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Chapter 2

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Psychology 2550A/B
David Vollick

Chapter Two D ATA ,M ETHODS , AND T OOLS Why A Science of Personality?: Beyond Hindsight Understanding - We see only through our own eyes, and are convinced we see the truth, without realizing how different other accounts of the same event can be when seen through different eyes - Hindsight helps one make sense of events that could not be understood - Science begins by creating a language to describe phenomena in a way that allows a single common understanding to emerge, in order to avoid multiple alternatives accounts that vary with each observer - Researchers test hypothesis in environments where causal factors may influence occurrences of the behaviour or event - We need a science of personality – not to oversimplify - The most distinguishing feature of persons is that they construct meaning by reflecting on themselves, their past, and future - Ask the individual: o How they see and understand themselves o What they are like in their own eyes - Although this view is internal, limited, and incomplete - To convert personality speculations abut people into ideas that can be studied, researchers must be able to put them into testable terms using good measures The Range of Personality-Relevant Measures - Your body is a system of many interdependent components - Each level of analysis of personality psych will provide data about one aspect of your total functioning personality – challenge is to put them together for an understanding of how personality operates - Researchers collect information from many sources so that they have diverse observations about many aspects of a person Interviews - Interviews are a valuable source of information – a verbal exchange between the participants and the examiner, favored particularly by workers at the psychodynamic-motivational level and those at the phenomenological level - Some interviews for structured and formal: examiner follows a fixed, prescribed format - This is the oldest method for studying personality, as well as the most favored - Its usefulness depends on how the interview is guided, structured, as well as the interviewees responses to recorded, coded, and interpreted - This is an expensive method, and very time consuming (to conduct, score, code) IN FOCUS 2.2 Early Personality Management - During WWI, interest in self-description as a method of personality assessment was devised o Psychoneurotic Inventory – Woodworth Questionnaire  Aimed at detecting soldiers likely to break down under wartime stress  Hard to so psychiatric interviews so he just made a questionnaire Tests and Self-Reports - Test: any standardized measure of behaviour, including verbal behaviour - Self reports: any statements people make about themselves o Offer quick way of getting information the person is willing and able to reveal - Performance measures Projective Measures - Developed more than 60yrs ago and continue to be popular in clinical use - Presented with ambiguous stimuli and asked ambiguous questions that have no right or wrong answers - Measures like these are of theoretical importance to much of the work at the psychodynamic- motivational level Naturalistic Observation and Behaviour Sampling - Psychologists cannot manipulate certain aspects of human behaviour - Ethical consideration prevents psychologists from trying to create powerful, lifelike experimental treatments in the labs - Some of the most informative work using this method, called naturalistic observation, comes from studies of animal behaviour, who observe the lives of animals in their natural environment - In distressed families – problem children’s aversive behaviours continued in ‘chains’ over longer periods of time, which an escalating pattern of hostile interchanges with family members o Parents in problem families reacted with punishment – tending to prolong the escalation of aggression o Translates to poor social skills, noncompliance at school, poor school achievement, rejection by peers, antisocial behave as adolescents - Clinical applications – observations may give both client and assessor an opportunity to assess life problems and to select treatment objectives - Observation is a commonplace method in everyday life – we form impressions and learn about events and people - When the observer is hidden, effects of changes in behaviours are minimized Remote Behavior Sampling: Daily Life Experiences - Assessors are frequently interested in unobservable events, eg. emotional reactions, thinking patterns - Remote behaviour sampling allows samples of behaviour to be collected in daily life o A beeper sounds and the person records their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours at that time o The situation may also be recorded, so the behaviour-situation relationship can be examined - Remote sampling procedures can be used for weeks or months - Self-reported reactions outside the lab are very popular o These can be linked to other aspects of experience – minor illness, psychological well-being o Daily reports can be linked to other characteristics of personality Physiological Functioning and Brain Imaging - There has been a long search for practical methods to assess emotional reactions - Polygraph: apparatus that records the activities of the ANS - Measures of bodily changes in response to stimulation also provide important info (esp when stressful or arousing) - Electrocardiogram (EKG): popular component of polygraphic measurement - Heart beats produce patterns of electrical activity that may be detected by electrodes places near the heart on the body surface - Plethysmograph: records the changes in blood volume - Galvanometer - Galvanic skin response (GSR): measures changes in electrical activity of the skin due to sweating - electroencephalograph (EEG): records the degree of activation in the cerebral cortex may be inferred from “brain waves” o patterns represent the frequency, amplitude, and other characteristics of the brain waves according to the person’s arousal state, from deep sleep to great excitement - new brain imaging procedures make it possible to examine relations between neural functions and behavior - Positron emission tomography (PET) scans: measure the amount of glucose being used in various parts of the brain and provide an index of activity as the brain performs a particular function - Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): measures magnetic fields created by the functioning nerve cells in the brain and with the aid of computer depicts these activities as images o Allow more precise and detailed analysis of the links between activity in the brain and the mental states we experience while responding to different types of stimuli and generating different thoughts and emotions Laboratory Methods of Social Cognition - Trying to understand individual differences in emotional and cognitive reactions to different kinds of social stimuli that occur often outside the individual’s awareness and control - Sequential priming-pronunciation task : test the hypoth that certain types of people are more prone to become hostile when they feel rejected o Participants shown target words one-by-one, and the participant reads it aloud when it appears o Microphone measures elapsed time between the presentation of the target word on the screen and the onset of the vocalization o Avg: ¾ of a second from when viewed - Priming: presenting a stimulus just prior to another stimulus o Prime: First stimulus presented o Target: stimulus presented shortly after - Participants are asked to ignore the prime, but perform the task with the target - Reaction time: time it takes for person to start the task o Affected by the nature of the prime - Reaction time depends on the participant’s level of sensitivity to personal rejection - Prior to the computer task, participants rejection sensitivity was measured o High score – it’s a matter of time before other people reject them, highly anxious about the possibility of being rejected  They started saying hostility related target words more quickly after they saw the rejection-related prime words o Opposite occurred for the low rejection sensitivity - People can process stimuli faster when they are already having thoughts and feelings related to the stimuli - Ex. Among women who are especially sensitive to rejection, hostility was closely linking to the feeling of rejection and therefore once they saw rejection-related words, they automatically started having hostility-related thoughts - People differ reliably and meaningfully in such automatic reactions - Memory tasks: examine the types of mistakes people make in remembering - Study – story about extravert or introvert were read by participants to see which characteristics they remember o Story about extravert – participant remembered extraverted traits that had not been presented o Introvert – opposite of previous - False-alarm effect: people extract the ‘gist’ of information about a person they encounter - Memory tasks can be used to assess how individuals organize knowledge about the world/people Conceptual and Methodological Tools Constructs and Operational Definitions - Must clearly identify and specify the phenomena that one wants to understand - Constructs: classes of behaviours, thoughts, emotions, and situations o Every personality term discussed is a construct o Represent nonmaterial ideas – concepts and not things – different meaning for different people o EG. dependency: particular class of behaviour – but the specific behaviour may differ from one person to another - Operationalization: translates these constructs into something observable and measurable – specific procedures used to produce or measure it in a particular study - Construct is operationalized – cannot be studied unless it can be tied to something obervable o in terms of a condition to which someone is exposed  Eg. hunger = the number of hours that a person is deprived of food o In terms of some behaviour of the participant  Eg. hunger = people’s rating of how hungry they feel, or how much effort they wil
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