Chapter 4: personality traits, situation and behavior
1. The similarity of personality psychology and everyday human observation:
both seek to characterize people using similar kinds of terms, and it is
even possible to compare one approach to the other.
2. Two points about trait approach:
1) This approach is based on empirical research that mostly uses
2) It focuses exclusively on individual differences
3. Weakness of trait approach: it’s prone to neglect aspects of psychology
common to all people while each person is unique.
4. People are inconsistent
1) Older persons are themselves more consistent than younger ones,
the stability of the differences between people increases with age
2) More-consistent people appear to be less neurotic, more controlled,
more mature, and more positive in their relations with others
5. The person-situation debate
1) What is it about: Which is more important for determining what
people do, the person or the situation?
a. 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?
b. Are common, ordinary intuitions about people fundamentally
flawed, or basically correct?
c. Walter Mischel entitled Personality and Assessment (triggered
2) Situationism: situations are more important than personality traits
in deter- mining behavior. 6. Predictability
1) The definitive test of the usefulness of a personality trait is whether
it can be used to predict behavior.
2) Situationists argue that this predictive capacity is severely limited.
There is no trait that you can use to predict someone’s behavior
with enough accuracy to be useful.
3) Predictability and consistency are indexed by the correlation
4) But if the correlation is near zero, it means the two variables are
7. Possible research improvement: measure behavior in real life, check for
variations in consistency, and seek to predict behavioral trends rather than
8. 9. Interactionism
Definition: persons and situations as constantly interacting with
each other to pro- duce behavior together
10. “High self-monitors,” quickly change their behavior according to the
situation, whereas “low self-monitors” are more likely to express their
personality consistently from one situation to the next
The Measurement of Individual Differences
• The trait approach to personality begins by assuming that individuals differ in
their characteristic patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. These patterns are
called personality traits.
People Are Inconsistent
• Classifying people according to traits raises an important problem, however:
People are inconsistent. Indeed, some psychologists have suggested that people are
so inconsistent in their behavior from one situation to the next that it is not
worthwhile to characterize them in terms of personality traits