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How can we define the concept of personality?

People often use trait-descriptive adjectives in describing their own characteristics and the characteristics of others. They reflect qualities of a person’s mind, attitude towards other people, their effect on other people, their desires and the strategies they use to attain goals. The accepted definition of personality is the set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual that are organized and relatively enduring and that influence his or her interactions with, and adaptations to, the intra-psychic, physical, and social environments.

What are psychological traits?

Psychological traits are the characteristics that define how one individual is different or similar to another. For example, shyness and talkativeness are both traits. Traits describe an individual’s average tendencies, rather than their momentary behaviour. The more often someone avoids social situations, the more able we are to call them “shy”. Personality trait research looks into how many traits there are, how they are organized, their origins, and the consequences or correlations of traits. Traits help describe people and understand their differences, and can help explain behaviour. They can also help predict future behaviour and preferences.

What are psychological mechanisms?

Psychological mechanisms refer to processes of personality. These differ from traits in that they involve information-processing activity. They are made up of three essential ingredients: inputs, decision rules, and outputs. The mechanism might make people sensitive to certain environmental stimuli (input), cause them to consider certain courses of action over others (decision rules), and behave in a certain way (output). Extraversion is a good example of a mechanism.

Personality tends to remain from one situation to the next, somewhat stable and consistent. Traits and mechanisms are not simply random, but are organized and linked to one another. Different aspects of personality might be activated according to the specific situation. Traits tend to be enduring, especially in adulthood. In this way, traits differ from states, which are fleeting and momentary. While relatively enduring, traits can change slowly over time.

What do we mean by influence?

Personality traits and mechanisms have an influence on our lives, how we act, how we see ourselves, interact with others, select our environments, set our goals, and react to new stimuli.

What do we mean by person-environment interaction?

Individual interactions with situations include perceptions, selections, evocations and manipulation. Perceptions refer to how we interpret our environment. Selection involves choosing which situations and interactions we choose to enter. Evocations are the reactions we produce in others. Manipulations are the ways we attempt to influence the behaviour of others.

What do we mean by adaptation?

Adaptation, or adaptive functioning, includes the accomplishment of goals, coping, adjustment, and the way we deal with challenges and problems. Some seemingly negative personality traits may actually hold an adaptive function.

What do we mean by environment?

An individual’s environment can pose unique challenges that can directly threat survival. These challenges also exist in the social environment. Environmental challenges motivate behaviours, inspire us to focus our attentions, and force us to cope. Intra-psychic challenges are those that occur within the mind, like self-esteem.

What are the three levels of personality and culture?

  1. Human nature (likeness to others)
  2. Individual and group differences (likeness to only some others)
  3. Individual uniqueness (likeness to no others)

These can also be considered universals, particulars, and uniqueness.

What do we mean by human nature / likeness to others?

Human nature describes the traits and mechanisms of personality that are typical of humans, and possessed by nearly everyone. Included are the need to belong, and the capacity for love.

What do we mean by individual and group differences / likeness to some others?

Individual differences are those ways in which people are only similar to some people (ex. level of extraversion.) When a whole group of people are different from another group, this is called differences between groups (ex. age groups, different cultures, gender).

What do we mean by individual uniqueness/ likeness to no others?

No two individuals are exactly alike, and it is this uniqueness that psychologists are often interested in. Studying individuals nomethetically involves looking at individual differences that are distributed in the population. This is used to identify universal vs. individual traits. Studying individuals ideographically involves looking at single, unique case studies.

What do we mean by 'grand theories'?

Sigmund Freud theorized on human nature, emphasizing the instincts of sex and aggression, and a universal structure of id, ego, and superego. He also proposed universal stages of psychosexual development. Grand theories of Freud and many other founding psychologists have been drawn on to formulate contemporary theories and research.

What do we mean by 'contemporary research'?

Much of contemporary research on personality focuses on the differences between individuals and groups. A criticism of current personality research is that rather than recognizing personality as a whole, research focuses mostly on individual aspects of personality. As such, the field of personality might be considered incoherent. Adding the research of many psychologists together, however, can bring up a clearer image.

What are the six domains of knowledge on human nature?

domain of knowledge is a specialty area of scholarship and science in which there is a specific focus on particular aspects of human nature. Specialization is important as each domain is better able to focus and create its own base of knowledge. Within the each domain, researchers develop common methods for asking questions, known facts, and have developed theoretical explanations to account for these facts. There are six main domains of personality research:

  1. Dispositional Domain.

The dispositional domain deals with the way in which individuals differ from each other and how these differences develop and are maintained.

  1. Biological Domain

The biological domain is based on the core assumption that much of human thought and behaviour is based on biology. This domain deals with genetics, psychophysiology and evolution. Genetic personality research focuses on the heritability of traits. Psychophysiology research addresses the interaction of the nervous system, hormones, and other physical processes on personality. Evolutionary research addresses the adaptive role of personality and how evolution has determined certain traits to be more crucial for survival than others.

  1. Intrapsychic Domain

The intrapsychic domain deals with internal mental processes of personality, often those that operate below conscious awareness. Defense mechanisms and Freudian notions of the subconscious form a basis for intrapsychic research.

  1. Cognitive-experiential Domain

The cognitive-experiential domain deals with cognition and the subjective experience, including the mechanisms involved in information processing. It also addresses descriptive aspects of the self, self-esteem, motivation, and emotion.

  1. Social/Cultural Domain

The social/cultural domain of personality research asserts that personality is affected by and affects social and cultural context. This includes the study of how men and women interact, how people manipulate others, and how personality affects our social habits.

  1. Adjustment Domain

The adjustment domain deals with how we cope with the challenges of everyday life, including health-related behaviours and abnormal or maladjusted personality disorders.

Which three functions have personality theories?

Personality theories serve three functions: they provide a guide for researchers, organize known findings and make predictions about behaviour and psychological phenomena that has not yet been observed. Theories are different than beliefs in that they are based on observed and tested systematic observations.

Which five standards for evaluating theories do we know?

There are five scientific standards used to evaluate personality theories. The first, comprehensiveness, ensures that a good theory explains all the facts and observations within its domain. The second standard is heuristic value, which determines whether the theory can act as a guide to future discoveries. The third is testability, as there should be precise enough predictions that the theory can be legitimately tested. Fourth is parsimony- it is better if a theory contains few premises and assumptions (parsimony). However, some complex theories are still necessary. The fifth scientific standard is a theory’s compatibility with other scientific laws and theories, and its ability to be integrated across domains of knowledge.

What do we mean when we're talking about the grand ultimate theory?

While biology contains a grand unifying theory (evolution), personality research does not currently have one. Freud and other psychologists have proposed some, but they do not meet all the criteria. Work in each of the six domains of personality psychology may ultimately result in such a theory.

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