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Chapter 1

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Psychology 2550A/B
David Vollick

Chapter One O RIENTATION TO P ERSONALITY What is Personality Psychology? - Personality is equated with social skills and effectiveness - Personality may be taken to be an individual’s most striking or dominant characteristic Stable, Coherent Individual Differences - Different people respond differently to similar events - One goal of personality psych is to find and describe the differences between people - Personality refers to qualities of individuals that are relatively stable - Change in a person’s behaviour can be meaningful and tell you more about the individual rather than their personality - Coherence in the pattern of change in an individual’s behaviour may be another key component of personality Predicting and Understanding - Term ‘personality’ implies continuity or consistency in the individual - Observed differences may be meaningful indicators of individual differences in the personality of the students (Charles and Jane) - To try and describe people and predict future behaviour, personality psychologists identify consistent and stable differences between individuals Defining Personality - Definition – assumption that there are stable individual differences and these differences reflect an underlying organization or structure - Personality psychology is “the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behaviour and thought” - Personality is the complex organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviors that gives direction and pattern (coherence) to the person’s life. Like the body, personality consists of both structures and processes and reflects both nature (genes) and nurture (experience). In addition, personality includes the effects of the past, including memories of the past, as well as constructions of the present and future Theory and Levels of Analysis in Personality Psychology - Mission of personality psychology: account for the individual’s characteristic patterns of thoughts, emotion, and behaviour together with the psychological mechanisms – hidden or not – behind those patterns - It must also study how people’s thoughts and actions interact with and shape the conditions of their lives - Human tendencies are a crucial part of personality - Must also study basic processes of adaptation through which people interact, and how these conditions influence them and their behaviours - Personality includes: person’s unique patterns of coping with, and transforming, the psychological environment(including learning, motivation, and thinking) - Summary: personality construct has to encompass the following: o Personality shows continuity, stability, and coherence o Personality is expressed in many ways – from overt behaviour through thoughts and feelings o Personality is organized – when it is fragmented or disorganized, it is a sign of disturbance o Personality is a determinant that influences how the individual relates to the social world o Personality is a psychological concept, but it also is assumed to link with the physical, biological characteristics of the person Early “Big Picture” Theory - 400BC, Hippocrates philosophized about the basic human temperaments, and their associated traits o Eg. he thought yellow bile, or too much blood, might underlie different temperament o He began trait and type psychology - Aristotle postulated the brain to be the seat of the rational mind, or the ‘conscious and intellectual soul that is peculiar to man’ - Descartes viewed the mind as what gives us the capacity for thought and consciousness, which sets us apart from the physical world of matter - The mind ‘decides’ and the body carries out the decision - Early 1900s, Sigmund Freud – his theory made reason secondary and instead made primary the unconscious and its often unacceptable, irrational motives and desires, thereby forever changing the view of human nature From Grand Theories to Levels of Analysis - First half of 20 century – personality psych was inspired by grand ideas o Each proposed distinctive conceptions of the nature of personality, and tried to present a comprehensive view of all the personality in all of its diverse aspects o generalizations based on their patients o work focused mainly on emotionally disturbed patients, so one hazard was that they may have focused more on the disturbed aspects of personality than on its healthier versions in less troubled people - most grand theories did not lend themselves to precise scientific testing that allowed them to be either supported or disconfirmed clearly on the basis of empirical studies - after WWII, American personality psych grew into a substantial field in its own right - researchers worked with both normal and disturbed populations and developed/applied increasingly sophisticated scientific methods to address many central issues in personality psych - different insights are coming from theorists and researchers working at different levels of analysis, addressing different aspects of personality o each level as its legitimacy and usefulness, and requires distinctive methods and concepts Levels of Analysis: Organization of This Book The Trait-Dispositional Level - seeks to identify the types of stable psychological qualities and behavioural dispositions that characterize different individuals and types consistently - this level has become one of the most vigorous and widely researched in recent years - usefulness of trait-level analyses is being extensively investigated and has led to findings on the stability of personality overtime The Biological Level - important goal at this level is to specify the role of genetic determinants and of the social environment in shaping who and what we become - How much of personality reflects nature and how much nurture? - Humans are biological beings who evolved in adaptive ways that endowed the species with biological characteristics, constraints, and possibilities The Psychodynamic-Motivational Level - This level proves the motivations, conflicts, and defenses, often without one’s awareness, that can help explain complex consistencies and inconsistencies in personality - Relevant for understanding many puzzles of personality o Eg. people turn out to
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