Personality Theories-Chapter 2- The scientific study of people

Chapter 2 intro
*Everybody, at an intuitive level, is a personality researcher.
*We all observe differences among people, as well as consistent patterns of behavior within individuals.
*These observations constitute the “research evidence” we use to formulate our intuitive personality theories.
*Scientists follow established procedures to maximize the objectivity and accuracy of the information they obtain.
*Generally, we need a theory to identify the events that are most important to study. We also need a theory to tell us how to study them.
*Theory without research can be mere speculation; research without theory is meaningless fact gathering.
The data of personality psychology
*1) You can ask a person to tell you what she is like,
*2) You could observe her from day to day activities
*3) You could ask other people who know this person well to report on her personality.
*4) Look at objective facts about the person’s life (school records, job performance, etc)
LOTS of data
*L-data: life record data
*O-data: Observer data
*T-data: test data
*S-data: self-report data

*1) researchers commonly combine data sources in any given study
*2) Some data sources do not fit easily into the LOTS organizational scheme.

*Consists of information that can be obtained from a person’s life history or life record.
*Researchers interested in the relation between personality factors and school performance obtain life record (grades in school)
*For many personality characteristics, such objective records are not available, so other sources must be considered.
*Consists of information provided by knowledgeable observers such a parents, friends, or teachers.
*Generally such persons are provided with a questionnaire or other rating form with which they rate their target individuals personality characteristics.
*This data can consist of observations of very specific pieces of behavior or of more general ratings based on observations of behavior.
*Data on any individual can be obtained from one observer or multiple observers.
*One can check for agreement or reliability among observers.
*Consists of information obtained from experimental procedures in which research measures people’s performance on tasks.
*Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in T-data, thanks in part to computer-based technologies that make it much easier than in the past to administer and analyze large numbers of performance based tests.
*In all such cases, T-data are objective ; they do not involve a subjective impression of a person but, instead an objective record of his or her performance on a task.
We will write a custom essay sample on
Any topic specifically for you
For only $13.90/page
Order Now
*Is information that participants report about themselves (the s stands for self).
*Most common source of this data is questionnaires
*Personality questionnaires can measure a single personality characteristic or may be designed to measure the entire domain of personality.
*In the latter case, the questionnaire generally contains a large number of test items that tap a number (usually between 2 and 16) of distinct personal qualities.
*S-data have limitations.
*People may be unaware of some of their own psychological characteristics or may be motivated to present themselves in a positive manner.
*Either possibility yields test responses that fail to reveal personal qualities accurately.
*Their convenience, combined with their documented ability to predict significant psychological outcomes makes questionnaire-based s-data a very popular data source.
*Self report questionnaires now are posted on the internet with thousands of people responding to them.
*A comparison of internet findings with findings based on the use of self report questionnaires through more traditional means suggest the two methods yield comparable results.
*Thus, this research indicates the internet could be used to gain valuable insights into the personality functioning of individuals.
How do data from different sources relate to one another?
*Personality psychologists frequently have found that self-reports (S-data) are often discrepant from scores obtained from laboratory data (T-data).
*Self reports (S-data) and observer reports (O-data) tend to be related more closely.
*Yet, when personality characteristic being measure are highly evaluative (e.g., stupid, warmhearted) self perception biases enter the rating process, lowering agreement between self and observer ratings.
*Some lead to greater agreement among ratings from different observers for easier to judge characteristics (e.g., sociablity vs. neuroticism)
*Some individuals appear to be more “judgable” than others.
*In general, the different sources of data about personality should be recognized as having their own advantages and disadvantages.
*Self-repot questionnaires have a clear advantage: people know a lot about themselves.
*They are limited by phrasing of test questions, which order they appear on a test, people lie or may unconsciously distort their questionnaire responses to present themselves in a positive light.
*Objective measures of behavior and of biological systems underlying behavior may be more reliable; yet the personality psychologist is often interested in aspects of personal experience that do not have any simple behavioral or biological markers.
Fixed measured
*Nomothetic; greek for “law” nomos, and refers here to the search for scientific laws that apply, in a fixed manner, to everyone.
*Procedures in which exactly the same measures (e.g., exactly the same test items) are administered to all the people in a psychological study and scores for all people are computed in exactly the same way.
*Most commonly employed method in personality psychology.
*Clear advantages:
1) objective and simple.
1) Some of the test items may be irrelevant to some individuals taking the test.
2) Some features of your personality may not be included in a fixed test.
**You may posses some idiosyncratic psychological quality-an important past experience, a unique skill, a guiding religious or moral value, etc-that is not mentioned in any of the test items.
*This limitations can be overcome by adopting flexible testing procedures.
Flexible measure
*Idiographic; greek idios, referring to personal, private, and distinct characteristics.
*Idiographic techniques have the primary goal of obtaining a portrait of the potentially unique, idiosyncratic individual.
*Procedures that do something other than give all people a common set of questions.
*E.g., allow individuals to to indicate which questions a mr=ore or less relevant to them; give unstructured test-allow them to write about themselves in their own words.
*Unstructured methods have proven to be quite valuable in assessing the self-concept.
Personality and brain data
*The four types of data-LOTS-are psychological.
*These data sources inform researchers about people’s psychological responses: their behavior, thoughts, and emotional reactions.
*Personality psychologists want to identify biological mechanisms that contribute to people’ enduring and distinctive patters of feeling, thinking, and behaving, that is, to their personality.
*Personality psychologists need brain data to complement their psychological LOTS data.
*2 types of evidence about brain functioning have proven valuable to personality psychology:
1) Electroencephalography (EEG)
2) Functional Magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

*EEG and fMRI provide information about biological functions, not psychological experiences.
*By combining the biological methods with the psychological LOTS data, researchers can link biology to psychology and discover the biological bases of personality processes and structures.

Electroencephalography (EEG)
*Is a method for recording electrical activity in the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp in different areas and they record the electrical activity of the brain’s individual cells, or neurons.
*generally done in laboratories but have recently been able to have successful recording outside of the laboratory settings.
*Researchers can relate psychological activity to brain activity, and thus identify regions of the brain that may underpin specific psychological states and functions.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
*A method for depicting or “imaging” the brain activity while a person carries out different tasks ( or psychological functions).
*Draws upon the fact that blood flow to different areas of the brain fluctuates as those brain areas become active during task performance.
*Participants are placed in a specialized device called a brain scanner.
Personality theory and assessment
*Personalty psychologist must accomplish a personality assessment.
*These assessments yield the basic data that psychologists use to accomplish their main professional goals, such as predicting people’s behavior, conducting experimental research on basic personality processes, and in clinical applications, understanding psychological problems and formulating therapy strategies.
*Theories of personality dictate targets of assessments-the aspects that are most important to study.
*The choice of an assessment target may dictate the source of data one pursues.
*Four targets of assessment in personality psychology:
1) Average behavior
2) Variability in behavior
3) Conscious thought
4) Unconscious mental events

*One can’t study personality by first collecting a lot of data and then creating a theory.One first needs a theory to decide what to measure and how to measure it.

Personality assessment
*Any standardized procedure-procedure with a well-specified set of steps- for learning about an individuals personality or for measuring differences in personality among people in a population.
*Any large group of individuals of interest to a given researcher.
Average behavior
*Some personality theories target for study people’s typical average behavior which are thought to reveal inner personality structure.
Variability in behavior
*Other theories suggest that assessing average tendencies in behavior is insufficient. One must also explore variations in behavior across social settings. Patterns of variability are thought to be revealing of personality structure.
Conscious thought
*A person’s flow of conscious thoughts, feelings, and emotions
Unconscious mental events
*Some personality theories highlight mental events of which people are not aware of.
Goals of research: reliability, validity, ethical behavior
*A research project cannot be successful unless its procedure posses two qualities
1) Must be replicable
2) must truly measure the theoretical concept of interest in a given study.

*measures must be (1) reliable and (2) valid

*Refers to the extent to which observations can be replicated.
*The question is whether measures are dependable or stable.
*Various factors may affect the reliability of a psychological test; psychological state of the people who are being observed, mood at the time being observed, ambiguities in test items, carelessness in test scoring, ambiguous rules for interpreting scores.
*Measured in two different ways:
1) Gauges internal consistency: do the different items on the test correlate with one another, as one would expect if each item is a reflection of a common psychological construct.
2) Measures test-re-test reliability: If people take the test at 2 different times, do they get the same, or highly similar, score.
*is the extent to which observations actually reflect the phenomena of interest in a given study.
*For a test to be useful in the development and testing of personality theory, it must have construct validity-it must be a valid measure of the psychological variable, or construct, that it purports to measure.
*To establish that a test possess construct validity, personality psychologists generally try to show that the test relates systematically to some external criterion, that is, to some measure that is independent of the test itself.
*Discriminant validity: It should be distinct, empirically, from other tests that already exist.
*A new idea about test validity ties the concept of validity to the concept of causality; a test in this view, is a valid measure of a psychological quality if (a) that quality actually exists and (b) variations in the quality causally influence the outcomes of the measurement process.
The ethics of research and public policy
*The American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted a set of ethical principles.
*Their essence is that “the psychologist carries out the investigation with respect and concern for the dignity and welfare of the people who participate.”
**this includes evaluating the ethical acceptability of the research, determining whether subjects in the study will be at risk in any way, and establishing a clear and fair agreement with research participants concerning obligations and responsibilities of each.
*In addition to APA guidelines, similar federal guidelines guide research.
*All research projects in psychology must be reviewed and approved by an ethics board that evaluates whether the research adheres to these guidelines.
*Ethical principles also apply to the reporting of research results.
*A long standing concern is “the spreading stain of fraud” that is, the possibility that the researcher’s reporting of results us not accurate but, instead, has been distress by his or her personal motives.
*1970s Sir Cyril Burt-British psychologist
*Science’s safeguard against fraud is independent replication-replication of results by a researcher other than the one who ran the original study.
*Much more subtle than fraud are personal and social biases that affect how scientific questions are developed and what kinds of data are accepted as evidence.
*Because personality research is applied in numerous domains, these applications heighten the research psychologists responsibility to report research accurately and comprehensively.
Three general strategies of research
1) Case studies
2) Correlational studies
3) Experiments
Case studies
*In-depth analyses of individual cases.
*Psychologist interacts extensively with the individual who is the target of the study and tries to develop an understanding of the psychological structures and processes that are most important to that individual’s personality.
*Case studies inherently are idiographic methods in that the goal is to obtain a psychological portrait of the particular individual under study.
*May be conducted purely for research.
*Historically, most case studies have been conducted as part of clinical treatment.
*Clinical setting inherently provides case studies of personality.
Hubert Hermans
*dutch personality psychologist (2001)
*Hermans refers to the different viewpoints (people’s thoughts about themselves-self concepts- are generally multifaceted) as different “positions” one can take in viewing oneself.
*This view of the self concept raises a major challenge for most forms of research.
*To understand the complexity of self concept as Hermans describes it requires a large amount of information about a person and the individuals and social circumstances that make up that person’s life.
*Case study that reveals the complexity of personality in our modern day and age, in which people from different cultures come into contact with one another much more frequently than in the past, due to the migration of individuals from one part of the world to another for purposes of education or employment.
*45 year old man from Algeria- Ali
*Herman employed a systematic research method that can be used in the study of a single individual.
Correlational studies
*Personality tests and questionnaires are used where the intensive study of individuals is not possible or desirable and where it is not possible to conduct laboratory experiments.
*Advantage of personality questionnaires is that a great deal of information can be gathered on many people at one time.
*The use of personality tests and questionnaires has tended to be associated with an interest in the study of individual differences.
*if people who have higher scores on one variable tend to also have higher scores on another variable, then the variables are said to be POSITIVELY CORRELATED
*If people tend to have higher scores on one variable and lower scores on another, then the variables are said to be NEGATIVELY CORRELATED.
*If 2 variables do not go together in any systematic linear manner, they are said to be UNCORRELATED.
*the correlation coefficient is computed in such a way that a perfect positive correlation- a correlation in which the point falls exactly on a single line-is a correlation of 1.0.
*A perfect negative correlation is one of -1.0.
*A correlation of zero indicates that there is no linear relation between 2 measures.
*The term correlational research refers to a research strategy, not merely to a particular statistical measure (the correlation)
*The strategy is one in which researchers examine the relation among variables in a large population of people, where none of the variables is experimentally manipulated.
Correlational research
*Comes from the statistic used to gauge the degree to which 2 variables go together: The correlation coefficient.
Correlational coefficient
*Is a number that reflects the degree to which 2 measures are linearly related.
Correlational research: Nun study
*Nuns who had more positive emotions in their writing of autobiographies lived longer then those who did not have as many positive emotions.
*One of the great achievements of science is not a research finding but a research method: the controlled experiment.
Experimental Research
This research strategy, in which variables are manipulated through the random assignment of persons to different conditions.
Experimental research: Stereotype threats
*Claude Steele (1997) and colleagues investigated a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat.”
*They had students fill our their race on tests and black people did more poorly when they had to identify with their race.
*There is a threat in the individuals mind that he or she might confirm the stereotype and in many circumstances, this stereotype threat may interfere with one’s performance.
*Also may explain the discrepancy between women and e=men in mathematics.
Case studies and clinical research: Strengths
*A major advantage of case studies, particularly as they are conducted in clinical settings, is that they overcome the potential superficiality and artificiality of correlational and experimental methods.
*Study the full complexity of person-environment relationships.
*Lead to in-depth study of individuals.
Case studies and clinical research: limitations
*Lead to unsystematic observation/findings from 1 case study may not generalize to other people.
*Encourage subjective interpretation of data
*Do not establish causal relationships, which can lower the reliability and validity of case study evidence.
Questionnaires and correlation research: Strengths
*Study a wide range of variables/sample size
*Concerns reliability/ many questionnaires provide extremely reliable indices of the psychological constructs they are designed to measure.
*Study relationships among many variables.
*Large samples easily obtained.
Questionnaires and correlation research: Limitations
*Provide relatively superficial information about individual persons.
*Establish relationships that are associational rather than causal
*Problems of reliability and validity of self report questionnaires.
*Individuals not studied in depth
Laboratory studies and experimental research: Strengths
*Manipulated specific variables
*Record data objectively
*Establish cause-effect relationships/ full details are reported so that the results can be replicated by investigators in other laboratories.
Laboratory studies and experimental research: limitations
*Exclude phenomenon that cannot be studies in the laboratory.
*Create an artificial setting that limits the generality of findings
*Foster demand characteristics and experimenter expectancy effects.
*Demand characteristics and expectancy effects can occur as sources of error in all three forms of research; however, they have been considered and studied most often in relation to experimental research.
The use of verbal reports
*Treating what people say as accurate reflections of what has actually occurred or is actually going on has come under attack from 2 very different groups:
1) Psychoanalysts and dynamically oriented psychologists: argue that people often distort things for unconscious reasons: Children perceive inaccurately, are very little conscious of their inner states and retain fallacious recollections of occurrences. Many adults are hardly better.
2) Many experimental psychologists argue that people do not have access to their internal processes and respond to interviewer questions in terms of some inferences they make about what must have been going on rather than accurately reporting what actually occurred.
*In a sense, people give subjective reasons for behaving the way the do but may not give the actual causes-verbal self reports are questionable sources of reliable and valid data.

*Other psychologists argue that verbal reports should be accepted for what they are-data.
*Essentially, the argument states that there is no intrinsic reason to treat verbal reports as any less useful data than an overt motor response, such as pressing a lever.
*Subjects can only report about things they are presently attending to or have already handled.
*Introspection: verbal descriptions of a process going on inside a person- was discredited long ago by experimental psychologists- but now there is increased interest in the potential use of such data.
*In sum, verbal reports as data should receive the same scrutiny as other research observations.

Response styles
* When people are describing themselves on a questionnaire, they may be biased to answer items in a way that has nothing to do with the exact content of the items or the psychological construct that the psychologist is trying to assess.
**Two response-style problems:
*1) Acquiescence: Involves the tendency to agree consistently (or disagree consistently) with items regardless of their content.
*2) Social desirability: Instead of responding to the intended psychological meaning of test item, a subject may respond to the fact that different types of responses are more or less desirable.
Demand Characteristics
*Cues implicit in the experimental setting that suggests to the subject that the experimenter has a certain hypothesis and “in the interest of science,” the subject behaves in a way that will confirm it.
*Suggests that the psychological experiment is a form of social interaction in which subjects give purpose and meaning to things.
*the purpose and meaning given to the research may vary from subject to subject in way that are not part of the experimental design and thereby serve to reduce both reliability and validity.
Experimenter expectancy effects
*Without realizing it, experimenters may either make errors in recording or analyzing data or emit cutes to the subjects and thus influence their behavior in a particular way.
*May lead subjects to behave in accordance with the hypothesis.
*Consider the case of Clever Hans (1911)-A horse that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide-however, the tapping would start when the questioner inclined his head forward, increase speed when the questioner bent forward more, and stop when the questioner straightens up.
*These effects can be quite subtle and neither the researcher or the subject may be aware of their existence.
Four points in defending laboratory experiments:
1) Such research is the proper basis for testing causal hypothesis.
2) Some phenomena would never be discovered outside of the laboratory.
3) Some phenomena can be studied in the laboratory that would be difficult to study elsewhere. (aggression)
4) There is little empirical support for the contention that subjects typically try to confirm the experimenter’s hypothesis or for the significance of experimental artifacts more generally.
One criticism of laboratory research that is difficult , if not impossible to overcome:
*It is that some phenomena simply cannot be produced in the laboratory.
Summary of strengths and limitations
*In assessing these alternative approaches to research we must recognize that we are considering potential, rather than necessary, strengths and limitations.
*What it comes down to is that each research effort must be evaluated on its own merits and for its own potential in advancing understanding rather than on some preconceived basis.
*Alternative research procedures can be used in conjunction with one another in any research enterprise.
Personality Theory and personality research
*Personality theory and research are not two separate enterprises; they are inherently intertwined.
*Personality researchers are interested in a person’s physiological reactions and are uninterested in their astrological signs because personality theories contain ideas that relate physiology to psychological functioning, while leaving no room for the influence of astrological forces.

1) Father of American behaviorism: John B Watson, emphasized the use of animals in research because of his discomfort in working with humans.
2) Sigmund Freud: Founder of the psychoanalytic theory, was a therapist who did not believe that important psychoanalytic phenomena could be studied in any manner other than therapy,
3) Hans Eysenck and Raymond Cattell: Two trait theorists of historic importance, were trained, early in their careers, in sophisticated statistical methods involving correlation, and these methods fundamentally shaped their theoretical ideas.
*There are preferences or biases toward clinical, experimental, and correlational research.

Personality Assessment And The Case of Jim
Assessment: generally is used to refer to efforts to measure personality aspects of individual in order to make an applied or practical decision: Will this person be a good candidate for this job? etc.
*Often is used to refer to the effort to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of individuals by obtaining a wide variety of information about them.