Preview Question 10: How do psychologists use traits to describe personality?
Preview Question 11: What are personality inventories, and what are their strengths and weaknesses as trait-assessment tools?
Preview Question 12: Which traits seem to provide the most useful information about personality variation?
Preview Question 13: Does research support the consistency of personality traits over time and across situations?
Preview Question 14: In the view of social-cognitive psychologists, what mutual influences shape an individual’s personality?
Preview Question 15: What are the causes and consequences of personal control?
Preview Question 16: What underlying principle guides social-cognitive psychologists in their assessment of people’s behavior and beliefs?
Preview Question 17: What has the social-cognitive perspective contributed to the study of personality, and what criticisms have been leveled against it?
Preview Question 18: Are we helped or hindered by high self-esteem?
ContemporaryPerspectives on Personality Module 31
PersonalityThe Trait Perspective Exploring Traits Assessing Traits The Big Five Factors Evaluating the Trait Perspective 2
The Trait PerspectiveAn individual’s unique constellation of durable dispositions and consistent ways of behaving (traits) constitutes his or her personality. Examples of Traits Honest Dependable Moody Impulsive 3
Exploring Traits Each personality is uniquely made up of multiple traits. Allport & Odbert (1936), identified almost 18,000 words representing traits. One way to condense the immense list of personality traits is through factor analysis, astatistical approach used to describe and relate personality traits. 4
Factor Analysis Hans and Sybil Eysenck suggested that personality could be reduced down to two polar dimensions, extraversion-introversion and emotional stability- instability (aka neuroticism). 5Neurosis: a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints withoutobjective evidence of disease, in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality.
Analysis of the answers to specific questions given by people around the world have found that these two factors (introversion-extraversion and emotional stability- instability) inevitably emerge as basic personality dimensions. The third underlying aspect of personality, which is not identified in the text, is psychoticism. Playing a somewhat smaller role in personality than the first two factors, psychoticism is not a dimension with polar opposites. Rather, it is an ingredient that is present to varying degrees in individual personalities. Psychoticism is characterized by eleven dispositions: solitary (not caring for people); troublesome or not fitting in; cruel; lacks feeling; sensation seeking; aggressive; likes odd, unusual things; disregards danger; likes to make fools of other people, upsetting them; opposes accepted social customs; engages in little personal interaction— for example, prefers “impersonal sex.”
Biology and PersonalityPersonality dimensions are influenced by genes.2. Brain-imaging procedures show that extraverts seek stimulation because their normal brain arousal is relatively low.3. Genes also influence our temperament and behavioral style. Differences in children’s shyness and inhibition may be attributed to autonomic nervous system reactivity. 7
ShynessShyness, a trait that 80 percent of Americans claim to have possessed at some time and that 40 percent say continues to cause problems. Indeed, some celebrities have considered themselves to be shy, including David Letterman. What is shyness? One model suggests that it consists of a cognitive component (acute public selfconsciousness, self-deprecating thoughts, and worries over a negative evaluation), a physiological component (heart pounding, upset stomach, and sweating), and a behavioral component (social incompetence, reticence (restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance) , and inhibition). Jonathan Cheek reports that shy people suffer most from interactions with strangers, particularly those of the opposite sex. Shy people also typically feel more responsible for failure than for success, they remember mostly negative information about themselves, and they have a low expectancy for social success.
Cheek and Buss ScaleInstructions: Please read each item carefully and decide to what extent it is characteristic of your feelings and behavior.1 = very uncharacteristic or untrue, strongly disagree 2 = uncharacteristic 3 = neutral4 = characteristic 5 = very characteristic or true, strongly agree1. I feel tense when I’m with people I don’t know well.2. I am socially somewhat awkward.3. I do not find it difficult to ask other people for information.4. I am often uncomfortable at parties and other social functions.5. When in a group of people, I have trouble thinking of the right things to talk about.6. It does not take me long to overcome my shyness in new situations.7. It is hard for me to act natural when I am meeting new people.8. I feel nervous when speaking to someone in authority.9. I have no doubts about my social competence.10. I have trouble looking someone right in the eye.11. I feel inhibited in social situations.12. I do not find it hard to talk to strangers.13. I am more shy with members of the opposite sex.14. During conversations with new acquaintances, I worry about saying something dumb.Source: The revised Cheek & Buss Shyness scale. Cheek, J. M., & Melchior, L. A. (1990). Shyness, self-esteem, and self-consciousness. In H. Leitenberg (Ed.), Handbook of social and evaluation anxiety (Table 1, p. 56). Reprinted by permission of Kluwer Academic Publishers.
The Revised Cheek and Buss Shyness Scale, can be used to test for the shyness trait.Reverse the scores for items 3, 6, 9, and 12 (5 = 1, 4 = 2, 2 = 4, and 1 = 5). Cheek and Buss report a mean score of 36 for college students.So the average score is 36. Lower scores indicate a strong shyness trait.
Personality Traits of U.S. PresidentsSteven J. Rubenzer and his colleagues have provided an interesting analysis of the personality traits of past U.S. presidents. The researchers asked 115 biographers, historians, and political scientists to help them rate the presidents on detailed personality trait scales in the five years before they took office. Rubenzer and his colleagues were particularly interested in the qualities linked to successful presidential job performance (ratings of success were obtained from hundreds of historians).
Personality Traits of U.S. PresidentsThe researchers reported that “openness to experience” produced the highest correlation with historian’s ratings of greatness. The best performers could learn as they went along. Being an extravert, assertive, and achievement-oriented were also strongly associated with success. On the other hand, being agreeable was not. That is, being cooperative and easily led did not mesh with greatness. Being straightforward was not predictive of greatness.
Personality Traits of U.S. PresidentsIn fact, a tendency to tell the truth, suggests Rubenzer, can actually harm a president’s shot at being considered historically “great.” Finally, “tendermindedness” is predictive of effectiveness. Great presidents “know it’s all about feelings,” argued Rubenezer, “theirs and the voters’.”
Personality Traits of U.S. PresidentsOther interesting findings:• In general, the historians rated all the presidents as far less “straightforward” than typical citizens. Presidents scored only at the fifteenth percentile. Among those scoring lowest on being honest were Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lincoln seemed to soften his position on slavery in an attempt to keep the country unified.• Over time, presidents have become more extraverted but less curious and creative.• Washington was at the top of the class at being conscientious but ranked lower than today’s average American in openness, extraversion, and agreeableness.
Personality Traits of U.S. Presidents• Lincoln was moderately extraverted, agreeable, and conscientious. But, unlike other successful presidents, he was neurotic, occasionally suffering bouts of deep despair.• Being a bit disorganized, like Lincoln, was also an asset. Tidiness was not.• Openness to experience overlaps with intelligence, because one must be intelligent to appreciate new experiences. Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson scored high on both.• Jimmy Carter had two fatal flaws: a lack of assertive-ness and a tendency to be straightforward.
Personality Traits of U.S. PresidentsThe researchers reported that “openness to experience” produced the highest correlation with historian’s ratings of greatness. The best performers could learn as they went along. Being an extravert, assertive, and achievement- oriented were also strongly associated with success. On the other hand, being agreeable was not. That is, being cooperative and easily led did not mesh with greatness. Being straightforward was not predictive of greatness. In fact, a tendency to tell the truth, suggests Rubenzer, can actually harm a president’s shot at being considered historically “great.” Finally, “tendermindedness” is predictive of effectiveness. Great presidents “know it’s all about feelings,” argued Rubenezer, “theirs and the voters’.”
Assessing Traits Personality inventories are questionnaires (often with true-false or agree-disagree items)designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviors assessing several traits at once. 17
MMPI The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is the most widelyresearched and clinically used of all personality tests. It was originally developed to identify emotional disorders. The MMPI was developed by empiricallytesting a pool of items and then selecting thosethat discriminated between diagnostic groups. 18
One problem with self-report personality inventories is that some respondents tend to give socially desirable rather than honest responses. Social desirability is only one response tendency testers have to worry about. Another is an acquiescence response set in which people tend to agree with test questions regardless of their content. Try this next survey. It is the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale.
Personal Attitudes and TraitsListed below are a number of statements concerning personal attitudes and traits. Read each item and decide whether the statement is true or false as it pertains to you personally.• 1. Before voting, I thoroughly investigate the qualifications of all the candidates.• 2. I never hesitate to go out of my way to help someone in trouble.• 3. It is sometimes hard for me to go on with my work if I am not encouraged.• 4. I have never intensely disliked anyone.• 5. On occasion, I have had doubts about my ability to succeed in life.• 6. I sometimes feel resentful when I don’t get my way.• 7. I am always careful about my manner of dress.• 8. My table manners at home are as good as when I eat out in a restaurant.• 9. If I could get into a movie without paying and be sure I was not seen, I would probably do it.
• 10. On a few occasions, I have given up doing something because I thought too little of my ability.• 11. I like to gossip at times.• 12. There have been times when I felt like rebelling against people in authority, even though I knew they were right.• 13. No matter who I’m talking to, I’m always a good listener.• 14. I can remember “playing sick” to get out of something.• 15. There have been occasions when I took advantage of someone.• 16. I’m always willing to admit when I make a mistake.• 17. I always try to practice what I preach.• 18. I don’t find it particularly difficult to get along with loudmouthed, obnoxious people.• 19. I sometimes try to get even rather than forgive and forget.• 20. When I don’t know something, I don’t at all mind admitting it.• 21. I am always courteous, even to people who are disagreeable.• 22. At times, I have really insisted on having things my own way.• 23. There have been occasions when I felt like smashing things.
• 24. I would never think of letting someone else be punished for my wrongdoings.• 25. I never resent being asked to return a favor.• 26. I have never been irked when people expressed ideas very different from my own.• 27. I never make a long trip without checking the safety of my car.• 28. There have been times when I was quite jealous of the good fortune of others.• 29. I have almost never felt the urge to tell someone off.• 30. I am sometimes irritated by people who ask favors of me.• 31. I have never felt that I was punished without cause.• 32. I sometimes think when people have a misfortune, they only got what they deserved.• 33. I have never deliberately said something that hurt someone’s feelings.Source: Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349–354.
Because some respondents tend to give socially desirable rather than honest responses, the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, attempts to assess this response tendency. For example, the fourth item states that “I have never intensely disliked anyone.” Probably everyone has at one time or another intensely disliked another person. People who indicate they have not are trying to present themselves in a socially desirable light.To score the inventory students should give themselves one point for indicating true to items 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, and 33, and one point for indicating false to 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 22, 23, 28, 30, and 32.Crowne and Marlowe report a mean of 13.72 for undergraduate college students. People with high scores tend to present themselves in a favorable light that probably does not reflect reality.
The Big Five Factors Today’s trait researchers believe that earlier traitdimensions, such as Eysencks’ personality dimensions,fail to tell the whole story. So, an expanded range (five factors) of traits does a better job of assessment. Conscientiousness Agreeableness Neuroticism Openness Extraversion 25
The Big Five Inventory (BFI)Here are a number of characteristics that may or may not apply to you. For example, do you agree that you are someone who likes to spend time with others? Please write a number next to each statement to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with that statement.Disagree Strongly (1) Disagree a little (2) Neither agree nor disagree (3)Agree a little (4) Agree strongly (5)I see myself as someone who . . .1. Is talkative 23. Tends to be lazy2. Tends to find fault with others 24. Is emotionally stable, not easily upset3. Does a thorough job 25. Is inventive4. Is depressed, blue 26. Has an assertive personality5. Is original, comes up with 27. Can be cold and aloof new ideas6. Is reserved 28. Perseveres until the task is finished7. Is helpful and unselfish with 29. Can be moody others
The Big Five Inventory designed by Oliver P. John and his colleagues, provides another assessment of the Big Five personality dimensions. Following are directions for students to measure the degree to which they exhibit each dimension:• ‑Extraversion: First reverse the numbers placed in front of items 6, 21, and 31 (1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1), then add all the numbers for 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31, and 36. Scores can range from 8 to 40, with higher scores reflecting greater extraversion.
• Agreeableness: First reverse the numbers placed in front of items 2, 12, 27, and 37 (1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1), then add all the numbers for 2, 7, 12, 17, 22, 27, 32, 37, and 42. Scores can range from 9 to 45, with higher scores reflecting greater agreeableness.• Conscientiousness: First reverse the numbers placed in front of items 8, 18, 23, and 43 (1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1), then add all the numbers for 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28, 33, 38, and 43. Scores can range from 9 to 45, with higher scores reflecting greater conscientiousness.
• Neuroticism: First reverse the numbers placed in front of items 9, 24, and 34 (1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1), then add all the numbers for 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29, 34, and 39. Scores can range from 8 to 40, with higher scores reflecting greater neuroticism.• Openness: First reverse the numbers placed in front of items 35 and 41 (1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1), then add all the numbers for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 41, and 44. Scores can range from 10 to 50, with higher scores reflecting greater openness.
Questions about the Big Five Quite stable in adulthood.1. How stable are these traits? However, they change over development. Fifty percent or so for each2. How heritable are they? trait. These traits are common across3. How about other cultures? cultures. 32
Evaluating the Trait Perspective The Person-Situation Controversy Walter Mischel (1968, 1984, 2004) points outthat traits may be enduring, but the resulting behavior in various situations is different. Therefore, traits are not good predictors of behavior. 33
The Person-Situation Controversy Trait theorists argue that behaviors from asituation may be different, but average behavior remains the same. Therefore, traits matter. 34
The Person-Situation ControversyTraits are socially significant and influence our health, thinking, and performance (Gosling et al., 2000). John Langford Photography Samuel Gosling 35
Consistency of Expressive Style Expressive styles in speaking and gestures demonstrate trait consistency. Observers are able to judge people’s behaviorand feelings in as little as 30 seconds and in one particular case as little as 2 seconds. 36
PersonalityThe Social Cognitive Perspective Social Cognitive Perspective Personal Control Assessing Behavior in Situations Evaluating the Social Cognitive Perspective
Social-Cognitive Perspective Today’s psychological science views persons asbiopsychosocial organisms. The Social-cognitive perspective on personalityproposed by Bandura (1986, 2001, 2005) emphasizes the interaction of our biologically influencedpsychological traits with our situations. Much as nature and nurture always worktogether, so do persons and their situations. Albert Bandura 38
Reciprocal InfluencesBandura called the process on interacting with our environment reciprocal differences.“Behavior, internal personal factors, and environmental influences,” he said, “all operate as interlocking determinants of each other.”For example: children’s TV viewing habits (past behavior) influence their viewing preferences (internal factor), which influence how television (environmental factor) affects their current behavior. The influences are mutual.
Individuals & Environments Specific ways in which individuals and environments interactDifferent people choose The school you attend and thedifferent environments. music you listen to are partly based on your dispositions.Our personalities shape how Anxious people react towe react to events. situations differently than relaxed people.Our personalities shape How we view and treat peoplesituations. influences how they treat us. 40
Because of how we interact with our environment, we become both the products and architects of our environment—that is we become products of our environments, however, we also have a hand in choosing those environments, thus making us the architect as well.This all supports the notion that behavior emerges from the interplay of external and internal influences.At every moment, our behavior is influenced by our biology, our social experiences, and our cognition and personality.
BehaviorBehavior emerges from an interplay of external and internal influences. 42
Personal ControlSocial-cognitive psychologists emphasize our sense of personalcontrol, whether we control the environment or the environmentcontrols us.The full name that Rotter gave the construct (personal control) wasLocus of Control of Reinforcement. In giving it this name, Rotter wasbridging behavioral and cognitive psychology.Rotters view was that behavior was largely guided by"reinforcements" (rewards and punishments) and that throughcontingencies such as rewards and punishments, individuals come tohold beliefs about what causes their actions. These beliefs, in turn,guide what kinds of attitudes and behaviors people adopt. 43
Locus of Control External locus of control refers to the perception that chance or outside forces beyond our personal control determine our fate.Internal locus of control refers to the perception that we can control our own fate.
Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence, Apr 06, 2001Adults and children with an internal locus of control are inclined to take responsibility for their actions, are not easily influenced by the opinions of others, and tend to do better at tasks when they can work at their own pace.By comparison, people with an external locus of control tend to blame outside circumstances for their mistakes and credit their successes to luck rather than to their own efforts. They are readily influenced by the opinions of others and are more likely to pay attention to the status of the opinion-holder, while people with an internal locus of control pay more attention to the content of the opinion regardless of who holds it.Some researchers have claimed that "internals" tend to be more intelligent and more success-oriented than "externals." In the elementary grades, children with an internal locus of control have been found to earn higher grades, although there are conflicting reports about whether there is a relationship between college grades and locus of control.There is also a relationship between a childs locus of control and his or her ability to delay gratification (to forgo an immediate pleasure or desire in order to be rewarded with a more substantial one later). In middle childhood, children with an internal locus of control are relatively successful in the delay of gratification, while children with an external locus of control are likely to make less of an effort to exert self- control in the present because they doubt their ability to influence events in the future.
Personal ControlControl is a concept that plays an important role in several psychological theories. It is central to Seligman’s (1975) probability analysis of control and theories of learned helplessness.Seligman (1975) has defined the concept of control most explicitly. He defines an event as controllable when a person’s voluntary responses have an impact on the consequences of that event. By contrast, an event is considered to be uncontrollable when no voluntary response has an impact on the event. For example, when an organism receives electric shocks regardless of its efforts to stop them, the electric shocks are uncontrollable to the organism. However, when the organism has the ability to prevent the shocks by pressing a button, the shock is considered to be controllable. Loss of control exists when there is a lack of contingency between behaviors and outcomes. This can lead to motivational, emotional, and cognitive deficits.Such deficits can be traced to the discovery that loss of control leads to learned helplessness, a state similar to depression. Seligman (1975) assumes that experiences of uncontrollability, such as the loss of a loved one, can lead to the expectancy that future events will also be uncontrollable. This expectancy leads to learned helplessness and depression. Thus, according to this theory, depressed individuals differ from nondepressed persons in that they tend to expect to be unable to control events.
Learned Helplessness vs. Personal ControlWhen unable to avoid repeated adverse events an animal or human learns helplessness. 47
People given little control over their world in prisons, factories, colleges, and nursing homes experience lower morale and increased stress. Measures that increase control—allowing prisoners to move chairs and control room lights and the TV, having workers participate in decision making, offering nursing home patients choices about their environment— noticeably improve health and morale.
In one famous study of nursing home patients, 93 percent of those encouraged to exert more control became more alert, active, and happy (Rodin, 1986).Perceived control is important to human functioning.It is important that we create environments that enhance our sense of control and personal efficacy.Bottom line: Under condition of personal freedom and empowerment, people thrive.
Is More Better?It’s not always or necessarily true that more is better.Is more freedom better?No.Barry Schwartz (2000, 2004) notes that the excess freedom in today’s Western cultures contributes to decreasing life satisfaction , increased depression, and sometimes paralysis.Also, looking at consumer choices, after choosing among 30 brands of jam or chocolate, people express less satisfaction than those choosing among a half-dozen options.This tyranny of choice brings information overload and a greater likelihood that we will feel regret over some of the unchosen options.
Optimism vs. PessimismAn optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style is your way of explaining positive or negative events. Positive psychology aims to discover andpromote conditions that enable individuals and communities to thrive. 51
Positive Psychology and Humanistic Psychology Positive psychology, such as humanistic psychology, attempts to foster humanfulfillment. Positive psychology, in addition,seeks positive subjective well-being, positive character, and positive social groups. Positive Psychology Center/ University of Pennsylvania Courtesy of Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD Director, Martin Seligman 52
Explanatory StyleExplanatory style is the way in which we explain the events that happen to us in our lives, either good or bad. Some of us may have a more pessimistic explanatory style, so that we blame ourselves when things dont go right (eg "it was my fault") and will not take credit for successes, (eg "it was just luck"). Some of us may have a more optimistic explanatory style so that we do not blame ourselves 100% for things that go wrong and we realize there are other external influences on what happens.
Pessimistic vs. Optimistic Explanatory Life StyleOptimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local).For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it’s because she’s good at her job and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future. If she’s passed over for the promotion, it’s likely because she was having an off-month because of extenuating circumstances, but will do better in the future.
Pessimistic vs. Optimistic Explanatory Life StylePessimists think in the opposite way. They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause. They see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable).A pessimist would see a promotion as a lucky event that probably won’t happen again, and may even worry that she’ll now be under more scrutiny. Being passed over for promotion would probably be explained as not being skilled enough. Shed therefore expect to be passed over again.
Excess pessimism is an internal stressor to the body. When encountering a challenging situation a pessimists fight or flight response will be triggered more often and stay switched on for longer than an optimistic person.Pessimism decreases our stress resistance. When we are pessimistic it is difficult to have hope when we face difficulties. We think the difficulties will go on forever and we tend to think we cannot do anything to change or influence events. This stops us taking any action that would improve our situation.Excess pessimism undermines our confidence and interferes with our quality of life. It makes life harder and we stop trying to achieve our goals because we think we will fail before weve even started.
Persistence Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists, and they are more likely to achieve success because of it. Some optimistic business men, like Donald Trump, have been bankrupt (even multiple times), but have been able to persist and turn their failures into millions.Emotional Health In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was discovered that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy (which involves reframing a persons thought processes) worked better than drugs, as changes were more long-lasting than a temporary fix. Patients who had this training in optimism had the ability to more effectively handle future setbacks.Increased Longevity In a retrospective study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950, optimists lived significantly longer. Other studies have shown that optimistic breast cancer patients had better health outcomes than pessimistic and hopeless patients.Less Stress Optimists also tend to experience less stress than pessimists or realists. Because they believe in themselves and their abilities, they expect good things to happen. They see negative events as minor setbacks to be easily overcome, and view positive events as evidence of further good things to come. Believing in themselves, they also take more risks and create more positive events in their lives.
Published studies have reported that optimism influences health. Among the findings:• Optimistic coronary bypass patients were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalization.• Highly pessimistic men were three times more likely to develop hypertension.• People with positive emotions had lower blood pressures.• In one study, the most pessimistic men were more than twice as likely to develop heart disease compared with the most optimistic.
Assessing Behavior in SituationsWhat underlying principle guides social-cognitive psychologists in their assessment of people’s behavior and beliefs? Social-cognitive psychologists observe people in realistic and simulated situations because they find that it is the best way to predict the behavior of others in similar situations. 59
Assessing Behavior in SituationsOne ambitious example was the U.S. Army’s World War II strategy for assessing candidates for spy missions. Rather than using paper and pencil tests, army psychologists subjected the candidates to simulated undercover conditions. They tested their ability to handle stress, solve problems, maintain leadership, and withstand intense interrogations without blowing their covers. Although time consuming and expensive, this assessment of behavior in a realistic situation helped predict later success on actual spy missions (OSS Assessment Staff, 1948).
Evaluating the Social-Cognitive Perspective The social-cognitive perspective on personalitysensitizes researchers to the effects of situations on and by individuals. It builds on learning and cognition research.Critics say that social-cognitive psychologists pay a lot of attention to the situation and pay lessattention to the individual, his unconscious mind, his emotions, and his genetics. 61
Criticism of Social-Cognitive ApproachRemember, personality traits have been shown to predict behavior at work, love, and play.The social-cognitive approach focuses so much on the situation that it misses another very important factor: a person’s inner traits.
PersonalityExploring the Self The Benefits of Self-Esteem Culture and Self-Esteem Self-Serving Bias 63
Exploring the Self Research on the self has a long history because the self organizes thinking, feelings, and actions and is a critical part of our personality. Research focuses on the different selves we possess. Some we dream and others we dread. Research studies how we overestimate our concern that others evaluate our appearance, performance, and blunders (spotlight effect). 64
Hazel MarkusHazel Markus is a prominent social psychologist.Markus most significant contribution to social psychology was the introduction of the concept of the "self-schema" (Markus, 1977). She described the self-schema as a cognitive representation of the self that is used to organize knowledge about the self and guide processing of self- relevant information.In Study 1 of Markus (1977), participants completed a reaction time task, where they were presented with personality traits and asked to hit a button labeled "Me" if the trait was self-descriptive and another button labeled "Not Me" if the trait was not self-descriptive. When participants classified a trait that they had previously said described themselves, they were faster to categorize the trait with the "Me" button than participants who had previously said the trait was only moderately descriptive.The faster response time of people who felt the trait was self-descriptive reflects an association of that trait with their self-schema. Self-schema and the self-concept remain among the most researched concepts in social psychology today.
Self SchemaThe term self-schema refers to the beliefs and ideas people have about themselves. These beliefs are used to guide and organize information processing, especially when the information is significant to the self. Self-schemas are important to a persons overall self-concept.Once we have developed a schema about ourselves there is a strong tendency for that schema to be maintained by a bias in what we attend to, a bias in what we remember, and a bias in what we are prepared to accept as true about ourselves. In other words our self-schema becomes self- perpetuating. The self-schema is then stored in long-term memory and both facilitates and biases the processing of personally relevant information.Self-schemas vary from person to person because each individual has very different social and cultural life experiences. A few examples of self-schemas are; exciting/ dull, quiet/ loud, healthy/ sickly, athletic/ nonathletic, lazy/ active, and geek/ jock. If a person has a schema for geek/ jock, for example, he might think of himself as a bit of a computer geek and so he would possess a lot of information about that trait. Because of this he would probably interpret a lot of situations based on their relevance to being a geek.For another example consider the healthy/ sickly schema. A person with this schema might consider herself a very health conscious person. Her concern with being healthy would then affect every day decisions like what to buy at the grocery store, what restaurant to eat out at, or how much exercise she should get daily. Women who are schematic on appearance exhibited lower body image, lower self-esteem, and more negative mood than did those who are aschematic on appearance.
While every schema varies from cultural backgrounds, etc., there are different ways of defining the schemas themselves. First, there is Schematic, which means having a particular schema for a particular dimension. For instance, you could play in a rock band at night, and there you would have your "rocker" schema. However, during the day, you work as a tire salesman, so you have your "tire salesman" schema on during that period of time.Another good example of this are super heroes, such as the ones in comic books. People like Superman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, etc., all have their schema for when they are just doing their normal job during the day. However, when duty calls, they adorn their superhero schema.Second, there is Aschematic, which is not having a schema for a particular dimension. This usually occurs when we are not involved with or concerned about a certain attribute. For instance, some of us will never be tire salesmen, so some of us will never have to worry about it. This also includes schoolwork to a particular level. If you plan on being a musician, then having a schema in aeronautics will not attribute to you.Since it has been defined that most people have multiple schemas does this mean that we all have multiple personalities as well? The answer is no. At least not in the pathological sense. Indeed, for the most part, multiple self-schemas are extremely useful to us in our daily lives. Without our conscious awareness, they help us make rapid decisions and to behave efficiently and appropriately in different situations and with different people. They guide what we attend to, and how we interpret and use incoming information and they activate specific cognitive, verbal, and behavioral action sequences—which in cognitive psychology are called scripts and action plans—that help us meet our goals more efficiently.
Self ConceptSelf-concept is the cognitive or thinking aspect of self (related to ones self-image) and generally refers to"the totality of a complex, organized, and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes and opinions that each person holds to be true about his or her personal existence" ( Purkey, 1988).
We develop and maintain our self-concept through the process of taking action and then reflecting on what we have done and what others tell us about what we have done. We reflect on what we have done and can do in comparison to our expectations and the expectations of others and to the characteristics and accomplishments of others (Brigham, 1986; James, 1890). That is, self-concept is not innate, but is developed or constructed by the individual through interaction with the environment and reflecting on that interaction. This dynamic aspect of self-concept (and, by corollary, self-esteem) is important because it indicates that it can be modified or changed. Franken (1994) states:"there is a growing body of research which indicates that it is possible to change the self- concept. Self-change is not something that people can will but rather it depends on the process of self-reflection. Through self-reflection, people often come to view themselves in a new, more powerful way, and it is through this new, more powerful way of viewing the self that people can develop possible selves" (p. 443).There are a several different components of self-concept: physical, academic, social, and transpersonal. The physical aspect of self-concept relates to that which is concrete: what we look like, our sex, height, weight, etc.; what kind of clothes we wear; what kind of car we drive; what kind of home we live in; and so forth. Our academic self-concept relates to how well we do in school or how well we learn. There are two levels: a general academic self-concept of how good we are overall and a set of specific content-related self-concepts that describe how good we are in math, science, language arts, social science, etc. The social self-concept describes how we relate to other people and the transpersonal self- concept describes how we relate to the supernatural or unknowns.Self-esteem is constructed by ones conscious reflections and supports the self concept.
Self EsteemSelf-esteem is the affective or emotional aspect of self and generally refers to how we feel about or how we value ourselves (ones self- worth). Self-concept can also refer to the general idea we have of ourselves and self- esteem can refer to particular measures about components of self-concept.
Benefits of Self-Esteem Maslow and Rogers argued that a successful life results from a healthy self-image (self- esteem). The following are two reasons why low self-esteem results in personal problems.1. When self-esteem is deflated, we view ourselves and others critically.2. Low self-esteem reflects reality, our failure in meeting challenges, or surmounting difficulties. 71
Culture & Self-EsteemPeople maintain their self-esteem even with a low status by valuing things they achieve and comparing themselves to people with similar positions. 72
Some members of stigmatized groups have faced discrimination and lower status, yet, according to Jennifer Crocker and Brenda Major (1989), they maintain their self-esteem in three ways:2. They value the things at which they excel3. They attribute problems to prejudice4. They do as everyone does—they compare themselves to those in their own groupThese findings help us understand why, despite the realities of prejudice, such groups report levels of happiness roughly comparable to others.
Self-Serving BiasDefined as our readiness to perceive ourselves favorably: Self-servingbias.We accept responsibility for good deeds and successes more than for baddeeds and failures.Most people see themselves as better than average.We remember and justify our past actions in self-enhancing ways.We exhibit an infalted confidence in our beliefs and judgments.We often seek out favorable, self-enhancing information.We are quicker to believe flattering descriptions of ourselves thanunflattering ones, and we are impressed with psychological tests thatmake us look good. 74
When threatened, people with large egos may do more than put others down; they may react violently.540 undergraduate volunteers were instructed to write an essay and another student either praised (Great!) or negatively criticized (Horrible!) the essay. Then the essay writers played a reaction-time game against the critiquing student. The essay writers could assault the critiquing student with noise of any intensity for any durations. Result?
Those with unrealistically high self-esteem were exceptionally aggressive. They delivered three times the auditory torture of those with normal self-esteem.Threatened egotism, more than low self-esteem, predisposes aggression.“Encouraging people to feel good about themselves when they haven’t earned it” poses problems (Baumeister, 2001). “Conceited, self-important individuals turn nasty toward those who puncture their bubbles of self-love” (Baumeister, 2001).
If self-serving bias seems to be prevalent, then why do so many people disparage themselves?There are 3 reasons:3) Sometimes self-directed put-downs are subtly strategic, meaning they elicit reassuring strokes.4) Or sometimes like before a big game, they may prepare us for possible failure (because no one wins 100% of the time).5) Sometimes disparagement refers to one’s old self. People are much more critical of their distant past selves than of their current selves—even when they have not changed.
There are two types of self esteem: defensive and secure.Defensive self-esteem is fragile. It focuses on sustaining itself, which makes failures and criticism feel threatening. Such egotism exposes one to perceived threats, which feed anger and disorder. Thus, like low self- esteem defensive self-esteem correlates with aggressive and antisocial behavior.Secure self-esteem is less fragile, because it is less contingent on external evaluations. To feel accepted for who we are, and not for our looks, wealth, or acclaim, relieves pressures to succeed and enables us to focus beyond ourselves. By losing ourselves in relationships and purposes larger than self, we may achieve a more secure self-esteem and greater quality of life.
Having a healthy self-esteem is important. But healthy does not mean high, large, or more in abundance.Having a very high self-esteem is not healthy. This is where you see your self-indulgent, conceited, self-centered individuals.We function best with modest self-enhancing illusions not the grand disillusions of those in high self-esteem.Analogous to the Japanese and European magnetic levitation trains—we function optimally when riding just off the rails, not so high that we gyrate and crash, yet not so in touch (so low) that we grind to a halt.