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Chapter 4

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PSYC 2130
Krista Phillips

Chapter 4: I. The Measurement of Individual Differences  Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry Murray o Certain psychological properties and processes are universal (like all other men) o Other properties of people differ but in ways that allow individuals to be grouped (like some other men) o Each individual is unique and cannot be meaningfully compared with anyone else (like no other man)  The trait approach is based on the ideas that all men are “like some other men” and that it is meaningful and useful to assess broad categories of individual difference, it assumes that in some real sense people are their traits  Dimensions of individual differences are the building blocks from which personality is constructed o Raises a fundamental problem II. People Are Inconsistent  Causal observation is sufficient to confirm that personality traits are not the only factors that control an individual’s behavior o Situations also matter  Situations vary according to the people who are present and the implicit rules apply  Perhaps individuals’ behaviour is so inconsistent and apt to change according to the given situation that there is no use characterizing them in terms of broad personality traits  Research shows that the stability of the differences between people increases with age o 30 yr olds more stable across time than children and adolescents o 50-70 yr olds most stable  People differ from each other in the degree to which they have developed a consistent personality for themselves o Related to psychological adjustment as well as age o Several studies suggest that the consistency of personality is associated with maturity and general mental health III. The Person-Situation Debate  The debate was triggered by the publication in 1968 of a book by Walter Mischel entitled Personality and Assessment o He argued that behaviour is too inconsistent from one situation to the next to allow individual differences to be characterized accurately in terms of broad personality traits o Other psychologists disagreed  3 issues: o Does the personality of an individual transcend the immediate situation and provide a consistent guide to her actions, or is what a person does utterly dependent on the situation she is in at the time? o Are common, ordinary intuitions about people fundamentally flawed, or basically correct? o Why do psychologists continue to argue about the consistency of personality, year after year, decade after decade, when the basic empirical questions were settled long ago?  The situationist argument has 3 parts o There is an upper limit to how well one can predict what a person will do based on any measurement of that person’s personality, and this upper limit is a low upper limit o Situations are more important than personality traits in determining behaviour (situationism) o The trait words used to describe people are not legitimately descriptive, since people generally tend to see others as being more consistent across situations than they really are a. Predictability  There is no trait that you can use to predict someone’s behaviour with enough accuracy to be useful  Mischel’s book surveys some of the research concerning the relationships between: o Self-descriptions of personality and direct measurements of behaviour (S data and B data)  Addresses the ability of personality trait judgments to predict behaviour o Others’ descriptions of personality and direct measurements of behaviour (I data and B data)  Addresses the ability of personality trait judgments to predict behaviour o One measurement of behaviour and another (B data and other B data)  Addresses the consistency of behaviour across situations  The critical question is how well a person’s behaviour in one situation can be predicted either from his behaviour in another situation or from his personality-trait scores  In research literature, predictability and consistency are indexed by a correlation coefficient o Mischel’s argued that correlations between personality and behaviour or behaviour in one situation and behaviour in another, rarely exceed 0.30 o Richard Nisbett (1980) revised the estimate upward to 0.40  Correlations are small, personality traits are therefore unimportant  Some psychologists concluded that personality doesn’t exist o 0.40 is the upper limit for the predictability of a given behaviour from personality variables or behaviour in other situations o Upper limit is low The Response  Unfair literature review o Mischel’s review is quite short and concentrates on a few studies that obtained disappointing results rather than on the studies that obtained more impressive findings  Didn’t go out of his way to find the best studies in the literature o The Mischel-Nisbett figure: assume that a correlation about 0.40 is the upper limit for how well personality traits can predict behaviour, as well as for how consistent behaviour is from one situation to another  We can do better o The weak findings summarized by Mischel do not imply that personality is unimportant, merely that psychologists can and must do better research o One way to improve research to move out of the laboratory more often  Personality is much more likely to become relevant in situations that are real, vivid and important nd  Real life behaviour is not easy to asses o 2 way to improve research that some people might be more consistent than others  Individual differences in consistency may be subtle and difficult to measure o 3 way to improve research to focus on general behavioural trends instead of single actions at particular moments  The prediction of behavioural trends requires that the researcher observe many behaviours, not just few o The issue is more than just a matter of statistics, it concerns the whole meaning and purpose of personality-trait judgments o The 3 suggestions measure behaviour in real life, check for variations in consistency, and seek to predict behavioural trends rather than single acts  However, they represent potential more than reality  A correlation of 0.40 is not small o To evaluate this correlation against an absolute standard calculate how many correct and incorrect predictions of behaviour a trait measurement with this degree of validity would yield in a hypothetical context  According to BESD, a correlation of 0.40 means that a prediction of behaviour based on a personality-trait score is likely to be accurate 70% of the time (assuming a chance accuracy rate of 50%) o To evaluate this correlation against a relative standard compare this degree of predictability for personality traits with the accuracy of other methods used to predict behaviour  To evaluate the ability of personality trai
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