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How many adjectives are used to describe personality traits or characteristics?



Allport's broad definition of personality

An individual's personality consists of any characteristic pattern of behaviour, thought, or emotional experiences that exhibit relative consistency across time and situations.


Definition encompasses the "psychological triad" & characteristics (traits) implying both differences and similarities

Psychological triad --> building blocks of personality (thoughts, feelings, & behaviour).
Or ABC Model --> a= affect (emotion), b= behaviour, c= cognition
Trait continuum --> v.low to v.high


Consistency of human conduct

differentiated between states & traits.

Cross-situational & temporal stability consistency.



Is transient and short lived, the person's current reaction in the present situation ("how anxious do you feel now?")



Is relatively stable and lasting, the person's general tendency to react in a particular way ("how anxious do you typically feel?").

A trait indicates an individual's predisposition to experience the relevant state.


Inconsistency with behaviour

Casual observation alone is enough to confirm inconsistencies.

Eg. Shy and anxious with strangers but warm and friendly with family.


What is theory?

A theory consists of a set of assumptions and concepts that tie together various empirical findings and suggest new relations among them that should obtain under certain defined conditions. (Pervin, 1980)


2 basic functions of a theory

1. Synthesising function (explaining)
2. Heuristic function (predicting)


Synthesizing function

Through reason, logic, and sometimes insight, one looks for a pattern or theme that organises or explains empirical observations.


Synthesizing function

A theories ability to explain several observations.

Comprehensive theories (theories that synthesise a broad and diverse range of phenomena) are generally considered better and more useful than theories that synthesise a more limited range of phenomena.
--> they have greater applied value ie. greater implications for human welfare.


Heuristic function

The organisational scheme that one uses to tie together empirical observations should suggest new relationships that should hold certain defined conditions (ie. it should go beyond what is known and predict other phenomena).
--> a theories ability to generate new research.


Operational definitions

Statements identifying what observable phenomena, are evidence of a particular trait (eg clinical ratings, self-report questionnaires, physiological indices)


Two basic functions of theory:

Systematizing/synthesizing function & heuristic function


Cross-situational consistency

Individuals are not expected to maintain a fixed level of beh from one situation to the next. However, they are expected to hold their position relative to others over a range of situations.


Temporal consistency

The fact that personality is defined in terms of relatively enduring psychological traits does not preclude change over time. However, it is slow predictable patterns of change that define traits rather than moment-to-moment changes.


Heuristic function

A theories ability to generate new research is called its heuristic function.

What evidence would support or refute it? A theory that isn't testable is poor.


What makes a theory testable?

To be empirically verifiable, theoretical constructs must be clearly related to observable behaviour through operational definitions.


Arousal & Performance

Eysenck argued that introverts are chronically more aroused than extroverts.

Findings interpreted post hoc therefore can be interpreted to mean what they want them to mean.


Applied value

Not a universally endorsed criterion, however, many argue that a scientific theory should have applied value i.e. It should lead to new approaches to the solution of people's problems.


Meta-theoretical assumptions

William James observed that people prefer theories that are more interesting ... Appeal most urgently to our aesthetic, emotional, and active needs.

Which theories feel best to us, depends in large part on our assumptions about the world (i.e. meta-theoretical assumptions)

Profoundly influence the way in which we perceive the world and theorise about it.

A guide to what kinds of concepts are deemed appropriate to use in theories (eg is knowledge universal? Explicit? Pre-determined?)


Where do meta-theoretical assumptions come from?

Important events in our lives.

The prevailing mood/spirit (zeitgeist) writhing the field/society at the time.

Influenced by personal and cultural factors.


Descriptive Theories

(Trait theories)
Are static and non-causal; concerned with HOW people differ.


Generally believed that traits directly influence behaviour (ie spontaneously breaking into song explained by having happy a disposition)


Causal Theories

Why people differ --> genetic, biological, & social substrates.

To avoid circularity.