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Chapter Three.docx

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Western University
Psychology 2550A/B
David Vollick

Part I: The Trait-Dispositional Level Chapter Three T YPES AND T RAITS Types and Traits - Analysis at trait level – when people describe and group the difference among themselves into slots or categories - Classify and name things in early efforts to find order - Trait approach – oldest and most enduring approach to individuality – label, measure, and classify people, often but not always using the trait terms of everyday language in order to describe and compare their psychological attributes and to make sense of them - Assumption that behaviour is primarily determine by stable generalized traits – basic qualities of the person that express themselves in many contexts - Focus = search to identify the person’s basic stable and consistent traits or characteristics Types - Categorization: sorts individuals into discrete categories or types - Hippocrates o Assigned people to ¼ types:  Choleric (irritable) - Excess of yellow bile  Melancholic (depressed) - Predominance of black bile  Sanguine (optimistic) - Too much blood  Phlegmatic (calm, listless) - Excess of phlegm o Attributed each temperament to a predominance of one of the bodily humors – yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm - Others seek associations between physique and indices of temperament o Fat people = jolly, lazy; thin people = morose, sensitive - One of the most important typologies is: Introverts and extraverts o Introvert withdraws into herself, especially when encountering stressful emotional conflict – prefers to be alone, avoids others, shy o Extravert reacts to stress by trying to lose himself among people and social activity – conventional, sociable, outgoing - Individuals are very complex, so it’s hard to assign each person to a single slot Traits: Individual Differences on Dimensions Traits defined - most traits are measured on a continuous dimension - differences among individuals can be arranged quantitatively in terms of the degree of the quality the person has - continuous dimension of individual differences in the degree of the measured quality – most people show intermediate amounts, only a few are at each extreme - traits are quantifiable and scalable – consistent differences between the behaviours or characteristic of two+ people – any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual varies from another - commonsense observation – people differ greatly in the same situation - most of us are impressed with the distinctive consistency of one individual’s responses over a wide variety of stimulus situations IN FOCUS 3.1 AN EXAMPLE: TYPE OF PERSONALITY - psychological variables in men at higher risk of coronary heart disease early in life - Type A’s: 1. competitive achievement striving – involved in multiple activities, have numerous community and social commitments, and participate in competitive athletics – in lab studies, they believe with sufficient effort they can overcome a variety of obstacles 2. exaggerated sense of time urgency – great impatience and irritation at delay 3. aggressiveness and hostility – may not be generally more aggressive than other people, but they become more aggressive under circumstances that threaten their sense of task mastery - Type B’s: relaxation, serenity, lack of time urgency - Type A’s have 2x likelihood of coronary heart disease as Type B o Smoke more, higher levels of cholesterols in their blood o Describe themselves as more impulsive, self-confident, and higher in achievement and aggression o Fail to report physical symptoms and fatigue - Now seems that specific behaviours – anger and hostility – rather than more global typology – type A personality – are linked to a higher risk of coronary disease Describing and Explaining - Traits are explanations – property within the person that accounts for his or her unique but relatively stable reactions to stimuli - Trait is a construct to explain behaviour - Can be used informally by people in daily life Trait Attribution - Characterize each other with trait terms – aggressive, dependent, introverted etc - When we see someone behaving in a particular trait we attribute a trait - Traits describe what people do but also the cause of their behaviour - Can be used as adjectives describing behaviours – description is a generalization from the behaviour to the person and then abstracted - Descriptions pose no problems as long as the basis is recalled - Hazard – we forget that nothing is explained if the state we have attributed to the person from his behaviour (lazy) is now invoked as the cause of the behaviour from which it was inferred - Trait approach begins with a commonsense conviction that personality can be described with trait terms – arrive at them quantitatively and systematically Trait Theories - Three of the most influential trait theorists Gordon Allport - His book launched the psychology of personality as a field and a discipline - Devoted to understanding the person as a coherent, consistent whole individual - View of personality was broad and integrative - Reacting against the tendency of researchers to study isolated part processes – learning/memory – in ways that failed to take account of individual differences - Wanted the field to pursue 2 goals o Understand differences between people in personality o How different characteristics and processes that exist within an individual interact and function together in an integrated way - Favored biophysical conception that not every trait-name implies a trait, behind all the terms are bona fide mental structures in each personality that account for the consistency of its behaviour - Traits are determining tendencies or predispositions to respond - Trait: generalized and focalized neuropsychic system with the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent forms of adaptive and expressive behaviour - They unite responses to diverse stimuli, producing fairly broad consistencies in behaviour - Some people have dispositions that influence most aspects of their behaviour – cardinal traits o Eg. a persons whole life is organized around goal achievement and the attainment of excellence, then achievement might be his or her cardinal trait - Central trait: less pervasive but still a generalized disposition - Secondary disposition: attitudes - One’s pattern of disposition or ‘personality structure’ determines ones behaviours - Trait structure: no two people are alike or respond the same to every situation - Emphasis on individuality and uniqueness of each personality - Urged long-term case studies and pioneering work at the phenomenological-humanistic level of analysis - Bc of shares experiences and common cultural influences people tend to develop common kinds of traits which can be compared on these dispositions Raymond B Cattell - Trait is the basic unit of study – it’s a mental structure – inferred from behaviour, and a fundamental construct that accounts for behavioural regularity or consistency - Like Allport, Cattell distinguished between common traits (possessed by many people in different degrees) and unique traits (occur only in particular person and cannot be found in another in the exact same form) - Distinguished surface traits from source traits o Surface traits: cluster of overt or manifest trait elements (responses) that seem to go together o Source traits: underlying variables that are the causal entities determining the surface manifestations  Only be found by mathematical techniques of factor analysis  Investigator tries to estimate the factors or dimensions that appear to underlie surface variations in behaviour  General or specific  Specific: particularized sources of personality reaction that operate in one situation only – Cattell pays little attention to them - Basic aim – identification of source traits o These traits are divided between those that reflect environmental conditions (environmental-mold traits) and those that reflect constitutional factors (constitutional traits) - Uses 3 kinds of data to discover general source traits: 1. Life records 2. Self-ratings 3. Objective tests - Data from all 3 sources are subjected to factor analysis - Preference for factor analysis of life-record data - Traits grouped into classes on the basis of how they are expressed o Dynamic traits: relevant to the individual’s being ‘set into action’ with respect to some goals o Ability traits: concerned with effectiveness in gaining the goal o Temperament traits: concerned with energy or emotional reactivity Hans J Eysenck - Extended the search for personality dimensions to the area of abnormal behaviour, study such traits as neuroticism – emotional stability - Investigated introversion-extraversion as a dimensional trait - Studies associations between people’s positions on these dimensions and their scores on a variety of other measures - Emphasized that his dimension of introversion-extraversion is based entirely on research and ‘must stand and fall by empirical confirmation’ o Extravert = sociable, likes parties, lots of friends, doesn’t like reading, craves excitement, risk-taker, impulsive, likes change, carefree, easy going, optimistic, aggressive, not always reliable o Introvert = quiet, introspective, likes books, reserved, distant, plans ahead, likes order, reliable, pessimistic, places value on ethical standards - Most people are mixtures who fall in the middle rather than are extremes of the dimensions - Second major dimension of personality is emotional stability (neuroticism) Common Features of Trait Theories Generality and Stability of Traits - General conceptions are similar between trait theorists - Use the trait to account for consistencies in an individual’s behaviour and explain why persons respond in different ways to the same stimulus - Most view traits as dispositions – but each differentiates between relatively superficial traits - Recognize some fluctuations, or changes in a person’s position with respect to a disposition Traits and States Distinguished - Illustrate a distinction that is often made, both intuitively and by trait psychologists, between traits and states - Traits and states are terms that refer to the perceived attributes of people o Both refer to categories that have fuzzy boundaries, based on prototypes - Difference – prototypic traits are seen as enduring, stable qualities of the person over long time periods and internally caused - Prototypic states refer to qualities that are only brief in duration and attributable to external causes (eg. momentary situation) Search for Basic Traits - Guided by the assumption that stable dispositions exist - Try to identify the individual’s position on one or more dimensions - Compare people tested under standardized conditions - Belief that positions on these dimensions are stable across testing situations and over long time periods Quantification - Main feature of trait approach = methodology - Methodology is psychometric, meaning it attempts to measure individual difference and to quantify them - Psychometricians study persons and groups on trait dimensions by comparing their scores on tests - Sample many people & compare large groups under uniform testing conditions , devise statistical techniques to infer basic traits Aggregating across Situations to Increase Reliability - Convinced that past research has underestimated the personal constancies in behaviour - Multiple-act criterion: pooled combo of many behaviours that are relevant to the trait, and a pooled combo of many raters - Study: women gi
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