories of personality focus on specific, limited aspects of human behaviour  Courses in personality theories focus on macro, and courses in personality research focus on micro  Academic psychology is micro, and clinical psychology is macro The Evaluation of Personality Theory  Personality theorists use three complimentary orientations: o Philosophy—explore assumptions about what it means to be a person o Science—hope to develop testable hypotheses that will help us understand human behaviour o Art—apply what is known about people and behaviour  Science is an offspring of philosophy Philosophical Assumptions  The very act of theorizing, entails making philosophical assumptions (thinking about the world)  The term philosophy comes form the term philein (to love) and sophia (wisdom) Basic Philosophical Assumptions  Many differences in personality theories are due to differences in philosophical assumptions o Freedom versus determinism  Some theorists believe that individuals have control over their behaviours others believe that human behaviour is determined by internal or external forces which we have no control o Heredity versus environment o Uniqueness versus universality  Some believe each individual is unique, others believe we are all basically the same o Proactivity versus reactivity  Proactive theories views humans as acting on their own initiative while reactive theories view human behaviours as just reacting to stimuli o Optimism versus pessimism  Do changes in personality and behaviour occur over a lifetime?  Can changes be effected? Distinguishing Philosophical Assumptions from Scientific Statements  Philosophical assumptions can be explicit or implicit  It posits what is, but not what should be or what really is  Philosophical knowledge is an epiphany or a perception of essential meaning  Philosophical knowledge is based on epiphanic evidence  Empirical statements are based on observation  Philosophical assumptions are not tentative hypotheses to be discarded when evidence contradicts them however scientific statements can be falsified Criteria for Evaluating Philosophical Assumptions  Coherence—are the philosophical assumptions logical, clear, and consistent?  Relevance—must have some bearing on our view on reality o The assumption must be compatible with empirical reality thus philosophical assumptions are often shaped by scientific findings  Comprehensiveness—does the assumption cover what it intends to cover? Is it deep enough? o An assumption is superficial if it leaves many questions unanswered or refuses to address them  Compellingness—does the assumption convince you? o All three of the prior criteria add up to meet the final criteria Scientific Statements  A paradigm is a model or concept of the world that is shared by members of a community that govern their activities  Can be seen as a shared philosophical assumption because they exist prior to scientific activity  Scientific statements are statements about the world that are based on empirical evidence (ordinary observation) arising from currently accepted paradigms Recognizing Scientific Statements  The keystone of science is empirical observation
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