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Introduction to Personality Psychology Research Methods Issues in Personality Assessment


Introduction to Personality Psychology Research Methods Issues in Personality Assessment Theories of Personality Dr. Stephen Weiss January 24, 2003 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Personality Psychology Research Methods Issues in Personality Assessment

Introduction to Personality Psychology Research
Methods Issues in Personality Assessment
  • Theories of Personality
  • Dr. Stephen Weiss
  • January 24, 2003
  • Class 1

  • Chapter 1
  • What is personality psychology?

What do we mean???
  • So, when we say she has a great personality or
    hes a jerkwhat do we really mean?

A generic definition
  • "Personality may be defined as the underlying
    causes within the person of individual behavior
    and experience"

Assumptions and Implications of this Definition
  • Personality is a construct that can be used to
    explain and predict human behavior
  • Requires no specific inherent assumptions about
    the nature or origins of personality

Assumptions and Implications of this Definition
  • There is little in such a definition that would
    be challenged by proponents of opposing theories
    of personality
  • The definition is not sufficiently specific to
    make predictions that are empirically testable in
    the sense that they can be compared with
    available research data about human behavior

Gordon Allport (1897-1967)
  • The father of personality psychology
  • Allport (1961)
  • Personality is defined as "the dynamic
    organization within the individual of those
    psychophysical systems that determine his
    characteristic behavior and thought"

Assumptions and Implications of this
  • Personality is dynamic
  • Personality is biologically based
  • Personality is persistent across situations

Much controversy
  • Each of these elements suggest a relatively
    specific theoretical view of about the nature and
    origins of personality which are not universally
  • Each of the elements has, at one time or another,
    been challenged by other theorists
  • Each of the elements is at least potentially
    testable in the sense that they make certain
    predictions that can be compared with known
    empirical data about human behavior

  • It depends
  • What's the purpose of the definition or theory
    how are you going to use the definition?
  • What is the "level of analysis" what questions
    are you asking and at what level of detail? What
    are you trying to predict or explain and at what
    level of detail?
  • Is the primary intent to explain and predict
    human behavior (experimental or theoretical
    psychology)? Or to change or modify human
    behavior (applied or clinical psychology)?

Well be looking at several different
perspectives of personality
  • Dispositional Perspective
  • Stable qualities even in different settings
  • Biological Perspective
  • Personality is inherited
  • Psychoanalytic Perspective
  • Our friend Dr. Freud
  • Neoanalytic Perspective
  • Ego development, etc.

Well be looking at several different
perspectives of personality
  • Learning Perspective
  • Behavior changes because of experience
  • Phenomenological Perspective
  • Inner uniqueness plus choice
  • Cognitive Self-Regulation Perspective
  • We are like machines

Perspectives of Personality
  • These perspectives each give us differing angles
    concerning how to view personality
  • Most pertain to a certain aspect of personality
    while others are grand theories that claim to
    give us the total model of personality (Freud
    intended his theory to be such)

Real-world applications
  • Well be spending the entire semester delving
    into personality psychologywell look at it
    mainly as the experimental psychologists that we
  • Well try to make sense of all this and then
    well give our information to the
    organizational psychologists and clinical
    psychologists who can use it in the real world

Personality Psychology Fundamental issues
  • Individual Differences
  • Intrapersonal Functioning

Fundamental Issues
  • Individual differences no two people are the
  • Why are some children more afraid of strangers
    than others
  • Why do some people attribute success to their
    abilities and failure to bad luck, and others
    attribute successes to luck and failures to their
    lack of abilities?

Fundamental Issues
  • Intrapersonal functioning
  • What Allport called dynamic organization same
    processes are being engaged but different inner
    motives are constantly at work depending on the
    situation the reason why sometimes we go out
    and party and sometimes we stay in to read

Scientific Method
  • Continuous cycle between theory and research
    constant modifications
  • Parsimony keep theories simple excess baggage
    is confusing (never-mind boring)

Methods in the Study of Personality
  • Theories of Personality
  • Chapter 2

Henry Murray (1893-1988)
  • At this time most of his American experimental
    psychologist contemporaries were studying rat
  • Murray studied individuals at a variety of levels

Murrays Personology
  • Refers to his unique interdisciplinary approach
    to the study of the individual
  • Employs a wide range of clinical, psychoanalytic,
    and experimental methods
  • Attempted to understand the whole person

Idiographic approach to personology
  • Centers on the individual, using techniques
    appropriate to understanding the uniqueness of
    each person
  • Diaries, autobiographies, letters, etc. case
  • Murray focused mainly on this idiographic

Nomethic approach to personology
  • Study of large groups of individuals in order to
    infer general variables or universal principles
  • Others focused on this approach

Murrays approach
  • Contributed to the multidisciplinary approach to
    understanding personality but does his case study
    approach have any flaws?

Case Studies
  • Features
  • Intensive examination of the behavior and mental
    processes associated with a specific person or
  • Strengths
  • Provide detailed descriptive analysis of new,
    complex, or rare phenomenon
  • Pitfalls
  • May not provide representative picture of

Research Participants
  • 90 of researchers work at college universities
  • Most participants (subjects) come in research
    studies are college students mostly from Intro to
    psych courses
  • Often a requirement in most universities

Sears (1986)
  • Looked at the major journals in social psych from
    1980-1985 and found this
  • 74 are college undergrads
  • 51 from psych classes
  • 8 are other students (probably grad students)so
    that means more than 8 out of every 10 subjects
    are students

Problems with this???
  • So, we have the majority being 17-19 year-olds
    and overloaded with white, middle-class as well
  • Are they representative of the general population?

Sears (1986) says no!
  • The participants in the many research studies are
    all college students, and college students do
    differ from other people in some respects
  • Therefore, an important question is whether these
    findings generalize to other groups of people

Orne (1962)
  • Orne (1962) looked at this issue and raised some
    serious questions about psychological studies in
  • (1) Do people behave differently just because
    its a psychological study?
  • (2) Must be careful of experimenter bias which
    can occur when the experimenter knows the
    conditions participants are in

Variables Dependent and Independent
  • DV Variable (behavior) you are measuring
  • Anger
  • IV variable or variables being manipulated
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Educational level
  • Socioeconomic level

  • Features
  • Manipulation of an independent variable and
    measurement of its effects on a dependent
  • Strengths
  • Can establish a cause-effect relationship between
    independent and dependent variables
  • Pitfalls
  • Confounding variables may prevent valid

  • Features
  • Statistically speaking, it refers to how strongly
    one variable is related to another
  • Strengths
  • Allows researcher to better formulate their
    hypothesis gives ideas that we can explore
  • Weaknesses
  • Data can sometimes fool us (well get to this in
    a second)

  • Positive Correlations
  • Two variables either increase or decrease
  • Hypothetical Example
  • During 1988, the number of pregnancies increased
    at the same rate as did the number of rainy days

  • Negative Correlations
  • The variables move in opposite directions
  • Hypothetical Example
  • During 1988, the number of pregnancies increased
    at the same rate as the number of rainy days
  • Correlations do not mean cause and effect

Correlation not Causation
Research issues
  • Research generates more questions than answers
  • Frustratingyes at times
  • Challengingalmost always
  • Funif youre crazy like me
  • Humility vs. Arrogance
  • Use humility please
  • We dont prove anything
  • We can infer that an effect is real

Research issues
  • Statistical Significance
  • If it can be shown that an effect is highly
    unlikely to have occurred by chance or random
    factors the researcher infers that the effect
    is real
  • Use words like
  • appears
  • evidence supports
  • or if you have gathered extremely convincing
    evidence you might use
  • strongly indicates

Issues in Personality Assessment
  • Theories of Personality
  • Chapter 3

A tough job? Why?
  • Assessment
  • The measuring of personality

Methods for obtaining data
  • Observations
  • Observer ratings (overt-behavioral assessments)
  • Used mostly with children
  • Self-reports
  • The individual records their behaviors
  • Inventory
  • Tests such as the MMPI which access several
    dimensions of personality easy-going, highly
    motivated, type A or B, etc.

Making sure things are consistent
  • Reliability
  • Degree of consistency or repeatability
  • Internal Reliability
  • Inter-rater Reliability
  • Test-Retest Reliability

Making sure things are meaningful
  • Validity
  • Are we measuring what we intend to measure?
  • Construct Validity
  • Criterion Validity
  • Convergent Validity
  • Discriminate Validity
  • Face Validity

Making sure things are meaningful
  • Operational Definitions
  • A definition that explains how you will measure a
  • Clearly stated descriptions of physical events
  • Takes all guess-work out of the equation

Problems that get in the way of assuring validity
  • When we get a response set of acquiescence
  • This is the tendency to say yes to everything
  • Remedy?
  • Response set aimed at achieving social
    desirability -- people want to see themselves as
    good, important, etc.
  • Remedy?

How do they decide what to measure?
  • Empirical approach
  • Relies more on data to decide on the items making
    up the assessment device
  • Inductive approach
  • Data decides which qualities are worth measuring
  • Criterion keying find out which items are being
    answered differently by different groups
  • For example do normals answer the items
    differently than patients, etc.