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The Psychosemantic Approach to Personality Shulamith Kreitler Department of Psychology Tel-Aviv University Tel-Aviv, Israel

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Presentation on theme: "The Psychosemantic Approach to Personality Shulamith Kreitler Department of Psychology Tel-Aviv University Tel-Aviv, Israel"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Psychosemantic Approach to Personality Shulamith Kreitler Department of Psychology Tel-Aviv University Tel-Aviv, Israel Budapest symposium on “The Many Faces of Personality”, May 13-15, 2002

2 The psychosemantic approach denotes a theory and methodology based on analyzing meaning assignment tendencies of individuals and clarifying their role in regard to the major components of personality: Traits Emotions Cognition Behavior

3 Structure of the talk: A. Presentation of the meaning system B. Meaning and personality traits C. Meaning and emotions D. Meaning and cognition E. Meaning and behavior F. General conclusions

4 A. Presentation of the meaning system Developed by Kreitler and Kreitler, since 1968 onward

5 The System of Meaning (Kreitler & Kreitler) Meaning is a cognitive concept. It forms part of cognition. It is the dynamic core of cognition.

6 Cognition is a system that works with meaning, namely, it responds to meanings, and produces, elaborates, stores, transforms and uses meanings.

7 Assumptions Underlying the Meaning System Meaning is communicable Meaning is complex (multi- component system) Meaning includes a personal- subjective part and an interpersonally-shared part

8 Meaning is a pattern of cognitive contents focused on a referent.

9 A referent can be an external or internal stimulus, an object, a situation, an event, an individual, limited or extended, real, virtual or fantasized, etc.

10 The cognitive contents are designed to express or communicate information that would enable identifying the referent, handling it, responding to it, or dealing with it within the psychological domain.

11 The cognitive content and the referent form together the meaning unit. Referent – Meaning Value Examples: Budapest – is a wonderful city An airport – serves for transportation Symposium – brings people together

12 The cognitive content is called meaning value because it fulfills the role of expressing or communicating meaning.

13 The meaning unit is characterized in terms of the following 5 sets of variables: Referent – Meaning Value Shifts in Referent Types of Relation Forms of Relation Forms of Expression Meaning Dimensions

14 The psychosemantic method consists in coding the responses in terms of the following categories: Meaning dimensions: Content categories, such as Feelings and Emotions, Actions, Sensory Qualities (color, shape, etc.), Size, Weight Types of Relation: Relational categories, such as Attributive, Comparative, Illustrative-Exemplifying, Metaphoric-Symbolic. Forms of Relation : Formative categories, such as Positive or Negative, Simple or Complex (e.g., Conjunctive, Disjunctive), Absolute or Modified (e.g., always, sometimes) Shifts of Referent : Categories of shifts to other constructs, such as from Ocean to Lake, from House to Windows Forms of Expression : Categories of means of expression, such as words, drawings, movements, denoted objects

15 Meaning Variables = Meaning Variables = Meaning dimensions and Types of relation and Forms of relation and Shifts of referent and Forms of expression

16 Examples of Meaning Variables Meaning Dimensions Range of inclusion Material Function, Purpose & Role Feelings & Emotions Actions Possessions & Belongingness Sensory qualities Locational Qualities Temporal Qualities Types of Relation Attributive Comparative Exemplifying-illustrative Metaphoric-symbolic Forms of Relation Positive, Negative Conjunctive, Disjunctive Normative Referent Shifts Identical to input Part of input Association Opposite of input Forms of Expression Verbal Gestural Graphic Tones & Sounds

17 Meaning Test Instructions: Communicate to another person the meaning (interpersonally- shared and personal) of a presented set of stimuli, using any means of communication considered adequate, for example, words, drawings, movements, etc. Stimuli: Street, Bicycle, Sea (ocean), to take, to kill, Telephone, etc.

18 Examples of Coded Responses Forms of Expression Shifts of Referent Forms of Relation Types of Relation Meaning Dimensions Stimulus: Budapest VerbalNonePositiveAttributiveContextual Allocation / Judgments & Evaluation A beautiful city VerbalNonePositiveComparativeLocational Qualities More southern than Helsinki VerbalPart of (center) PositiveAttributiveFeelings & Emotions I love it’s center

19 Meaning Profile Frequencies (proportions) of individual ’ s use of each meaning variable in responding to the stimuli of the meaning test.

20 Meaning Variables

21 Development of Meaning

22 Characteristics of the meaning system Complex Developing Selective Dynamic Referent-focused Self-embedded

23 Uses of Meaning Variables 1. For characterizing an individual ’ s meaning processing system i.e., the individual ’ s meaning profile 2. For characterizing specific contents e.g., “ I am in Budapest ” refers to the Meaning Dimension Locational Qualities 3. For characterizing processes e.g., solving a problem about causality involves the Meaning Dimension Causes and Antecedents 4. For characterizing structures or complexes e.g., identifying the meaning variables corresponding to a personality trait, a cognitive act, an emotion, or an act of behavior

24 B. Meaning and Personality Traits

25 What is the relation of meaning variables to personality traits? Research procedure applied for answering this question: Administering to participants personality questionnaire and the Meaning Test Correlating the scores on personality tests with the meaning profiles The significant correlations constitute the meaning profile of the trait.

26 Example A: Pattern of meaning variables corresponding to extraversion Meaning Dimensions Contextual allocation Range of inclusion Actions Results & Consequences (-) Size & dimensions Quantity & numbers Temporal qualities (-) Possessions Sensory qualities (-) (experienced by referent) Sensory qualities (of object) Judgments & evaluations (-) Types of Relation Attributive Metaphoric (-) Forms of Relation Positive Referent Shifts Associations (-) [Source: Kreitler, S. & Kreitler, H. (1990). The Cognitive Foundations of Personality Traits. New York: Plenum]

27 Example B: Meaning pattern of anality Meaning Dimensions Size & dimensions Quantity & numbers Temporal qualities Possessions Functions Types of Relation Comparative Metaphoric (-) Forms of Relation Absolute Negative Referent Shifts To parts of stimulus To opposites

28 Each personality trait corresponds to a unique pattern of meaning variables. Applying the procedure to 280 personality traits showed that Each personality trait corresponds to a unique pattern of meaning variables.


30 Patterns of meaning variables corresponding to different personality characteristics and tendencies were identified, for example, Leadership (Fiedler ’ s LPC) Alexithymia Tendency for different defense mechanisms, e.g., denial, repression, projection Narcissism The “ good ” manager

31 Meaning Profile of the “ Good ” Manager (based on the meaning variables common to the meaning profiles of 12 managers in different high-tech firms, evaluated by their peers and supervisors) Meaning Dimensions Contextual allocation Function Manner of operation Consequences Causes (-) Domain of application State Types of Relation Attributive Comparative: Difference Exemplifying (-) Metaphoric (-) Forms of Relation Positive Partial (not universal) Conjunctive Disjunctive Normative Desired (-) Referent Shifts Close shifts Medium shifts Distant shifts (-)

32 Meaning Profile Extraversion Authoritorianism Social desirability Sociability Depression Paranoia

33 Uses of meaning patterns of traits 1. Assessment of personality traits Each trait corresponds to a unique pattern of meaning variables Step 1 Determine he patterns of meaning variables corresponding to the trait Step 2 Determine the individual ’ s meaning profile by means of the Meaning Test Step 3 Compare the traits pattern with the individual ’ s meaning profile. Comparison – by correlation or by counting shared components.

34 Shared componentsTrait ’ s score 0 – 20%Very weak 21 – 40%Weak 41 – 60%Moderate 61 – 80%Strong 81 – 100%Very strong

35 Validation studies: The scores of traits based on personality inventories and meaning- based traits were significantly intercorrelated: 16 PFr =.76 – r =.83 CPIr =.50 – r =.86 Myers-Brigsr =.69 – r =.84

36 300+ The meaning profile of an individual provides information about the score of the individual on 300+ personality traits without administering any personality inventory. Advantages: Increased reliability Reduced costs (time, resources) Increased information (about personality trends, anti-traits)

37 2. Insight into the dynamics of a trait Patterns of meaning variables corresponding to a trait provide insight into the unique underlying dynamics of the trait. For example, Extraversion – Low arousal Social desirability – Evaluation, not emotions.

38 3. Validating personality traits Validating-by-meaning is a new procedure of validating traits. It consists in examining the manifestations of traits in domains defined by the meaning variables in the pattern corresponding to the trait. For example, extraversion and anality. Advantages of this validation: 1. Broad-ranging 2. Theoretically-anchored 3. Comprehensive 4. Systematic

39 4. Comparing personality traits Patterns of meaning variables enable comparison between traits based on analyzing shared meaning variables. For example, “ Cleanliness ” and “ punctuality ” r =.56 Shared: e.g., State, Quantity, Size “ Cleanliness ” and “ authoritarianism ” r =.58 Shared: e.g., Evaluation, Cognitive qualities, Structure, Metaphorization.

40 5. Identifying personality traits Formal properties of patterns of meaning variables corresponding to traits: a) No. of meaning variables in the pattern: 13.8 ± 6.5 b) No. of different kinds of meaning variables in the pattern: c) Proportion of different kinds of meaning variables in the pattern: Meaning dimensions54.75% Types of relation25.75% Forms of relation 5.90% Referent shifts12.57% d) Relative proportion of negative components in the pattern:.38 e) Proportion of meaning dimensions and types of relation in the pattern representing general variables:.44

41 Number of Significant Deviations Conclusion 0 – 1Trait-identical 2 – 3Trait-similar 4 – 5Trait-dissimilar Examples Trait-identicalNeuroticism, Narcissism Trait-similarAlexithymia, Trait-anxiety Trait-dissimilarMMPI scales

42 C. Meaning and Emotion

43 The tendency for each type of emotional reaction corresponds to a pattern of meaning variables

44 Example Pattern of meaning variables corresponding to anxiety (as assessed by 7 scales) Meaning Dimensions Action (-) Sensory qualities Feelings & emotions (experienced) Judgments & evaluations Cognitive qualities Types of Relation Attributive (-) Metaphoric

45 D. Meaning and Cognition

46 Meaning Variables and Cognition Cognitive contents, information Meaning values Cognitive processes Meaning variables Cognitive acts, structural schemas Meaning profiles Meaning

47 1. Meaning Values and Cognitive Contents Meaning values correspond to cognitive contents and information. Examples: When the individual ’ s meaning profile shows a high frequency of the meaning dimension Locational Qualities, that individual may be expected to have a lot of labels, words, information in the domain of location, places, routes.

48 2. Meaning Values and Cognitive Processes Cognitive processes correspond to specific meaning variables or combinations of meaning variables. Examples: Shifting from one theme to another – High frequency of referent shifts of medium degree (e.g., shifting to previous response, or to superordinate referent) Associations – High number of meaning values (absolute and especially relative), high number of different shifts of referent Abstracting – High frequency of meaning dimension Contextual Allocation

49 3. Meaning Profiles and Cognitive Acts Cognitive acts correspond to specific combinations of meaning variables that constitute complete profiles.

50 Meaning Profile of Planning Meaning Dimensions Contextual allocation Range of inclusion Actions Manner of operation Antecedents & causes Consequences & results Range of application Structure Quantity & numbers Locational qualities Temporal qualities Sensory qualities (-) Judgments & evaluations Types of Relation Attributive Metaphoric-symbolic (-) Forms of Relation Propositional, positive & negative Partial Conjunctive Disjunctive Shifts of Referent Close shifts: Parts, Former responses, Grammatical variations Medium shifts: Input modified by addition, Combination of several former responses Distant shifts (-) : Associations, Labels Forms of Expression Verbal, Verbal description of drawings

51 Further cognitive acts whose meaning profiles were identified: Memory for verbal material / names / faces Analogical thinking Inventive thinking Creativity Exploration and curiosity Various cognitive styles (e.g., impulsiveness vs. reflectivity, monitoring vs. blunting)

52 E. Meaning and Behavior

53 indirectly multiple ways Contents and processes of meaning affect behavior only indirectly and in multiple ways

54 The Cognitive Orientation Model of Behavior Evocation (Kreitler and Kreitler) IWhat is it? Input identification (Meaning Action) Conditioned/Uncondition ed response; Defensive reaction IF UNIDENTIFIED OR IDENTIFIED AS SIGNAL FOR MOLAR ACTION II What is it to me / for me? How am I involved? Meaning generation (beliefs) Action required or not IF ACTION REQUIRED IIIWhich action? Beliefs of 4 types representing deeper meaning CO Cluster Behavioral Intent IF BEHAVIORAL INTENT IV How to perform action? Behavioral Program INPUT BEHAVIOR

55 Effects of meaning Input perception Input identification Personal involvement / Requirement for action Behavioral intent Behavioral program Action TRAITS EMOTIONS Meanings TRAITS EMOTIONS

56 F. General Conclusions

57 The psychosemantic approach to personality Provides new insights into the nature, functioning and manifestations of personality traits of emotions of cognitive acts Provides new possibilities for the assessment of personality traits of emotions of cognitive acts Provides new perspectives for the functioning and effects of MEANING in regard to personality traits to emotions to cognitive acts

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