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1} Introduce the trait approach to understanding personality } Discuss the person-situation debate } Discuss how personality affects and predicts important life outcomes } Discuss the resolution of the person-situation debate 21. Trait approach is based on empirical research. ◦ mostly correlational ◦ emphasis on accurate measurement of traits ◦ Assume traits should be able to predict behavior 32. This approach focuses on individual differences. ◦ Strength: assesses and attempts to understand how people differ ◦ Weakness: neglects aspects of personality common to all people 4} “Every man is in certain respects… like some other men } Trait approach focuses on the second level (above) } Traits are the building blocks of personality 5} Personality traits are not the only factors that control behavior. ◦ Situations are also important } Ask yourself: ◦ Do traits exist? Can you sum yourself up with a handful of traits? ◦ Is everybody basically the same, and behavior changes according to the situation? } Your answers may depend on your age. 6} Which is more important for determining what people do, the person or the situation? } Mischel (1968) ◦ Created debate ◦ Argued that behavior is too inconsisten to characterize with traits } Why this is important… ◦ Goes to the heart of how we think about the human race 71. Does the personality of an individual transcend the immediate situation? 2. Are common intuitions about people fundamentally flawed? 3. Why do psychologists continue to argue about the consistency of personality when the basic empirical questions were settled long ago? 8} 1) Predictability } 2) Situationism } 3) Person perceptions are erroneous} Argued that there is an upper limit to how well one can predict behavior based personality ◦ Upper limit is low } Mischel looked at relationships of S, I, and B data to behavioral data } Correlations rarely exceeded … .30-.40 (useless correlation [at the time]) 10} 1) Unfair, selective literature review by Mischel ◦ Used studies with poor methodology ◦ But even some of these found evidence of consistency 11} 2) We can do better. ◦ The .4 limit may be due to poor methodology ◦ To improve correlations we need to ! Get out of the laboratory ! Focus on behavioral trends ! This is difficult to do 12} 3) A correlation of .40 is not small. ◦ Comparison to an absolute standard: # of correct and incorrect predictions ◦ r=.4 à 70% accuracy ◦ Comparison to a relative standard: how well situations predict behavior 13} Situations are more important than personality traits in determining behavior. } Subtraction } The response-this is not legitimate ◦ Could be due to other personality traits ◦ Says nothing about important aspects of the situation 14} How the effects of situations on behavior should be determined ◦ Convert statiistical significance tests to effect sizes ◦ Funder & Ozer, 1983: situational effect sizes = .36 to .42 1516} Conclusion: both personality and situations are important determinants of behavior } Can’t say personality doesn’t matter unless you say this for the situation as well. 17} The professional practice of personality assessment is a waste of time and everyday intuitions about people are fundamentally flawed. } Responses ◦ The effects if personality on behavior are large enough to be perceived accurately ◦ The importance of traits is reflected in our language 18} Who cares about existence of personality? } “Personality is important on more than just theoretical grounds” (p. 127). } Personality affects… and predicts important life outcomes ◦ Health, relationships, career, happiness } Over time, how a person acts will add up 1920} “Personality traits are better for describing how people act in general” (p. 129). } Interactionism Personality and situations work together Certain types of people go to or find themselves in different types of situations People change the situations that they are in Example: stanford prison experiment 21} Why did this become such a big debate? } Perhaps it reflects what some want to believe about the world…as opposed to what is actually happening with humanity ◦ People are free to do whatever they want (traits don’t dictate our life) ◦ Everybody is equal and differences are a function of the situation ◦ “if the situation can be all-powerful, then nothing we do is ever really our fault.” (p. 132)


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OSU PSYCH 3530 - Chapter 4

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