The Personality Puzzle (II)

I have added some more quotes and observations from the book below. Some of the stuff covered in this post is very closely related to material I’ve previously covered on the blog, e.g. here and here, but I didn’t mind reviewing this stuff here. If you’re already familiar with Funder’s RAM model of personality judgment you can probably skip the last half of the post without missing out on anything.

“[T]he trait approach [of personality psychology] focuses exclusively on individual differences. It does not attempt to measure how dominant, sociable, or nervous anybody is in an absolute sense; there is no zero point on any dominance scale or on any measure of any other trait. Instead, the trait approach seeks to measure the degree to which a person might be more or less dominant, sociable, or nervous than someone else. (Technically, therefore, trait measurements are made on ordinal rather than ratio scales.) […] Research shows that the stability of the differences between people increases with age […] According to one major summary of the literature, the correlation coefficient reflecting consistency of individual differences in personality is .31 across childhood, .54 during the college years, and .74 between the ages of 50 and 70 […] The main reason personality becomes more stable during the transition from child to adult to senior citizen seems to be that one’s environment also gets more stable with age […] According to one major review, longitudinal data show that, on average, people tend to become more socially dominant, agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable (lower on neuroticism) over time […] [However] people differ from each other in the degree to which they have developed a consistent personality […] Several studies suggest that the consistency of personality is associated with maturity and general mental health […] More-consistent people appear to be less neurotic, more controlled, more mature, and more positive in their relations with others (Donnellan, Conger, & Burzette, 2007; Roberts, Caspi, & Mofftt, 2001; Sherman, Nave, & Funder, 2010).”

“Despite the evidence for the malleability of personality […], it would be a mistake to conclude that change is easy. […] most people like their personalities pretty much the way they are, and do not see any reason for drastic change […] Acting in a way contrary to one’s traits takes effort and can be exhausting […] Second, people have a tendency to blame negative experiences and failures on external forces rather than recognizing the role of their own personality. […] Third, people generally like their lives to be consistent and predictable […] Change requires learning new skills, going new places, meeting new people, and acting in unaccustomed ways. That can make it uncomfortable. […] personality change has both a downside and an upside. […] people tend to like others who are “judgeable,” who are easy to understand, predict, and relate to. But when they don’t know what to expect or how to predict what a person will do, they are more likely to avoid that person. […] Moreover, if one’s personality is constantly changing, then it will be difficult to choose consistent goals that can be pursued over the long term.”

“There is no doubt that people change their behavior from one situation to the next. This obvious fact has sometimes led to the misunderstanding that personality consistency somehow means “acting the same way all the time.” But that’s not what it means at all. […] It is individual differences in behavior that are maintained across situations, not how much a behavior is performed. […] as the effect of the situation gets stronger, the effect of the person tends to get weaker, and vice versa. […] any fair reading of the research literature make one thing abundantly clear: When it comes to personality, one size does not fit all. People really do act differently from each other. Even when they are all in the same situation, some individuals will be more sociable, nervous, talkative, or active than others. And when the situation changes, those differences will still be there […] the evidence is overwhelming that people are psychologically different from one another, that personality traits exist, that people’s impressions of each other’s personalities are based on reality more than cognitive error, and that personality traits affect important life outcomes […] it is […] important to put the relative role of personality traits and situations into perspective. Situational variables are relevant to how people will act under specific circumstances. Personality traits are better for describing how people act in general […] A sad legacy of the person-situation debate is that many psychologists became used to thinking of the person and the situation as opposing forces […] It is much more accurate to see persons and situations as constantly interacting to produce behavior together. […] Persons and situations interact in three major ways […] First, 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. This is the second kind of person-situation interaction. […] The third kind of interaction stems from the way people change situations by virtue of what they do in them”.

“Shy people are often lonely and may deeply wish to have friends and normal social interactions, but are so fearful of the process of social involvement that they become isolated. In some cases, they won’t ask for help when they need it, even when someone who could easily solve their problem is nearby […]. Because shy people spend a lot of time by themselves, they deny themselves the opportunity to develop normal social skills. When they do venture out, they are so out of practice they may not know how to act. […] A particular problem for shy people is that, typically, others do not perceive them as shy. Instead, to most observers, they seem cold and aloof. […] shy people generally are not cold and aloof, or at least they do not mean to be. But that is frequently how they are perceived. That perception, in turn, affects the lives of shy people in important negative ways and is part of a cycle that perpetuates shyness […] the judgments of others are an important part of the social world and can have a significant effect on personality and life. […] Judgments of others can also affect you through “self-fulfilling prophecies,” more technically known as expectancy effects.1 These effects can affect both intellectual performance and social behavior.”

“Because people constantly make personality judgments, and because these judgments are consequential, it would seem important to know when and to what degree these judgments are accurate. […] [One relevant] method is called convergent validation. […] Convergent validation is achieved by assembling diverse pieces of information […] that “converge” on a common conclusion […] The more items of diverse information that converge, the more confident the conclusion […] For personality judgments, the two primary converging criteria are interjudge agreement and behavioral prediction. […] psychological research can evaluate personality judgments by asking two questions […] (1) Do the judgments agree with one another? (2) Can they predict behavior? To the degree the answers are Yes, the judgments are probably accurate.”

“In general, judges [of personality] will reach more accurate conclusions if the behaviors they observe are closely related to the traits they are judging. […] A moderator of accuracy […] is a variable that changes the correlation between a judgment and its criterion. Research on accuracy has focused primarily on four potential moderators: properties (1) of the judge, (2) of the target (the person who is judged), (3) of the trait that is judged, and (4) of the information on which the judgment is based. […] Do people know whether they are good judges of personality? The answer appears to be both no and yes […]. No, because people who describe themselves as good judges, in general, are no better than those who rate themselves as poorer in judgmental ability. But the answer is yes, in another sense. When asked which among several acquaintances they can judge most accurately, most people are mostly correct. In other words, we can tell the difference between people who we can and cannot judge accurately. […] Does making an extra effort to be accurate help? Research results so far are mixed.”

“When it comes to accurate judgment, who is being judged might be even more important than who is doing the judging. […] People differ quite a lot in how accurately they can be judged. […] “Judgable” people are those about whom others reach agreement most easily, because they are the ones whose behavior is most predictable from judgments of their personalities […] The behavior of judgable people is organized coherently; even acquaintances who know them in separate settings describe essentially the same person. Furthermore, the behavior of such people is consistent; what they do in the future can be predicted from what they have done in the past. […] Theorists have long postulated that it is psychologically healthy to conceal as little as possible from those around you […]. If you exhibit a psychological façade that produces large discrepancies between the person “inside” and the person you display “outside,” you may feel isolated from the people around you, which can lead to unhappiness, hostility, and depression. Acting in a way that is contrary to your real personality takes effort, and can be psychologically tiring […]. Evidence even suggests that concealing your emotions may be harmful to physical health“.

“All traits are not created equal — some are much easier to judge accurately than others. For example, more easily observed traits, such as “talkativeness,” “sociability,” and other traits related to extraversion, are judged with much higher levels of interjudge agreement than are less visible traits, such as cognitive and ruminative styles and habits […] To find out about less visible, more internal traits like beliefs or tendencies to worry, self-reports […] are more informative […] [M]ore information is usually better, especially when judging certain traits. […] Quantity is not the only important variable concerning information. […] it can be far more informative to observe a person in a weak situation, in which different people do different things, than in a strong situation, in which social norms restrict what people do […] The best situation for judging someone’s personality is one that brings out the trait you want to judge. To evaluate a person’s approach toward his work, the best thing to do is to observe him working. To evaluate a person’s sociability, observations at a party would be more informative […] The accurate judgment of personality, then, depends on both the quantity and the quality of the information on which it is based. More information is generally better, but it is just as important for the information to be relevant to the traits that one is trying to judge.”

“In order to get from an attribute of an individual’s personality to an accurate judgment of that trait, four things must happen […]. First, the person being judged must do something relevant; that is, informative about the trait to be judged. Second, this information must be available to a judge. Third, this judge must detect this information. Fourth and fnally, the judge must utilize this information correctly. […] If the process fails at any step — the person in question never does something relevant, or does it out of sight of the judge, or the judge doesn’t notice, or the judge makes an incorrect interpretation — accurate personality judgment will fail. […] Traditionally, efforts to improve accuracy have focused on attempts to get judges to think better, to use good logic and avoid inferential errors. These efforts are worthwhile, but they address only one stage — utilization — out of the four stages of accurate personality judgment. Improvement could be sought at the other stages as well […] Becoming a better judge of personality […] involves much more than “thinking better.” You should also try to create an interpersonal environment where other people can be themselves and where they feel free to let you know what is really going on.”


July 5, 2017 - Posted by | Books, Psychology

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