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Psychology 2550A/B Chapter Notes -Personality Psychology, Social Skills, Twin Study

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Kelly Olson

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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
What is personality? Many definitions, no single meaning
Stable, Coherent Individual Differences
Different people respond differently to similar events
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
Personality refers to qualities of individuals that are relatively stable
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
Defining Personality
Must assume that there are stable individual differences - and that these differences reflect an underlying organization or structure
Personality psychology is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his c haracteristic
behaviour and thought
Classic and influential working definition:
Personality is the complex organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviours that gives direction and pattern (coherence) t o the person's
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
As science matured - a broadly accepted definition by Pervin:
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
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
In summary, to capture the richness of human behaviour, the personality construct has to encompass the following aspects:
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
He thought physical qualities might underlie the differences in temperament
He began a tradition: Trait and type psychology
As early as 400 B.C. Hippocrates philosophized about the basic human temperaments and their associated traits
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 capacities for thought and consciousness, which sets us apart from the physical world of matter
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
In the early 1900s, Freud opposed the rational view of human nature that characterized his time
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 may have focused
more on the disturbed aspects of personality than on its healthier versions in less troubled people
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
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
Currently, there are numerous insights coming from theorists are researchers that are working at different levels of analysis, addressing
different aspects of personality
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 map on which people,
groups, and even cultures can be compared
Orientation to Personality
Se pte mbe r-04-12
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