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Chapter 4

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Psychology 2550A/B
David Vollick

Part I: The Trait-Dispositional Level Chapter Four T HE E XPRESSION OF D ISPOSITIONS Types and Traits Individual differences in behavior tendencies - For every type of behavior, one can also think of a corresponding personality quality that makes a person display that behavior more often/strongly than other people - For every adjective used to describe a person, there is also a personal quality that can be referred to o Just add –ness to the end of the adjective (helpful = helpfulness) The intuitive assumptions of consistency - People differ in their personality characteristics – many if not all of such characteristics do take the form of xxx- ness - To the extent that people differ reliably in their tendency to display a behavior, we expect them to behave in a similar way in a variety of situations - Behaviors vary from one situation to another - 1960s-70s researchers studies not just people’s self reports about what they are like, but rather looked at what they actually did specifically in different situations - Cross situational consistency: individual’s consistency across different types of situations o It was much less than expected for rigidity, social conformity, dependency, and aggression - Findings: o Aggressive child at home may be less aggressive than most when in school o Man exceptionally hostile when rejected in love may be unusually tolerant about criticism of his work o One who melts with anxiety in the doc’s office may be a calm mountain climber - We assume that individuals do differ consistency in the kinds of behavioral tendencies that they exhibit in many different situations, on close observation this is not often the case The 1968 challenge - Mischel challenged the field by concluding that although overall cross-situational consistency in behavior was not zero, it was much less than had been traditionally assumed at the trait level analysis - He suggested these findings reflected not just limitations in the methods that have been used but also in the core assumptions about the nature of consistency and coherence in personality The paradox defined - Mischels book created a challenge that upset the field of personality psych - Bem and Allen called the personality paradox – data from extensive research indicated low cross-situational consistency of behavior The person vs. situation debate - Prolonged and heated controversy about personality traits, consistency, and the role of the situation that consumed much of the agenda of personality psych Situationism - Power of the situation as the main determinant of behavior - Situation is so powerful that individual differences and personality don’t make much difference - Situationism: power of situational variables, and the belief that personality was less important than the situation - Laypeople make erroneous explanations of the causes of other peoples behaviors - Error= they systematically neglect the role of situations and invoke personality dispositions as favorite – but wrong – explanations of social behavior - Fundamental attribution error – tendency to focus on dispositions in causal explanations 1 o Mistake committed by laypersons in everyday life, as well as the psychologists who study them - The limitations of judgments about personality had been dismissed as merely due to unreliable, imperfect methods, open to correction by improving the quality of measurement Revival of the traditional paradigm - Personality psychologists renewed even more intensely their efforts to retain the traditional paradigm for the study of traits - Factor analytic approach - Consensus concerning the set of major traits or basic dispositions needed for a comprehensive taxonomy of personality using factor analyses based on trait ratings, in the form of big five - Big 5 approximated the basic structure of personality The role of the situation - Trait level of analysis was mostly devoted to studying the person apart from the situation - Social psych – understanding the general effects and power of situations regardless of individual differences o Person=error variance – the noise – that had to be removed - Personality psych – one had to remove the effects of the situation – treat them as noise or error in order to glimpse the true situation-free personality that remained consistent Incorporating situations into traits - Large variations in a person’s behaviors across situations challenged the ultimate goal of personality psych – to identify the coherence and stability that underlie individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors - Distinctive temporal order, a stable pattern over time this is unique to each person - Regular/distinctive pattern of personality for each individual – even though variations occur - Gordon allport founded field of personality psych – 1937 - Quantitative studies of the behavior of many individuals systematically observed across a set of situations over multiple occasions in the natural stream of behavior were rare, and for a good reason If.. Then… situation – behavior signatures - Particular situations that do and do not occur can be very informative - When situations change, so do behaviors - Research indicates that many people are reliably characterized by patterns - Signature of personality that reflects some of the essence of personality coherence and promises to provide a route to glimpse the underlying system that generates them - An individuals personality may be seen not only in the overall average frequency of particular types of behavior shown but also in when and where that behavior occurs - If..then.. Patterns of situations – behavior relationships that unfold o If they are stable-can then provide a key to the personality Evidence for signatures indicative of personality types - Studies – children were systematically observed for 150+hours per child in a residential summer camp setting over the course of 6 weeks o Children displayed stable, distinctive patters of if…then…relationships  Some children were consistently more verbally aggressive than others when warned by an adult, but much less aggressive than most when their peers approached them positively o Another group with similar overall avg level of aggression was distinguished by striking and opposite if..then.. Relationship  More aggressive than other children when peers approached them positively, but were exceptionally unaggressive when warned by an adult - People differ stably in their distinctive if…then..strategies and behavior patterns - They will behave in their characteristic ways within a given type of situation, but they will vary their behavior predictably when the if changes, thus producing behavioral variability across situations 2 Gary w. Behavioural signatures - The person and situation need to be considered when trying to predict and understand individuals and the important ways they differ from one another - Gary vs. Charles (brothers) o Similar in becoming upset  Differ in events that don’t involve being provoked by close personal relations with women o Public speaking – Gary becomes distressed, Charles enjoys it o Gary prefers quantitative tasks, while Charles prefers qualitative Two types of consistency - Personality consistency is found in two different forms (need to be considered together) o Type 1: average overall levels of behavior tendencies  Overall average differences in the levels of typical behavior of different kinds that characterize the individual o Type 2: if…then…signature  These consistencies are patterns of stable links between types of situations and types of characteristic behaviors Uses of the two types of consistency - Inferences about global traits may be limited value for the practical prediction of person’s specific future behavior in situations - Broad traits have other uses – value for everyday in
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