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Ch 1 Orientation to Personality.pdf

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Psychology 2550A/B
Kelly Olson

Orientationto Personality September-04-12 11:46 AM WHAT ISPERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY? - What is personality? Many definitions, no single meaning ○ Popular usage - it is equated with social skill and effectiveness ○ Less superficially - 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 psychology is to find and describe those individual differences between people that are psychologically meaningful and stable - Personality refers to qualities of individuals that are relatively stable ○ So if a person's behavior changes from time to time, then it may not be indicative of personality ○ But sometimes the change in the person's behaviour can also be meaningful and tell you something more about the individual - Another key component of personality is coherence in the pattern of change in an individual's behaviour - Predicting and Understanding - The term "personality" usually implies continuity or consistency in the individual - Personality psychologists try to understand what it is that underlies these differences between people in terms of their characteristic ways of behaving - Defining Personality - Must assume that there are stable individual differences - and that these differences reflect an underlying organization or structure - Classicand influential working definition: ○ Personality psychology is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his c haracteristic behaviour and thought - As science matured - a broadly accepted definition by Pervin: ○ Personality is the complex organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviours that gives direction and pattern (coherence) t o the person's life ○ Personality consists of both structures and processes and reflects both nature (genes) and nurture (experience) ○ Personality includes the effects of the past, including memories of the past, as well as constructions of the present and fut ure - David Funder defines the mission of personality psychology as needing to "account for the individual's characteristic patterns of thoughts, emotion, and behaviour together with the psychological mechanisms - hidden or not - behind those patterns" - Personality psych 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 - Personality includes the person's unique patterns of coping with, and transforming, the psychological environment - In summary, to capture the richness of human behaviour, the personality construct has to encompass the following aspects: ○ Personality shows continuity, stability, and coherence ○ Personality is expressed in many ways - from overt behaviour through thoughts and feelings ○ Personality is organized - when it is fragmented or disorganized it is a sign of disturbance ○ Personality is a determinant that influences how the individual relates to the social world ○ Personality is a psychological concept, but it also is assumed to link with the physical, biological characteristics of the p erson THEORY AND LEVELS OF ANALYSIS IN PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY - Early "Big Picture" Theory - Personality psych is a young science, but since the time of ancient Greeks, philosophers have long pondered questions about human nature - As early as 400 B.C. Hippocrates philosophized about the basic human temperaments and their associated traits ○ Hethought physical qualities might underlie the differences in temperament ○ Hebegan a tradition: Trait and type psychology - Aristotlepostulated 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 capacities for thought and consciousness, which sets us apart from the physical world of matter - In the early 1900s, Freud opposed the rational view of human nature that characterized his time ○ Freud's theory made reason secondary and instead made primary the unconscious and its often unacceptable, irrational motivate s and desires, thereby forever changing the view of human nature - From Grand Theories to Levels of Analysis - One hazard of having theorists working as therapists and thus using the cases of their patients as the basis for broader generalizations on the nature of personality is that: because their work was based on their experience with emotionally disturbed patients, they mayhave focused more on the disturbed aspects of personality than on its healthier versions in less troubled people - Most of the grand theories of personality did not lend themselves to precise scientific testing that allowed them to be either supported or disconfirmed clearly on the basis of empirical studies ○ This is because of the difficulty of specifying the theoretical premises in testable terms and the various types of experimen tal and statistical limitations in conducting and evaluating the test results - Currently, there are numerous insights coming from theorists are researchers that are working at different levels of analysis, addressing different aspects of personality LEVELS OF ANALYSIS: ORGANIZATION OF THIS BOOK - The Trait-Dispositional Level - What am I like as a person? - 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 - Work at this level is also yielding a broad taxonomy for classifying individuals with regard to major traits, providing a mapon which people, groups, and even cultures can be compared - - The Biological Level - Howmuch of my personality reflects nature, and how much nurture? How do they interact to shape our characteristics? - An important goal at the biological level is to try to specify the role of genetic determinants and of the social environment in shaping who and what we become - Also addresses the fact that humans are biological beings who evolved in adaptive ways that endowed the species with biological characteristics, constraints, and possibilities - The goal is to examine how aspects of personality may have evolved
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