[12.1] Contemporary Approaches to Personality Flashcards Preview

🚫 PSY100H1: Introduction to Psychology (Winter 2016) with J. Vervaeke > [12.1] Contemporary Approaches to Personality > Flashcards

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What is Personality?

  • personality: a characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that is unique to each individual, and remains relatively consistent over time and situations
  • idiographic approach: creating detailed descriptions of a specific person’s unique personality characteristics
  • is used when you're "trying to figure yourself out"
  • is also used to understand the full human experience, from the most disturbed to the healthiest and functioning people
    • e.g. criminal profilers may focus on a detailed study of a serial killer in order to help police in their investigation 
  • nomothetic approach: examines personality in large groups of people, with the aim of making generalizations about personality structure
  • allows psychologists to examine what types of people are more or less likely to engage in certain behaviours, which is an important step toward being able to change behaviours of societal importance (e.g. substance abuse or energy conservation)


The Trait Perspective

  • personality traits: a person’s habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving; how that person is "most of the time"
  • are useful as short-cuts to understanding people because they sum up a great deal of information about a person, and help predict how they'll behave in different situations
  • it is often easier to make people believe that you are measuring their personality than it is to actually measure it 
  • the Barnum effect: when people are convinced that a fake personality profile describes them, even when it wasn't generated to describe them at all
    • this explains why people so readily believe horoscopes, astrologers, psychics, and the like
  • factor analysis: used to group items that people respond to similarly
    • e.g. the terms friendly, warm, and kind have similar meanings, and can be grouped in a cluster, referred to as a factor


McCrae and Costa (1987): The Five Factor Model

  • Five Factor Model: a trait-based theory of personality based on the finding that personality can be described using five major dimensions
  • consists of four factors: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism 


Beyond the Big Five: The Personality of Evil?

  • over the past several decades, personality researchers have discovered important personality traits that extend the Five Factor Model and help to shed light on the problem of human “evil"
  • HEXACO model of personality: a six-factor theory that generally replicates the five factors of the FFM and adds one additional factor: Honesty–Humility 
    • individuals scoring highly on this factor (high HHs) tend to be sincere, honest, faithful, and modest, whereas those with low scores (low HHs) are deceitful, greedy, and pompous 
  • Dark Triad: refers to three traits— Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism—that describe a person who is socially destructive, aggressive, dishonest, and likely to commit harm in general  
    • Machiavellianism: a tendency to use people and to be manipulative and deceitful 
    • psychopathy: a general tendency toward having shallow emotional responses 
    • narcissism: an egotistical preoccupation with self-image and an excessive focus on self-importance 
  • Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA): a highly problematic set of personality characteristics that involve three key tendencies
    1. obeying orders and deferring to the established authorities in a society;
    2. supporting aggression against those who dissent or differ from the established social order;
    3. and believing strongly in maintaining the existing social order 


The Global Change Game: Right-Wing Authoritarianism at the Group Level

  • Global Change Game: generally played by 50–70 people who are organized into groups that represent different regions of the world; these groups then make decisions about how their region behaves on the international stage
    • e.g. participants decide how their region will deal with problems such as environmental degradation, poverty, overpopulation, and military threats 
  • Altemeyer conducted two rounds of the Global Change Game, each simulation overing 40 years into the future, once with 67 people who scored low on RWA and once with 68 who scored very high
  • in the low RAW group, there were no wars or military build-up over the 40-year time period 
    • regions steadily downsized their militaries and diverted the money into humanitarian and environmental projects 
    • by the end of the game, food, health services, and jobs were provided for almost all people on Earth, resulting in a peaceful, stable world
  • in the high RWA group, militaries quickly grew and war ensued, leading to a global nuclear war that killed every person on the planet 
    • they were given the chance to start again, but still did not trust each other or learn from their mistakes
    • at the end of the game, the world was divided into armed camps on the brink of all-out war
  • however, there are criticisms of this experiment:
    • playing a game with no real consequences does not necessarily indicate how people would respond in a real-life situation 
    • it was held over one night, therefore results could have been due to chance factors highly influenced by certain individuals
    • also, only university students participated in the study, so the results may not generalize to the rest of the population 


Personality Traits Over the Life Span

  • are we are the same people as we get older, or do our fundamental personalities tend to change?
  • research has revealed considerable stability in our personalities 
  • given the large genetic contribution to personality factors, our personalities start even before we are born 
  • temperaments are relatively rudimentary; infants do not have the same complexity of personalities as adults, but they do vary on characteristics such as activity level, mood, attention span, and distractibility
  • kids come “hard-wired” to be a certain way; your power as a parent is small compared to the power of their genes
  • there are three main temperaments:
    • well-adjusted: capable of self-control, confident, not overly upset by new people or situations) 
    • under-controlled: impulsive, restless, distractible, emotionally volatile
      • by age 21, these former children were showing serious relationship difficulties, suffering from low levels of intimacy and trust
      • more likely to engage in externalizing behaviours: fighting, bullying, lying, disobeying; and more internalizing behaviours: worrying, being fussy, crying easily
    • inhibited: socially uncomfortable, fearful, easily upset by strangers
      • they also showed strong internalizing behaviours, and by age 18, emerging adult personalities reflected some of the temperaments at age 3
  • think back to the "fire together wire togehter" principle; the more an indiviual practices something like extraversion or conscientiousness, they more likely their brain is going to be good at that skill
  • also a positive feedback system; personality structures influence patterns in the person’s life and build networks in the person’s brain in ways that reinforce themselves, leading personality to be quite stable over time 
  • even if traits may fluctate over time, their rank in a population remains stable; i.e. people who are more extraverted than others at time one also tend to be more extraverted than others at time two, even though the overall level of extraversion may change over that time period  


Personality Traits and States

  • state: a temporary physical or psychological engagement that influences behaviour
  • Saucier et al. (2007): described four general aspects of situations that are most likely to influence our behaviour
    1. locations; e.g. being at work, school, or home
    2. associations; e.g. being with friends, alone, or with family
    3. activities; e.g. awake, rushed, studying
    4. subjective states; e.g. mad, sick, drunk, happy


Behaviourists and Social-Cognitive Perspectives

  • the trait approach is useful, but it reinforces the assumption that we carry our personality characteristics around inside us; traits are these “things” that we “have,” which then influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours 
  • however, a behaviourist would see personality as a relationship between specific environmental stimuli and an observed pattern of behaviour 
  • "personality" is simply a description of the response tendencies that occur in different situations; the behaviours you engage in are based on your past experiences 
    • e.g. if you find yourself hanging out with a group of people, your behavioural responses to that situation might include dominating the conversation, asking a lot of questions, laughing along at other people’s jokes, or generally remaining silent
  • behaviourists and other psychologists agree on how learning contributes to personality
  • modern theorists have gone beyond the behaviourist account to develop more holistic and integrated models of how personality functions and develops 
  • people are not affected by their environments in a strictly one-way causal process; they exist in a relationship with their environments
  • reciprocal determinism: posits that behaviour, internal (personal) factors, and external (situational) factors interact to determine one another, and that our personalities are based on interactions among these three aspects (figure 12.3)
    • social-cognitive theorists like Bandura emphasize how an individual's beliefs and behaviour influence what they experience back from the world

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