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Western University
Psychology 2550A/B
James M Olson

Typesand Traits September-11-12 11:09 PM - The trait approach - the effort to categorize in psychology -- it is the oldest and most enduring approach to individuality ○ Many psychologists working at this level of analysis try to label, measure, and classify people, often but not always using the trait terms of everyday language (e.g. Friendly, aggressive) in order to describe and compare their attributes and make sense of them TYPES AND TRAITS - Analyses at this level have been guided by the assumption that behaviour is primarily determined by stable generalized traits (basic qualities of the person that express themselves in many contexts) - Abelief that positions on these dimensions tend to be stable across situations and over time ○ So,the focus in the study of individuality becomes to identify the person's basic stable and consistent traits or characteristics - TYPES - Hippocrates assigned persons to one of four types and associated them with one of the bodily humors: ○ Choleric (irritable) - caused by an excess of yellow bile ○ Melancholic (depressed) - excess of black bile ○ Sanguine (optimistic) - too much blood ○ Phlegmatic (calm, listless) - too much phlegm - Associations bw physique and indices of temperament have popular appeal, as seen in the many stereotypes linking the body to the psyche: ○ Fat people are "jolly" and "lazy"; thin people are "morose" and "sensitive" - Most important typologies is grouping people into introverts or extraverts ○ Introvert  Withdraws into herself, especially when encountering stressful emotional conflict  Prefers to be alone  Tends to avoid others  Shy ○ Extravert  Reacts to stress by tryingto lose himself among people and social activity  Drawn to an occupation that allows him to deal directly with many people, such as sales  Conventional, sociable, and outgoing - But because each person's behaviours and psychological qualities are complex and variable, it is difficult to assign an indiv idual to a single slot ○ Stilluseful, though - INFOCUS 3.1 An Example: Type A Personality - TypeA ○ Competitive achievement striving - Involved in multiple activities - Numerous community and social commitments - Participate in competitive athletics ○ Exaggerated sense of time urgency - Impatient and irritation at delay ○ Aggressiveness and hostility - May not be generally more aggressive than other people, but they become more aggressive under circumstances that threaten their sense oftask mastery (when under criticism or high time pressure) - TypeB ○ Those opposite totype A ○ Patterns of relaxation, serenity, and lack of time urgency - These two types also differ in their family environments - Type A's may have at least twice the likelihood of coronary heart disease as type B people - Type A's also smoke more and have higher levels of cholesterol in their blood - Type A people also tend to describe themselves as more impulsive, self-confident, and higher in achievement and aggression - Bothtype A men and women fail to report physical symptoms and fatique ○ Results in their failure to rest or to seek medical care in the early phases of heart disease and may be one reason why these people push themselves into greater risk of premature death from coronary heart disease ○ The correlation may be weaker - may just be due to their anger and hostility - Insum, it now seems that specific behaviours, rather than the more global typology, are linked to a higher risk of coronary disease - Traits: Individual Differences on Dimensions - Traits defined - While typologies assume discontinuous categories (ex. Male or female), most traits are measured on continuous dimensions like "friendliness" -- in terms of the degree of the quality the person has ○ Discontinuous categories ( - Most people show intermediate amounts, and only a few are at each extreme - Traits are assumed tobe quantifiable and scalable - Trait - refers to consistent differences between the behaviour or characteristics or two or more people ○ Thus, a trait may be simply defined as "any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual varies from another" - When different people are confronted with the same event, each individual tends to react in a somewhat different way - Describing and explaining - Sometheorists see traits as explanations: in their view, the trait is the property within the person that accounts for his o r her unique but relatively stablereactions to stimuli ○ Thus, the trait becomes a construct to explain behaviour - Trait Attributions - When people describe each other in daily life, they spontaneously with trait terms (friendly, aggressive, dependent, etc) - Ineveryday practice, traits may be used first simply as adjectives describing behaviour, but the description is soon general ized from the behaviour to theperson ("he behaves in a lazy way" to "he is lazy") - The utility of trait terms depends on their ability to make predictions about people's behaviours in a new situation based on their behaviours observed in the past in a different situation observed in the past in a different situation TRAIT THEORISTS - Three of the most influential: allport, cattell, eysenck - Gordon Allport - His book "personality: a psychological interpretation" in 1937 launched the psychology of personality as a field and discipli ne - His view of personality was broad and integrative - Hewanted the field to pursue two goals: 1. Tounderstand the differences between people in personality 2. Tosee how the different characteristics and processes (like learning, memory, and biological processes) that exist within an individual interact andfunction together - His conception of traits continues to guide much of the work at the trait-dispositional level of analysis - Hefavoured a biophysical conception that there are nonetheless bonafide mental structures in each personality that account f or the consistency of its behaviour - According to allport, traits are determining tendences or predispositions to respond ○ i.e. A trait is a generalized and focalized neuropsychic system with the capacity to initiate and guide consistent forms of adaptive and expressive behaviour -- they also unite many responses todiverse stimuli, producing broad consistencies in behaviour - Cardinaltraits - highly generalized dispositions that influence most aspects of some people's behaviours - Centraltraits - less pervasive, but stillquite generalized dispositions; many people are broadly influenced by them - Secondary dispositions -more specific, narrow traits (aka attitudes) - Hebelieved that one's pattern of dispositions or "personality structure" determines one's behaviour ○ Emphasis on structure, rather than environment/stimulus conditions is shown here: "the same fire that melts the butter hardens the egg" ○ Each person's behaviour is determines by a particular trait structure - Heemphasizes individuality and uniqueness of each personality - Heurged the study of individuals through intensive and long-term case studies - Alsodid pioneering work at the phenomenological-humanistic level of analysis - Stillagreed that bc of shared experiences/common cultural influences, most people tend todevelop some roughly similar kinds of traits - Raymond B. Cattell - Forcattell, the trait is also the basic unit of study; it is a "mental structure," inferred from behaviour, and a fundamenta l construct that accounts for behavioural regularity/consistency - Common traits - possessed by many people in different degrees - Uniquetraits - occur only in a particular person and cannot be found in another in exactly the same form - Surfacetraits - clusters of overt or manifest trait elements (responses) that seem to go together - Sourcetraits - the underlying variables that are the causal entities determining the surface manifestations ○ Can only be found by factor analysis - Hethinks the basic aim in research/assessment should be identification of source traits ○ These source traits are divided into: - Environmental-mold traits - those that reflect environmental conditions - Constitutionaltraits -those that reflect constitutional factors - Source traits may be: ○ General - those affecting behaviour in many different situations ○ Specific - operate in one situation only -- cattell pays little attention to these - Cattell used three kinds of data to discover general source traits 1. Life records in which everyday behaviour situations are observed and rated 2. Self-ratings 3. Objective tests in which the person is observed in situations that are specifically designed to elicit responses from which behaviour in other situations can be predicted - Traits may also be grouped into classes on the basis of how they are expressed ○ Dynamic traits - those traits that are relevant to the individual's being set into action with respect to some goal ○ Ability traits - those concerned with effectiveness in gaining the goal ○ Temperament traits - traits concerned with energy or emotional reactivity - Hans Eysenck - Extended the search for personality dimensions to the area of abnormal behaviour, studying such traits as neuroticism -emotional stability - Heemphasized that his dimensions of introversion-extraversion is based entirely on research and "must stand and fall by empirical confirmation" - Overall, extroverts = feelings are not kept under a tight control, and he is not always a reliable person ○ Introverts = reliable, somewhat pessimistic and places great value on ethical standards - Most people are mixtures of introverts/extraverts and fall in the middle of the spectrum rather than at the extremes of the d imensions - Emotionalstability - the second major dimension of personality (aka neuroticism) ○ This dimensions describes at one end people who tend to be moody, touchy, anxious, restless, and so one ○ At the other extreme are people characterized by such terms as stable, calm, carefree, even-tempered, and reliable - Extraverts generally reported earlier, more frequent, and more varied sexual experiences COMMONFEATURES OF TRAIT THEORIES - Generality and stability of traits - Trait theorists' general conceptions are similar ○ They all use the trait to account for consistencies in an individual's behaviour and explain why persons respond in different ways to the same stimulus - Traits and states distinguished - Bothtraits and states are terms that refer to the perceived attributes of people - Bothrefer to categories that have fuzzy boundaries and both are based on prototypes or ideal exemplars - The difference between them is that: ○ Prototypictraits are seen as enduring, stable qualities of the person over long time periods and internally caused ○ Prototypicstates refer toqualities that are only brief in duration and attributable to external causes - Traits examples: gentle, domineering, and timid - States examples: infatuated, uninterested, and displeased Search for basic traits - Search for basic traits - Guided by the assumption that stable dispositions exist, trait psychologists try to identify the individual's position on one or more dimensions - They believe that positions on these dimensions are relatively stable across testing situations and over long time periods - Paidless attention to effects of environment - Quantification - Mainfeature of the trait approach has been its methodology -- it is "psychometric" in that it attempts to measure individual differences and to quantify them ○ Psychometricians study persons and groups on trait dimensions by comparing their scores on tests - Aggregating across situations to increase reliability - Multiple-act criterion - a pooled combination of many behaviours that are relevant to the trait, and a pooled combination of many raters - The methods and results of this line of research are illustrated in a study in which undergraduate women were given the "domi nance scale" from two personality inventories ○ Women high on the dominance scales also tended toreport performing more dominant behaviours, and the reverse was true - Reliability will increase when the number of items in a test sample is increased and combined - Epstein demonstrated that temporal stability becomes much larger when it is based on averages over many days than when it is based on only single items on single days - It is often possible to predict the person's overall standing relative to other people when the behaviours are aggregated (co mbined) across many situations ○ But cant predict predict what an in
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