The Personality Puzzle (IV)

Below I have added a few quotes from the last 100 pages of the book. This will be my last post about the book.

“Carol Dweck and her colleagues claim that two […] kinds of goals are […] important […]. One kind she calls judgment goals. Judgment, in this context, refers to seeking to judge or validate an attribute in oneself. For example, you might have the goal of convincing yourself that you are smart, beautiful, or popular. The other kind she calls development goals. A development goal is the desire to actually improve oneself, to become smarter, more beautiful, or more popular. […] From the perspective of Dweck’s theory, these two kinds of goals are important in many areas of life because they produce different reactions to failure, and everybody fails sometimes. A person with a development goal will respond to failure with what Dweck calls a mastery-oriented pattern, in which she tries even harder the next time. […] In contrast, a person with a judgment goal responds to failure with what Dweck calls the helpless pattern: Rather than try harder, this individual simply concludes, “I can’t do it,” and gives up. Of course, that only guarantees more failure in the future. […] Dweck believes [the goals] originate in different kinds of implicit theories about the nature of the world […] Some people hold what Dweck calls entity theories, and believe that personal qualities such as intelligence and ability are unchangeable, leading them to respond helplessly to any indication that they do not have what it takes. Other people hold incremental theories, believing that intelligence and ability can change with time and experience. Their goals, therefore, involve not only proving their competence but increasing it.”

(I should probably add here that any sort of empirical validation of those theories and their consequences are, aside from a brief discussion of the results of a few (likely weak, low-powered) studies, completely absent in the book, but this kind of stuff might even so be worth having in mind, which was why I included this quote in my coverage – US).

“A large amount of research suggests that low self-esteem […] is correlated with outcomes such as dissatisfaction with life, hopelessness, and depression […] as well as loneliness […] Declines in self-esteem also appear to cause outcomes including depression, lower satisfaction with relationships, and lower satisfaction with one’s career […] Your self-esteem tends to suffer when you have failed in the eyes of your social group […] This drop in self-esteem may be a warning about possible rejection or even social ostracism — which, for our distant ancestors, could literally be fatal — and motivate you to restore your reputation. High self-esteem, by contrast, may indicate success and acceptance. Attempts to bolster self-esteem can backfire. […] People who self-enhance — who think they are better than the other people who know them think they are — can run into problems in relations with others, mental health, and adjustment […] Narcissism is associated with high self-esteem that is brittle and unstable because it is unrealistic […], and unstable self-esteem may be worse than low self-esteem […] The bottom line is that promoting psychological health requires something more complex than simply trying to make everybody feel better about themselves […]. The best way to raise self-esteem is through accomplishments that increase it legitimately […]. The most important aspect of your opinion of yourself is not whether it is good or bad, but the degree to which it is accurate.”

“An old theory suggested that if you repeated something over and over in your mind, such rehearsal was sufficient to move the information into long-term memory (LTM), or permanent memory storage. Later research showed that this idea is not quite correct. The best way to get information into LTM, it turns out, is not just to repeat it, but to really think about it (a process called elaboration). The longer and more complex the processing that a piece of information receives, the more likely it is to get transferred into LTM”.

“Concerning mental health, aspects of personality can become so extreme as to cause serious problems. When this happens, psychologists begin to speak of personality disorders […] Personality disorders have five general characteristics. They are (1) unusual and, (2) by definition, tend to cause problems. In addition, most but not quite all personality disorders (3) affect social relations and (4) are stable over time. Finally, (5) in some cases, the person who has a personality disorder may see it not as a disorder at all, but a basic part of who he or she is. […] personality disorders can be ego-syntonic, which means the people who have them do not think anything is wrong. People who suffer from other kinds of mental disorder generally experience their symptoms of confusion, depression, or anxiety as ego-dystonic afflictions of which they would like to be cured. For a surprising number of people with personality disorders, in contrast, their symptoms feel like normal and even valued aspects of who they are. Individuals with the attributes of the antisocial or narcissistic personality disorders, in particular, typically do not think they have a problem.”

[One side-note: It’s important to be aware of the fact that not all people who display unusual behavioral patterns which are causing them problems necessarily suffer from a personality disorder. Other categorization schemes also exist. Autism is for example not categorized as a personality disorder, but is rather considered to be a (neuro)developmental disorder. Funder does not go into this kind of stuff in his book but I thought it might be worth mentioning here – US]

“Some people are more honest than others, but when deceit and manipulation become core aspects of an individual’s way of dealing with the world, he may be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. […] People with this disorder are impulsive, and engage in risky behaviors […] They typically are irritable, aggressive, and irresponsible. The damage they do to others bothers them not one whit; they rationalize […] that life is unfair; the world is full of suckers; and if you don’t take what you want whenever you can, then you are a sucker too. […] A wide variety of negative outcomes may accompany this disorder […] Antisocial personality disorder is sometimes confused with the trait of psychopathy […] but it’s importantly different […] Psychopaths are emotionally cold, they disregard social norms, and they are manipulative and often cunning. Most psychopaths meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, but the reverse is not true.”

“From day to day with different people, and over time with the same people, most individuals feel and act pretty consistently. […] Predictability makes it possible to deal with others in a reasonable way, and gives each of us a sense of individual identity. But some people are less consistent than others […] borderline personality disorder […] is characterized by unstable and confused behavior, a poor sense of identity, and patterns of self-harm […] Their chaotic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors make persons suffering from this disorder very difficult for others to “read” […] Borderline personality disorder (BPD) entails so many problems for the affected person that nobody doubts that it is, at the very least, on the “borderline” with severe psychopathology.5 Its hallmark is emotional instability. […] All of the personality disorders are rather mixed bags of indicators, and BPD may be the most mixed of all. It is difficult to find a coherent, common thread among its characteristics […] Some psychologists […] have suggested that this [personality disorder] category is too diffuse and should be abandoned.”

“[T]he modern research literature on personality disorders has come close to consensus about one conclusion: There is no sharp dividing line between psychopathology and normal variation (L. A. Clark & Watson, 1999a; Furr & Funder, 1998; Hong & Paunonen, 2011; Krueger & Eaton, 2010; Krueger & Tackett, 2003; B. P. O’Connor, 2002; Trull & Durrett, 2005).”

“Accurate self-knowledge has long been considered a hallmark of mental health […] The process for gaining accurate self-knowledge is outlined by the Realistic Accuracy Model […] according to RAM, one can gain accurate knowledge of anyone’s personality through a four-stage process. First, the person must do something relevant to the trait being judged; second, the information must be available to the judge; third, the judge must detect this information; and fourth, the judge must utilize the information correctly. This model was initially developed to explain the accuracy of judgments of other people. In an important sense, though, you are just one of the people you happen to know, and, to some degree, you come to know yourself the same way you find out about anybody else — by observing what you do and trying to draw appropriate conclusions”.

“[P]ersonality is not just something you have; it is also something you do. The unique aspects of what you do comprise the procedural self, and your knowledge of this self typically takes the form of procedural knowledge. […] The procedural self is made up of the behaviors through which you express who you think you are, generally without knowing you are doing so […]. Like riding a bicycle, the working of the procedural self is automatic and not very accessible to conscious awareness.”


July 14, 2017 - Posted by | Books, Psychology

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