Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior - Sensation & reality - Perceiving the World - States of Consciousness

Conditioning & Learning - Cognition & Creativity - Artificial Intelligence - Enhancing Creativity

Emotion - Health, Stress & Coping - ANS Effects

Theories of Personality - Dimensions of Personality - From Birth to Death - Child Development

Dimensions of

Personality. An individual═s unique and relatively unchanging psychological characteristics and behavior patterns. A hypothetical construct [explanatory concept that is not directly observable]. A person═s unique and enduring behavior patterns. In other words, personality refers to the consistency in who you are, have been, and will become. It also refers to the special blend of talents, attitudes, values, hopes, loves, hates, and habits that makes each of us a unique person.

Character. A subjective evaluation of personality, particularly with regard to a person═s desirable or undesirable qualities. Term implies that a person has been judged or evaluated, not just described. Not everyone has character--or at least, not good character.

Temperament. The physical foundation of personality, including prevailing mood, sensitivity, energy levels, and so forth. It is the ˝raw materialţ from which personality is formed. Temperament refers to the hereditary aspects of one═s emotional nature: sensitivity, strength and speed of response, prevailing mood, and changes in mood. Differences in temperament are apparent from birth onward.

Traits. Relatively permanent and enduring patterns of behavior that a person displays in most situations. Lasting qualities within a person that are inferred from observed behavior. Often use traits to predict future behavior from past behavior. Traits also imply some consistency in behavior. Dan talks to strangers at a supermarket and later at a party--deduce that he is sociable--probably will be at school and at work. How much have the personality traits of your friends changed in past five years. Sociable, orderly, intelligent, shy, sensitive, and creative.....

Types. Categories used to describe personality, with each category representing a collection of related traits. Represents a category of individuals who have a number of traits or characteristics in common. Executive type, athletic type, motherly type, Yuppie type, strong silent type...... Types are used by psychologists as shorthand way of labeling people who share similar personality traits. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung advanced idea of introvert and extrovert:

Self-concept. A person═s perception of his or her own personality traits. It consists of all your ideas and feeling about who you are. Many psychologists believe that self-concepts have a major impact on behavior. We creatively build our self-concepts out of daily experience. Then we slowly revise them as we have new experiences. Once a stable self-concept exists, it tends to shape our subjective world by guiding what we attend to, remember, and think about. An individual═s self-concept can greatly affect personal adjustment--especially when the self -concept is inaccurate or inadequate.

Personality Theory. An interrelated system of concepts and principles used to understand and explain personality. A system of assumptions, ideas, and principles proposed to explain personality. [Personality is so complex it is easy to become lost without a guiding framework for understanding it. How do the observations we make aut personality fit together? Can we explain and predict behavior from our knowledge of personality? How does personality develop? Why do people become emotionally unhealthy? How can they be helped?]

Trait theorists attempt to classify traits and to discover which are most basic. Traits are relatively permanent and enduring qualities that a person shows in most situations. If you are usually optimistic, reserved, and friendly, these qualities might be considered stable traits of your personality. What is most TYPICAL of your behavior? Are some more basic than others?

Classifying traits. Psychologist Goron Allport (1961) identified several kinds of traits.

Source Traits. Raymond B. Cattell wanted to reach deeper into personality to learn how traits are organized and interlinked. He began by studying: Surface traits - The visible portions of personality. He noted that surface traits often appear in clusters, or groups. Some traits appeared together so often that they seemed to represent a single more basic trait. He called such underlying personality characteristics source traits. Using a statistical technique called factor analysis to reduce surface traits to source traits, he developed a list of 16 underlying source traits he considers the basic number necessary to describe an individual personality. His source traits are measured by a test called the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF). It is used to produce:

Trait profile. A trait profile presents a graph of a person═s scores for each trait. Trait profiles can e very helpful for obtaining a ˝pictureţ of an individual personality or for making comparisons between the personalities of two or more persons.

Trait-situation interactions. Traits interact with situations to determine behavior. (Becoming more loud and boisterous as you moved from church to class, to party, to football game.

Ordinal position. Birth order in family.

Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). Psychologist Sandra Bem constructed a list of 20 ˝masculineţ traits (self-reliant, assertive, etc.), 20 feminine traits (affectionate, gentle, etc.), and 20 neutral traits (truthful, friendly). She believes that our complex society requires flexibility with respect to sex role. Of thousands of people tested, 50% fell into traditional masculine or feminine categories; 15% scored higher on traits of the opposite gender; 35% were androgynous. Bem feels that more people should be androgynous and use traits - as the situation requires. Rigid sex roles can seriously restrict behavior, especially for men. Males have great difficulty expressing warmth, playfulness, and concern, even when these qualities are appropriate--because they view such traits as ˝feminine.ţ Likewise, feminine women have trouble being independent and assertive, even when these qualities are called for. Now, having ˝masculineţ traits primarily means that a person is independent and assertive. Scoring high in ˝masculinity,ţ therefore, is related to high self-esteem and to success in many situations. Having ˝feminineţ traits primarily means that a person is nurturant and interpersonally oriented. People who score high in ˝femininity,ţ therefore, tend to experience greater social closeness with others and more happiness in marriage.

Masculine. Aggressive, ambitious, analytical, assertive, athletic, competitive, decisive, dominant, forceful, independent, individualistic, self-reliant, and willing to take risks.

Feminine. Affectionate, cheerful, childlike, compassionate, flatterable, gentle, gullible, loyal, sensitive, shy, soft-spoken, sympathetic, tender, understanding, warm and yielding.

Androgynous Means ˝man-woman.ţ Having both masculine and feminine traits. Can be a highly adaptive balance.

Trait approach has brought refinement to personality measurement and testing. Psychologists have fund it helpful to create ways of assessing personality to study traits--the results have been of tremendous value in research, industry, education, and clinical work. They use interviews (have you ˝sized upţ a potential friend?), observation (Have you watched the behavior of others when angry or embarrassed to learn what they are ˝reallyţ like), questionnaires (Perhaps you have asked a friend, ˝When I am delayed I get angry. Do you?ţ), and projective tests (˝I think people feel.....) to measure personality. Each method is a refinement of more informal ways of judging individuals. Each way of assessing personality has limitations--thus, they are often used in combination.

1. The Interview. A very direct way to learn about personality is to engage a person in conversation. Interviews are used to identify personality disturbances; to select persons for employment, college, or special programs; and to study the dynamics of personality. Interviews also provide information for counseling or therapy. In addition to providing information, interviews make it possible to observe a person═s tone of voice, hand gestures, posture, and facial expressions. Body language cues are important because they may radically alter the message conveyed.

(+ and -): They give rapid insight into personality, but they can be swayed by preconceptions, and interviewers own personality may influence the interviewee═s behavior, thus accentuating or distorting some of the interviewee═s characteristics. Third problem is the halo effect: a tendency to generalize a favorable or unfavorable impression to unrelated details of personality. A person who is likeable or physically attractive may be rated more mature, intelligent, or adjusted than he or she actually is.

Unstructured. If the conversation is informal and the interviewee determines what subjects are discussed.

Structured. The interviewer obtains information by asking a series of planned questions.

2. Direct Observation and Rating Scales. When used as an assessment procedure, direct observation is a simple extension of this natural interest in ˝people watching.ţ Fascinated by bus depots, airports, subway stations, or other public places? Many people relish a chance to observe the behavior of others. Misperceptions can be a difficulty, as in interviews, thus some use:

Rating scales (Low, average, above average, etc.) A format that limits the chance that some traits will be overlooked while others are exaggerated. And, as an alternative to rating scales, some do a:

Behavioral assessment. Observers record how often various actions occur, not what traits they think a person has. Psychologists working with hospitalized mental patients may find it helpful to record the frequency of patients═ aggression, self-care, speech, and unusual behaviors. Behavioral assessments are not limited to visible behavior. They can also be helpful in probing thought processes. In one study, for example, students high in math anxiety were asked to think aloud while doing math problems. Then their thoughts were analyzed to pinpoint the causes of their anxiety.

Situational testing. A specialized form of direct observation. They are based on the premise that the best way to learn how a person reacts to certain types of situations is to simulate those situations. A person is exposed to frustration, temptation, pressure, boredom, or other conditions capable of revealing personality characteristics. ˝Shoot-Don═t Shoot Testţ tests judgment and decision-making of police officers in training.

3. Personality Questionnaires. More objective than interviews or observation. Questions, administration, and scoring are all standardized so that scores are unaffected by the opinions or prejudices of the examiner. Many personality tests have been developed: Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey, the California Psychological Inventory, the Allport-Vernon Study of Values, the 16 PF, and many more. The best known and most widely used objective tests of personality is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). It is composed of 550 items to which a subject must respond ˝true,ţ ˝false,ţ or ˝cannot say.ţ Items include statements such as: Everything tastes the same. There is something wrong with my mind. I enjoy animals. Whenever possible I avoid being in a crowd. I have never indulged in any unusual sex practices. Someone has been trying to poison me. I daydream often. The MMPI measures 10 major aspects of personality. After the MMPI is scored, results are charted as an MMPI profile. By comparing a persons═ profile to scores produced by normal adults, a psychologist can identify various personality disorders. And, the MMPI has additional validity scales to detect attempts of subjects to ˝fake goodţ or ˝fake bad.ţ Other scales help adjust final scores that are affected by personal defensiveness or by tendencies to exaggerate shortcomings and troubles. Even this is not conclusive. Must take into account information from interviews or other sources. Many organizations, including businesses, routinely use personality tests, and errors or abuses sometimes occur. U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision limiting the use of tests as conditions of employment or promotion.

4. Projective Tests of Personality. Projective tests attempt to uncover deeply hidden or unconscious wishes, thoughts, and needs. Projective tests provide ambiguous stimuli that subjects are asked to describe or make up stories about. When you are faced with an unstructured stimulus or situation you must organize and interpret what you see in terms of your own life experiences. Everyone sees something different--and what is perceived can reveal the inner workings of one═s personality.

Rorschach Inkblot test. One of the oldest and most widely used projective tests. Developed by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach in the 1920═s, it consists of a set of 10 standardized inkblots. These very in color, shading, form, and complexity. Subjects are shown each blot and asked to describe what they see in it. Psychologist may later return to a blot, asking a subject to identify specific sections of it--to elaborate on previous descriptions, or to suggest a completely new story about it. Surprisingly content is considered less important than what parts of the inkblot are used to form an image and how the image is organized. These factors allow a psychologist to view the ways in which a person perceives the world and to detect disorders in personality functioning.

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Developed by Harvard psychologist and personality theorist Henry Murray. It consists of 20 sketches depicting various scenes and life situations. The subject is shown each sketch and is asked to make up a story about the people in it. Later, the subject is shown each sketch a second or, perhaps, a third time and asked to elaborate on previous stories or to construct new stories for each. Scoring the TAT is restricted to analyzing the content of the stories. The psychologist is concerned with what the basic issues are in each story: Interpretation focuses on how people feel, how they interact, what events led up to the incidents depicted in the sketch, and how the story will end. The psychologist might also count the number of times the central figure in each story is angry, overlooked, apathetic, jealous, or threatened. Although popular with clinical psychologists, their validity is considered lowest among tests of personality. Because of the subjectivity involved in scoring, objectivity (consistency) of judgments among different users of the TAT and Rorschach is also low. The scorer must interpret the subjects (sometimes) ambiguous responses. However, psychologists attest to their value as part of a battery (group) of tests and interviews. Can detect major conflicts and aid in setting goals for therapy in the hands of a skillful and experienced clinician. And, since the projective tests are unstructured, they may be more effective for getting clients to talk about anxiety-provoking topics than are the direct questions of inventories and interviews.

Sudden Murderers Research example - Interviews and other observations have revealed that quiet, overcontrolled individuals are likely to be especially violent if they ever lose control--reflecting years of unexpressed feeling of anger and belittlement.

[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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