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© 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. The Personality Puzzle Fifth Edition by David C. Funder Chapter 4: Personality Traits and Behavior Slides created by Tera D. Letzring Idaho State University
Objectives Introduce the trait approach to understanding personality Discuss the person-situation debate, including the three main issues and the situationists’ arguments Discuss how personality affects and predicts important life outcomes Discuss the resolution of the person-situation debate © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2
Think About It Describe yourself or someone you know well. What behaviors of this person could be predicted from this description? Is this person like this in every situation? © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 3
Two Points to Keep in Mind 1.This approach is based on empirical research – Mostly correlational – Emphasis on accurate measurement of traits 2.This approach focuses on individual differences – Strength: assesses and attempts to understand how people differ – Weakness: neglects aspects of personality common to all people © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 4
The Measurement of Individual Differences “Every man is in certain respects (a) like all other men, (b) like some other men, (c) like no other man” (Kluckhohn & Murray, 1961, p. 53, as cited in Funder, 2010, p. 115) Trait approach focuses on the second level Traits are the building blocks of personality © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 5
People Are Inconsistent Personality traits are not the only factors that control behavior – Situations are also important Do traits exist? Is everybody basically the same and behavior changes according to the situation? Trait stability increases with age and is related to psychological adjustment © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 6
The Person-Situation Debate Which is more important for determining what people do, the person or the situation? Mischel (1968): behavior is too inconsistent across situations for individual differences to be characterized by traits © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 7
The Person-Situation Debate: Three Issues Does the personality of an individual transcend the immediate situation and provide a consistent guide to his or her actions, or is what a person does utterly dependent on the situation at that time? © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 8
The Person-Situation Debate: Three Issues Are common, ordinary intuitions about people fundamentally flawed or basically correct? Why do psychologists continue to argue about the consistency of personality when the basic empirical questions were settled long ago? © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 9
The Person-Situation Debate: The Situationist Arguments There is an upper limit to how well one can predict what a person will do based on any measurement of that person’s personality, and this upper limit is a small one. Situations are more important than personality traits in determining behavior. © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 10
The Person-Situation Debate: The Situationist Arguments The professional practice of personality assessment is a waste of time, and everyday intuitions about people are fundamentally flawed. © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 11
The First Situationist Argument: Predictability Personality is not a good predictor of behavior Mischel looked at relationships of self, informant, and behavioral data to behavioral data – Ability of trait judgments to predict behavior – Using past behavior to predict future behavior – Most behaviors were assessed in the lab Correlations rarely exceeded.30 (Nisbett -.40) © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 12
The Response to the First Situationist Argument: Predictability Unfair, selective literature review by Mischel – Studies with poor methodology – But some found evidence of consistency © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 13
The Response to the First Situationist Argument: Predictability We can do better –.40 limit may be due to poor methodology – Get out of the laboratory – Study individual consistency as a moderator variable (a variable that alters the relationship between two other variables) – Focus on behavioral trends; use aggregation – This is difficult © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 14
The Response to the First Situationist Argument: Predictability A correlation of.40 is not small – Comparison to an absolute standard: number of correct and incorrect predictions BESD: r =.40 70% accuracy – Comparison to a relative standard: other methods used to predict behavior © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 15
The Second Situationist Argument: Situationism Behavior is determined by situations, not personality Determining how personality affects behavior: correlate personality and behavior © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 16
The Second Situationist Argument: Situationism Determining how situations affect behavior: total variance minus “variance explained” by personality – Not legitimate – Could be due to other personality traits – Says nothing about important aspects of the situation © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 17
The Second Situationist Argument: Situationism How the effects of situations on behavior should be determined: based on social psychological experiments – Convert statistical significance tests to effect sizes – Funder & Ozer, 1983: situational effect sizes =.36 to.42 – Conclusion: both personality and situations are important determinants of behavior © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 18
The Third Situationist Argument: Person Perceptions are Erroneous The effects of personality on behavior are large enough to be perceived accurately The importance of traits is reflected in our language © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 19
Personality and Life “Personality matters on more than just theoretical grounds” (p. 133) Personality affects and predicts important life outcomes (health, well-being, relationship quality, career success, etc.) Over time, how a person acts will add up © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 20
Persons and Situations “Personality traits are better for describing how people act in general” (p. 135) Relationships and jobs – Personality predicts number of friends, level of agreement with them, and the extent to which people have successful and nonabusive relationships – Personality predicts how much people will promote the goals of the organization for which they work © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 22
Persons and Situations Interactionism – Interaction: view that persons and situations are constantly interacting with each other to produce behavior – The effect of a personality variable may depend on the situation, or vice versa – 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 © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 23
Persons and Situations Persons, situations, and values – Situationism’s view of human nature People are free to do whatever they want Everybody is equal, and differences are a function of the situation (vs. some people, based on their traits, are likely to have bad outcomes) – Personality’s view of human nature People can develop consistent identities and styles that allow them to be themselves across situations © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 24
Persons and Situations Resolution of the person situation debate – “People maintain their personalities even as they adapt their behavior to particular situations” (p. 140) – People can flexibly adapt to situations and have a generally consistent personal style Conclusion: people are psychologically different, and these differences matter © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 25
Think about the Three Issues of the Person-Situation Debate 1.Does the personality of an individual transcend the immediate situation and provide a consistent guide to his or her actions, or is what a person does utterly dependent on the situation at that moment in time? 2.Are common, ordinary intuitions about people fundamentally flawed or basically correct? 3.Why do psychologists continue to argue about the consistency of personality when the basic empirical questions were settled long ago? © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 26
Clicker Question #1 The person-situation debate a) was based on a disagreement about whether the personality coefficient had an upper limit of about.30. b) was a waste of time. c) was based on the finding that people are somewhat inconsistent across time. d) was resolved with the finding that personality is more important than the situation for determining behavior. © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 27
Clicker Question #2 Which of the following is true of the trait approach to understanding personality? a) It is based on empirical data. b) It is based on case studies. c) It focuses on how people are similar to each other. d) It proposes that traits are the only things that influence behavior. © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 28
Clicker Question #3 The trait approach proposes that a) personality matters because it affects and predicts important life outcomes. b) personality is important because it has small affects on behavior that add up over time. c) personality is better for explaining how people behave in general than are situations. d) All of the above. © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 29
Additional Art for Chapter 4 © 2010 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 30
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