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Social Cognition and Personality


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Title: Social Cognition and Personality

Social Cognition and Personality
  • November 14th, 2007

Just To Reiterate...
  • Social judgements are made quickly.
  • Although older adults have been in numerous
    social situations in their lives (i.e., have a
    lot of knowledge), if they cant access it, those
    wont guide their judgements.
  • Hence having access to social information is very

Tonights Lecture
  • What is the role of emotion as we age?
  • How do stereotypes affect older adults?
  • What is collaborative cognition and how does it
    impact older adults?
  • We will then talk about how personality and
    identity are affected by age.

Emotion in Later Life (Lawton, 2001)
  • Affect Salience No age difference
  • Affect Frequency
  • Do not appear to differ in frequency of negative
    affect, but less positive affect.
  • Effect of health?
  • Change in valence less apparent in longitudinal
    than cross-sectional studies.
  • Affect Intensity Mixed evidence
  • Self-ratings less intense.
  • Emotion on the spot show no age differences.

Emotion in Later Life
  • Emotion regulation Perceived control of emotion
    greater with age.
  • Theories
  • Control theory of late-life emotion (Schulz and
    Heckhausen, 1998)
  • Integration of cognition and emotion in late life
    (Labouvie-Vief et al., 1989)
  • Blanchard-Fields (1998) Ability to use
    accommodative strategies.
  • Socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen,

Cognitive Style as a Processing Goal
  • People with high need for closure and an
    inability to tolerate ambiguous situations
  • Prefer order and predictability
  • Are uncomfortable with ambiguity
  • Are closed-minded
  • Prefer quick and decisive answers
  • It may be that limited cognitive resources and
    motivational differences are both age-related
  • Declines in working memory may be related to need
    for closure

What Are Stereotypes?
  • A special kind of social knowledge structure or
    social belief that represent organized prior
    knowledge about a group of people that affects
    how we interpret new information.
  • Young and older adults hold similar stereotypes
    about aging

Age Stereotypes and Perceived Competence
  • An age-based double standard operates when people
    judge older adults failures in memory
  • In this case, younger adults judge older adults
    who are forgetful more harshly than older adults
  • However, younger adults also make positive
    judgments about older adults being more
    responsible despite such memory failures

How Are Stereotypes Activated?
  • Implicit stereotypes
  • Automatically activated negative stereotypes
    about aging guide behavior beyond our awareness
  • Implicit negative stereotypes can negatively
    influence performance
  • Chasteen et al. (2002) study
  • Implicit stereotyping influences the way
    communicate with older adults
  • Patronizing speech
  • Includes slow speech, simple vocabulary, careful
    enunciation, a demeaning emotional tone, and
    superficial conversation

Activation of Stereotypes in Older and Younger
  • Chasteen et al. (2002) paper
  • Explicit vs. implicit tasks
  • Implicit task Prime (young, old or XXXX)
    target stimuli in a lexical decision task (word
    vs. non-word) at short onset synchrony (300 ms
    for automatic processing 2000 ms for controlled
  • Fiske et al. (2002) Peoples attitudes of groups
    derived from perception of warmth and competence.
  • Implicit stereotyping vs. implicit prejudice

Four Questions Raised by Chasteen
  1. Do younger and older adults hold the same
    stereotypes about the young and the old?
  2. Are people more positive about their own age
  3. Who is prejudiced against whom?
  4. Do people correct their automatic response when
    they have a chance to do so?

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Main Conclusions
  • Automatic stereotyping seems present, but unclear
    about automatic prejudice.
  • Young and older adults demonstrate strong
    stereotype activation for stereotypes for
    elderly, but relatively weak activation for young
    stereotypes. Better defined stereotypes of the
  • Prejudice Faster responses to positive traits in
    both groups.
  • Automatic ageism?

Stereotype Threat
  • An evoked fear of being judged in accordance with
    a negative stereotype about a group to which you
  • Do negative stereotypes influence the cogitative
    functioning of older adults?

What is the Impact of Stereotype Threat on Memory
  • Study by Hess et al. (2003) on stereotype threat
    associated with negative cultural beliefs about
    the impact of aging on memory.
  • Threat may affect performance by raising anxiety
    or lowering motivation.
  • Threat is hypothesized to affect most those who
    strongly identify with the stereotyped domain.

Stereotype Threat (Hess et al., 2003)
  • Informed young and older adults about research
    findings on memory (either positive or negative)
    then given a memory test to explore these
  • Prime/trait term test between 2 tests Had to
    categorize trait as good or bad.

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  • Conditions maximizing threat for older adults
    yielded a lower performance than for non-exposed
    older adults younger adults.
  • The threat affected older adults the more they
    valued their memory.
  • Memory covaried with the strength of activations
    of the negative stereotype.
  • Stereotype threat also influenced strategy use.

What If We Primed Positive Stereotypes about
  • Stein, Blanchard-Fields and Hertzog (2002) made
    similar conclusions as Hess on the impact of
    negative stereotype threat although found the
    need to be unaware of a prime.
  • They found though that positive stereotypes did
    not increase memory performance in older adults.

Multidimensionality of Personal Control
  • Personal control is the degree to which one
    believes that ones performance in a situation
    depends on something that one personally does
  • Ones sense of control depends on which domain,
    such as intelligence or health, is being assessed

Control Strategies
  • Brandtstädter proposes that the preservation and
    stabilization of a positive view of the self and
    personal development in later life involve three
    interdependent processes
  • Assimilative strategies
  • Used when one must prevent losses important to
  • Accommodative strategies
  • Involve readjusting ones goals and aspirations
  • Immunizing mechanisms
  • Alter the effects of self-discrepant information

Control Strategies
  • Heckhausen and Schulz view control-related
    strategies in terms of primary and secondary
  • Primary control helps change the environment to
    match ones goals
  • It involves bringing the environment into line
    with ones desires and goals
  • Secondary control reappraises the environment in
    light of ones decline in functioning
  • The individual turns inward toward the self and
    assesses the situation

Control Strategies
  • Secondary control reappraises the environment in
    light of ones decline in functioning
  • The individual turns inward toward the self and
    assesses the situation
  • Primary control is said to have functional
    primacy over secondary control
  • Primary control has more adaptive value to the
  • Secondary control simply minimizes losses or
    expands levels of primary control

Some Criticisms Regarding Primary Control
  • Cross-cultural perspectives challenge the notion
    of primacy and primary control.
  • In collectivists societies, the emphasis is not
    on individualistic strategies such as those found
    in primary control, but to establish
    interdependence with others, to be connected to
    them, and bound to a large social institution.

Collaborative Cognition
  • Occurs when two or more people work together to
    solve a cognitive task
  • Collaborating with others in recollection helps
    facilitate memory in older adults
  • But there can also be collaborative inhibition of
    memory (Ross et al., 2004).

Social Context and Memory
  • Importantly, the social context can serve a
    facilitative function in older adults memory
  • Thus, it is important not to limit our
    explanations of social cognitive change simply to
    cognitive processing variables, but to also
    include social factors

Social Decision-Making Executive Function
  • MacPherson et al. (2002)
  • DL regions executive functions working memory
  • VM Limbic system processing of emotions and
    regulation of social behaviour.
  • DL regions show early change in aging vs. VM

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Social Decision-Making vs. Executive Function
  • DL tasks Wisconsin Card Sorting Task,
    Self-Ordered Pointing Task, Delayed Response
  • VM Tasks Gambling Task, Faux Pas Task, Emotion
    Identification Task.
  • General conclusion Age effects were found on DL
    tasks, but not on VM-dependent tasks.
  • Perception of negative emotions did appear to
    change slightly, but were correlated mostly with
    memory measures.

Levels of Analysis and Personality Research
  • Dispositional traits
  • Consists of aspects of personality that are
    consistent across different contexts and can be
    compared across a group along a continuum
    representing high and low degrees of the
  • Personal concerns
  • Life narrative

The Case for Stability The Five-Factor Model
  • Consists of five independent dimensions of
  • Neuroticism
  • Extraversion
  • Openness to experience
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

  • Has six facets
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Self-consciousness
  • Depression
  • Impulsiveness
  • Vulnerability

  • Has six facets in two groups
  • Interpersonal traits
  • Warmth
  • Gregariousness
  • Assertiveness
  • Temperamental traits
  • Activity
  • Excitement seeking
  • Positive emotions

Openness to Experience
  • Has six areas
  • Fantasy
  • Aesthetics
  • Action
  • Ideas
  • Values
  • Occupational choice

  • Agreeable people are not
  • Skeptical
  • Mistrustful
  • Callous
  • Unsympathetic
  • Stubborn
  • Rude
  • Skillful manipulators
  • Aggressive go-getters

  • Conscientious people are
  • Hardworking
  • Ambitious
  • Energetic
  • Scrupulous
  • Persevering
  • Desirous to make something of themselves

What is the Evidence for Trait Stability?
  • Using the GZTS (n114), Costa and McCrae found
  • Over a 12-year period, 10 personality traits
    measured by GZTS remained stable.
  • However Costa McCrae now say traits are not
    immutable but fairly stable.
  • Martin et al. (2003) found equivalent results.
    However, in the very old, suspiciousness and
    sensitivity increased.

Costa McCrae Article (2006)
  • Cross-cultural evidence does suggest modest
    decreases in neuroticism, extraversion, and
    openness, and increases in agreeableness and
    conscientiousness as people age (Terracciano et
    al., 2005)
  • Openness increases in young adulthood then
  • Changes are more pronounced in early adulthood.
  • Similar developmental patterns across sexes.

Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, Costa (2005).
Hierarchical Linear Modeling Analyses of the
NEO-PI-R Scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal
Study of Aging. Psychology and Aging, 20 (3),
Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, Costa (2005).
Hierarchical Linear Modeling Analyses of the
NEO-PI-R Scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal
Study of Aging. Psychology and Aging, 20 (3),
Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, Costa (2005).
Hierarchical Linear Modeling Analyses of the
NEO-PI-R Scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal
Study of Aging. Psychology and Aging, 20 (3),
Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, Costa (2005).
Hierarchical Linear Modeling Analyses of the
NEO-PI-R Scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal
Study of Aging. Psychology and Aging, 20 (3),
Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, Costa (2005).
Hierarchical Linear Modeling Analyses of the
NEO-PI-R Scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal
Study of Aging. Psychology and Aging, 20 (3),
Costa McCrae Article (2006)
  • Subdivision of extraversion into social vitality
    and social dominance.
  • Roberts et al. (2006) found increase in dominance
    from adolescence to age 40 McCrae Costa saw
    assertiveness decrease in adults compared to
    college students

Additional Studies of Dispositional Traits
  • Other studies have shown increasing evidence for
    personality changes as we grow older.
  • 1. Certain traits, (self-confidence, cognitive
    development, outgoingness, and dependability)
    show some changes in the 30 to 40 year period
  • 2. Neuroticism may increase according to Small,
    but this finding is in opposition to Costa
  • 3. In a large online study (n130,000),
    Srivastasa et al. (2003) found that none of the
    Big Five traits remained stable after age 30

The Berkeley Studies
  • Participants were followed for 30 years between
    ages 40 to 70. Gender differences were identified
  • For women
  • Lifestyle in young adulthood was best predictor
    of life satisfaction in old age
  • For men
  • Personality was the better predictor of life
    satisfaction in old age

Womens Personality Development During Adulthood
  • Two categories of women were studied with the
    following personality differences
  • Those who followed the social clock
  • Withdrawal from social live
  • Suppression of impulse and spontaneity
  • Negative self-image
  • Decreased feelings of competence
  • 20 were divorced between ages of 28 and 30

Womens Personality Development During Adulthood
  • Those who did not follow the social clock
  • Less respectful of norms and self-assertive
  • Not lower on femininity or on well-being
  • More independent
  • Greater confidence and initiative
  • More forceful, less impulsive
  • More considerate of others and organized
  • More complex and better able to adapt

Critiques of the Five-Factor Model
  • Block (1995) takes issue with the methodology
    that uses laypeople to specify personality
    descriptors that were used to create the terms of
    the Five-Factor Model.
  • McAdams (1996, 1999) points out that any model of
    dispositional traits says nothing about the core
    or essential aspects of human nature.
  • Stability and change in personality is certainly
    a controversial area.

Conclusions about Dispositional Traits
  • The idea that personality traits stop changing at
    age 30 seems more and more unlikely.
  • It could be that, generally speaking, personality
    traits tend to be stable when data are averaged
    over large groups of people.
  • But looking at specific aspects of personality in
    specific kinds of people, there may be less
    stability and more change.

Whats Different about Personal Concerns?
  • Personal concerns
  • Rely on context unlike dispositional traits
  • Are narrative descriptions that rely on life
  • Change over time
  • One has personality traits, but does
    behaviours that are important in everyday life.

Carl Jung (1875-1961)
  • Emphasizes that each aspect of a persons
    personality must be in balance with all the
  • e.g. Introversion-extraversion and
  • Jung was the first theorist to discuss
    personality development during adulthood.
  • He invented the notion of midlife crisis
  • People move toward integrating these dimensions
    as they age, with midlife being an especially
    important period.

Erik Erikson (1902-1994)
  • Erikson was the first theorist to develop a true
    lifespan theory of personality development.
  • His eight stages represent the eight great
    struggles that he believed people must undergo.
  • Each struggle has a certain time of ascendancy
  • The epigenetic principle
  • Each struggle must be resolved to continue

Eriksons Stages of Psychosocial Development
Clarifications and Extensions of Eriksons Theory
  • Logan argues that the eight stages are really a
    cycle that repeats
  • trust ?achievement ?wholeness
  • Van Geert proposes that the rules by which people
    move from one stage to the next may be related to
    cognitive development.
  • Kotre has extended generativity versus stagnation
    stage to include five types of generativity
  • Biological and parental
  • Technical
  • Cultural
  • Agentic
  • Communal

The McAdams Model
  • McAdamss model shows how generativity results
  • Complex interconnections between societal and
    inner forces
  • Thus, creating a concern for the next generation
    and a belief in the goodness of the human

Loevingers Theory
  • Loevinger has proposed the most comprehensive
    attempt at integrating cognitive and ego
    development and extension of Eriksons theory
  • Ego development results from dynamic interactions
    between the person and the environment
  • Eight stages six in adulthood
  • Four areas of importance in ego development
  • Character development
  • Interpersonal style
  • Conscious preoccupations
  • Cognitive style

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Theories Based on Life Transitions
  • Amongst the most popular theories of adult
    personality development.
  • Based on the idea that adults go through a series
    of life transitions, or passages
  • However, few of these theories have substantial
    databases, and none are based on representative
  • Life transitions tend to overestimate the
    commonality of age-linked transitions.

In Search of the Midlife Crisis
  • A key idea in life transition theories is the
    midlife crisis.
  • The idea that at middle age we take a good look
    at ourselves in the hopes of achieving a better
    understanding of who we are.
  • Many adults face difficult issues and make
    behavioural changes

In Search of the Midlife Crisis
  • However, very little data supports the claim that
    all people inevitably experience a crisis in
    middle age.
  • Most middle-aged people do point to both gains
    and losses, positives and negatives in their
  • This transition may be better characterized as a
    midlife correction.
  • Reevaluating ones roles and dreams and making
    the necessary corrections

Conclusions about Personal Concerns
  • Evidence supports a sharp change in personal
    concerns as adults age.
  • This is in contrast to stability in dispositional
    traits supporting McAdamss contention that this
    middle level of personality should show some
  • Change is not specific to an age, but is
    dependent on many factors.
  • All agree that there is a need for more research
    in this area.

McAdamss Life-Story Model
  • Argues that people create a life story
  • That is, an internalized narrative with a
    beginning, middle, and an anticipated ending
  • There are seven essential features of a life
  • Narrative tone
  • Image
  • Theme
  • Ideological setting
  • Nuclear episodes
  • Character
  • An ending

McAdamss Life-Story Model
  • Adults are said to reformulate their life stories
    throughout adulthood both at the conscious and
    unconscious levels
  • The goal is to have a life story that is
  • Coherent
  • Credible
  • Open to new possibilities
  • Richly differentiated
  • Reconciling of opposite aspects of oneself
  • Integrated within ones sociocultural context

Whitbourne's Identity Theory
  • Argues that people build conceptions of how their
    lives should proceed
  • They create a unified sense of their past,
    present, and future
  • The life-span construct, which has 2 parts
  • A scenario
  • This includes future expectations or a game plan
    for ones life it is strongly related to age
  • A life story
  • A personal narrative history that organizes past
    events into a coherent sequence.

  • The organized, coherent, integrated pattern of
    self-perceptions that includes self-esteem and
  • Mortimer and colleagues
  • A 14-year longitudinal study showed that
    self-concept influences the interpretation of
    life events
  • Kegen
  • Self-concepts across adulthood are related to the
    cognitive-developmental level.
  • Proposes six stages of development which
    correspond to levels of cognitive development.
  • Emphasizes that self-concept and personality does
    not occur in a vacuum.

Possible Selves
  • Created by projecting yourself into the future
    and thinking about what you would like to become,
    and what you are afraid of becoming.
  • Age differences have been observed in both
    hoped-for and feared selves.
  • Young adults and middle-aged adults report family
    issues as most important.
  • Middle-aged and older adults report personal
    issues to be most important.
  • However, all groups included physical aspects as
    part of their most feared selves.
  • Interestingly, young and middle-aged adults see
    themselves as improving in the future, while
    older adults do not.

Possible Selves
  • Ryff identified six aspects of psychological
  • Self-acceptance
  • Positive relationships with others
  • Autonomy
  • Environmental mastery
  • Purpose in life
  • Personal growth

Religiosity and Spiritual Support
  • Older adults use religion more often than any
    other strategy to help them cope with problems in
  • Spiritual support includes
  • Pastoral care
  • Participating in organized and non-organized
    religious activities
  • Expressing faith in a God who cares for people
  • Spiritual support provides a strong influence on
  • This is especially true for African Americans,
    who are more active in their church groups and
    attend services more frequently
  • Research with Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus showed
    they also gain important aspects of their
    identity (e.g., self-worth) from religion.

Gender-Role Identity
  • Peoples beliefs about the appropriate
    characteristics for men and women
  • They reflect shared cultural beliefs and
    stereotypes about masculinity and femininity
  • There is some evidence that gender role identity
    converges in middle age
  • Men and women more likely to endorse similar
  • However, these similar descriptions do not
    necessarily translate into similar behavior
  • Also, older men and women tend to endorse similar
    statements about masculinity and femininity