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GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY Lecture 12 PERSONALITY Visiting Assistant PROFESSOR YEE-SAN TEOH Department of Psychology National Taiwan University Unless noted, the course materials are licensed under Creative Commons 1 Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike 3.0 Taiwan (CC BY-NC-SA


The Trait Approach Differences in P are best characterized in terms of underlying, possibly innate, attributes (traits). Traits predispose one toward patterns of thinking and behavior that are essentially consistent over time and across situations.

Traits E.g. quick temper, or friendliness Traits serve as a basis for making predictions about what a person is likely to do in the future.

The Big Five Inventory (Cattell) Cattell eliminated redundant P terms from a larger number of terms– yielded 16 primary trait dimensions. Overlap among the 16 trait dimensions was reduced to 5 major P dimensions. 5 major P dimensions are useful: describing people from childhood through old age, in many different cultural settings.


EXTRAVERSION Having an energetic approach to the social and physical world. Often feel positive emotions and agree with statements like “I see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable”

Neuroticism Prone to negative emotions or being emotionally unstable. Agree with statements like “I see myself as someone who is depressed, blue”

Agreeableness Having a trusting and easygoing approach to others. Agree with statements like “I see myself as someone who is generally trusting”

Conscientiousness Having an organized, efficient, and disciplined approach to life. Agree with statements like “I see myself as someone who does things ethically.”

Openness to Experience Unconventional and intellectually curious. Interest in new ideas, foods, and activities. Agree with statements like “I see myself as someone who is curious about many different things.”

Big Five Dimensions We identify someone’s P by specifying where he or she falls along each trait dimension. E.g. Low in agreeableness, high in neuroticism, etc. Allows us to describe an infinite number of P profiles created by different mixtures of the 5 basic dimensions.

The Big Five: Measurement & Meaning Informant data Information abt a person from parents, coaches, teachers, and so on. Although potentially biased, the data generally agree well with ratings of the Big Five. Informant data provide an important source of info about a person.

Hierarchy of Traits Each major P dimension is made up of many more specific facets of that characteristic. Each of which is, in turn, made of even more specific personality characteristics, Which are themselves made up of specific behaviors. Broader terms on top, more specific terms/behaviors on bottom.

Hierarchy of Traits Openness Feelings Receptive to inner emotional states Value emotional experiences Openness to Experience Aesthetics Appreciation for art, music, poetry

Cultural Differences in Trait Taxonomies Studies that confirm the existence of the Big Five dimensions in a population, do not show us whether these are the most frequently used categories in that culture, or whether they are useful in predicting the same behaviors from one culture to the next.

Cultural Differences in Trait Taxonomies When participants are allowed to generate P terms on their own, support for the crosscultural generality of the Big Five has been mixed.

The Consistency Controversy The Person-Situation Debate

How Consistent Are People? Studies have shown inconsistency in behaviors in different settings. Personality Paradox (Mischel, 1968): People behave much less consistently than a trait conceptualization would predict. Low correlations between measures of traits taken in different situations.

Why Aren’t People More Consistent?

The Power of the Situation Strong Situations Weak Situations Ones in which the environment provides clear guidelines for our behavior. Situation determines behavior. E.g. courtroom, fancy restaurant, church. Ones in which the environment provides few guidelines for our behavior. Personality determines behavior. E.g. at home alone, in a park.

Consistency as a Feature of P Self-Monitoring Scale Assesses degree to which people are sensitive to their surroundings and likely to adjust their behaviors to fit in.

Self-Monitoring High Self-Monitors Low Self-Monitors Care a great deal about how they appear to others. Adjust behavior to fit the situation. E.g. solemn at church, charming at party Less interested in how they appear to others. Behavior is much more consistent across situations. E.g. quiet at church, party,

Consistency May Vary Due to Culture How consistently people in different cultures describe themselves. How consistent individuals in different cultures want to be.

Culture & Self-Descriptions Americans are relatively consistent in how they describe themselves, no matter whether they happen at the time to be sitting alone, next to an authority figure, or in a large group. Japanese’ self-descriptions varied considerably across contexts – far more self-critical when sitting next to an authority figure than when they were by themselves.

Personality Traits as Predictors Use trait labels (“introvert”) to be descriptions of how a person tends to act in certain sorts of situations, rather than a description of what he or she is like at all times and in all places. Personality traits have been shown to predict important life outcomes – career success, criminal activities, health, mortality.

Traits & Biology

Genes & Personality P traits may grow out of an individual’s temperament. Temperament: Characteristic pattern of emotion, attention, and behavior. Evident from early age, determined considerably by genetic patterns (heritability ratio: .40-.60)

Physiology & Personality Eysenck: Introverts may react more strongly than extraverts to external stimuli. Introverts often guard against stimulation from the outside. Introverts have a lower tolerance for pain. When they are studying, introverts prefer less noise & fewer opportunities to socialize.

Physiology & Personality Introverts show a quicker response than extraverts, indicating more reactive brain stems.

Sensation-Seeking P style that tends to seek varied and novel experiences. Look for thrills & adventure, highly susceptible to boredom. More likely to engage in risky sports and activities. Neurotransmitter systems are under-reactive. Seek thrills & take risks to jog sluggish NTM systems into greater activity.

Inhibited Temperament P style - fear of novelty. Evident in early life – as infants, tend to react strongly when distressed. As young children, unwilling to approach novel stimuli or people, anxious in new situations. Associated with introversion & neuroticism. Overreactive brain? Low threshold for activity in the amygdala – higher levels of activation in novel situations.

Traits & the Environment

Cultural Effects: National Character The idea that people in different cultures have different Ps. E.g. a German or an Italian personality. Is national character nothing more than stereotyping?

Where do cultural differences in personality come from? Subgroup who are more willing to take risks and are more open to new experiences. Engage in practices that shape the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those around them. Conditions of the environment also play a role.

Family Effects Families differ in SES, nutrition, health, religion, attitudes about child rearing, etc.

Within-Family Effects Environments vary for different children within the same family. Within-family effects include different friends, teachers, accidents, and illnesses. Birth order effects: later-borns may be more rebellious & more open to new experiences than first-borns.

Family Environment & Personality Average correlation btwn P traits of adopted children and their adoptive siblings are very low. Same environment, little influence on P characteristics.

Family Environment & Personality Identical twin studies show same correlation for P scores whether the twins are reared together or apart. So the differences in the environment didn’t play a role in P development. But when identical & fraternal twins were compared, identical twins were more similar in P – strong heritability.

Copyrights Page 15 21 23 Work License Author/Source National Taiwan University YEE-SAN TEOH National Taiwan University YEE-SAN TEOH National Taiwan University YEE-SAN TEOH

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