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Gateway THEME Personality refers to the consistency we see in personal

behavior patterns. Measures of personality reveal

individual differences and help predict future behavior.

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Rural Colorado. The car banged over one last, brain-jarring rut and lurched toward the dilapi- dated farmhouse. Annette awaited one of your authors on the porch, hooting and whooping and

obviously happy to see an old friend arrive.

If anyone was suited for a move to the “wilds” of Colorado, it was Annette, a strong and

resourceful woman. Still, it was hard to imagine a more radical change. After separating from her

husband, she had traded a comfortable life in the city for rough times in the high country. Annette

was working as a ranch hand and a lumberjack (lumberjill?), trying to make it through some hard

winters. She had even recently decked a guy twice her size who was harassing her in a tavern. The

changes in Annette’s life were radical, and we worried that she might be entirely different. She

was, on the contrary, more her “old self ” than ever.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience. After several years of separation, it is always intrigu-

ing to see an old friend. At first, you may be struck by how the person has changed. (“Where did

you get that haircut!?”) Soon, however, you will probably be delighted to discover that the semi-

stranger before you is still the person you once knew. It is exactly this core of consistency that psy-

chologists have in mind when they use the term personality.

Without doubt, personality touches our daily lives. Falling in love, choosing friends, getting

along with coworkers, voting for a president, or coping with your zaniest relatives all raise ques-

tions about personality.

What is personality? How does it differ from character, temperament, or attitudes? Is it possible

to measure personality? Can we change our personality? We’ll address these questions and more

in this chapter.

Gateway QUESTIONS 12.1 How do psychologists use the term personality?

12.2 Are some personality traits more basic or important than others?

12.3 How do psychodynamic theories explain personality?

12.4 What are humanistic theories of personality?

12.5 What do behaviorists and social learning theorists emphasize in their approach to personality?

12.6 How do heredity and environment affect personality?

12.7 Which personality theory is right?

12.8 How do psychologists measure personality?

12.9 What causes shyness and what can be done about it?



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C h a p te r 1 2404

The Psychology of Personality— Do You Have Personality?

Gateway Question 12.1: How do psychologists use the term personality?

“Annette has a very optimistic personality.” “Ramiro’s not hand- some, but he has a great personality.” “My father’s business friends think he’s a nice guy. They should see him at home where his real personality comes out.” “It’s hard to believe Tanya and Nikki are sisters. They have such opposite personalities.”

It’s obvious that we all frequently use the term personality. But if you think that personality means “charm,” “charisma,” or “style,” you have misused the term. Many people also confuse personality with the term character, which implies that a person has been evaluated as possessing positive qualities, not just described (Bryan & Babelay, 2009). If, by saying someone has “personality,” you mean the person is friendly, outgoing, and upstanding, you might be describing what we regard as good character in our culture. But in some cultures, it is deemed good for people to be fierce, warlike, and cruel.

Psychologists regard personality as a person’s unique long-term pattern of thinking, emotions, and behavior (Burger, 2011; Ewen, 2009). In other words, personality refers to the consistency in who you are, have been, and will become. It also refers to the special blend of talents, values, hopes, loves, hates, and habits that makes each of us a unique person. So, everyone in a particular culture has personality, whereas not everyone has character—or at least not good character. (Do you know any good characters?)

Psychologists use a large number of concepts and theories to explain personality. It might be wise, therefore, to start with a few key ideas to help you keep your bearings as you read more about personality.

Traits We use the idea of traits every day to talk about personality. For instance, Daryl is sociable, orderly, and intelligent. His sister Hollie is shy, sensitive, and creative. As we observed in our reunion with Annette, personality traits like these can be quite stable (Rantanen et al., 2007; Engler, 2009). Think about how little your best friends have changed in the last 5 years. It would be strange indeed to feel like you were talking with a different person every time you met a friend or an acquaintance. In general, then, personality traits like these are stable qualities that a person shows in most situations (Matthews, Deary, & Whiteman, 2009). As you will see when you read further into this chapter, there is considerable debate about just why traits are stable qualities. But more about that later.

Typically, traits are inferred from behavior. If you see Daryl talk- ing to strangers—first at a supermarket and later at a party—you might deduce that he is “sociable.” Once personality traits are iden- tified, they can be used to predict future behavior. For example, noting that Daryl is outgoing might lead you to predict that he will be sociable at school or at work. In fact, such consistencies can span many years (Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005; Harker & Keltner, 2001). Traits even influence our health as well as our marital and occupational success (Roberts et al., 2007). For example, who do you think will be more successful in her chosen career: Jane, who is conscientious, or Sally, who is not (Brown et al., 2011; Chamorro- Premuzic & Furnham, 2003)?

Types Have you ever asked the question, “What type of person is she (or he)?” A personality type refers to people who have several traits in common (Larsen & Buss, 2010). Informally, your own thinking might include categories such as the executive type, the athletic type, the motherly type, the hip-hop type, the techno geek, and so Does this man have personality? Do you?

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Psychologists and employers are especially interested in the personality traits

of individuals who hold high-risk, high-stress positions involving public

safety, such as police, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and nuclear

power plant employees.

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Pe r s o n a l i t y 405

Character Personal characteristics that have been judged or evaluated; a person’s desirable or undesirable qualities.

Personality A person’s unique and relatively stable patterns of thinking, emotions, and behavior.

Personality trait A stable, enduring quality that a person shows in most situations.

Personality type A style of personality defined by a group of related traits. Introvert A person whose attention is focused inward; a shy, reserved,

self-centered person.

Extrovert A person whose attention is directed outward; a bold, outgoing person.

Self-concept A person’s perception of his or her own personality traits.

forth. If you tried to define these informal types, you would prob- ably list a different collection of traits for each one.

How valid is it to speak of personality “types”? Over the years, psychologists have proposed many ways to categorize personalities into types. For example, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (yoong ) pro- posed that people are either introverts or extroverts. An introvert is a shy, reserved person whose attention is usually focused inward. An extrovert is a bold, outgoing person whose attention is usually directed outward. These terms are so widely used that you may think of yourself and your friends as being one type or the other. However, knowing if someone is extroverted or introverted tells you little about how conscientious she is, or how kind or open to new ideas he is. In short, two categories (or even several) are often inadequate to fully capture differences in personality. That’s why rating people on a list of traits tends to be more informative than classifying them into two or three types (Engler, 2009).

Even though types tend to oversimplify personality, they do have value. Most often, types are a shorthand way of labeling peo- ple who have several key traits in common. For example, in the next chapter we will discuss Type A and Type B personalities. Type A’s are people who have personality traits that increase their chance of suffering a heart attack; Type B’s take a more laid-back approach to life (see • Figure 12.1). Similarly, you will read in Chapter 14 about unhealthy personality types such as the paranoid personality, the dependent personality, and the antisocial personality. Each prob- lem type is defined by a specific collection of traits that are not adaptive.

Self-Concept Self-concepts provide another way of understanding personality. The rough outlines of your self-concept could be revealed by this request: “Please tell us about yourself.” In other words, your self- concept consists of all your ideas, perceptions, stories, and feel- ings about who you are. It is the mental “picture” you have of your own personality (Swann, Chang-Schneider, & Larsen McClarty, 2007).

We creatively build our self-concepts out of daily experiences. Then, we slowly revise them as we have new experiences. Once a stable self-concept exists, it tends to guide what we pay attention to, remember, and think about. Because of this, self-concepts can greatly affect our behavior and personal adjustment—especially when they are inaccurate (Ryckman, 2008). For instance, Alesha is a student who thinks she is stupid, worthless, and a failure, despite getting good grades. With such an inaccurate self-concept, she tends to be depressed regardless of how well she does.

Type A





Personality TypeTraits




• Figure 12.1 Personality types are defined by the presence of several specific traits. For example, several possible personality traits are shown in the left column.

A person who has a Type A personality typically possesses all or most of the high-

lighted traits. Type A persons are especially prone to heart disease (see Chapter 13).

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Self-concepts can be remarkably consistent. In an interesting study, old people

were asked how they had changed over the years. Almost all thought they were

essentially the same person they were when they were young (Troll & Skaff,

1997). Ninety-three-year-old Nelson Mandela, for example, has been a highly

dignified and influential human rights activist for his entire adult life.

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C h a p te r 1 2406

can they be helped? To answer such questions, psychologists have created a dazzling array of theories. A personality theory is a sys- tem of concepts, assumptions, ideas, and principles proposed to explain personality (• Figure 12.2). In this chapter, we can explore

Self-Esteem and Culture—Hotshot or Team Player?Human Diversity

You and some friends are playing soccer. Your team wins, in part because you make

some good plays. After the game, you bask

in the glow of having performed well. You

don’t want to brag about being a hotshot,

but your self-esteem gets a boost from your

personal success.

In Japan, Shinobu and some of his friends

are playing soccer. His team wins, in part be-

cause he makes some good plays. After the

game, Shinobu is happy because his team

did well. However, Shinobu also dwells on

the ways in which he let his team down. He

thinks about how he could improve, and he

resolves to be a better team player.

These sketches illustrate a basic differ-

ence in Eastern and Western psychology. In

individualistic cultures such as the United

States, self-esteem is based on personal suc-

cess and outstanding performance (Lay &

Verkuyten, 1999). For us, the path to higher

self-esteem lies in self-enhancement. We are

pumped up by our successes and tend to

downplay our faults and failures (Ross et al.,


Japanese and other Asian cultures place a

greater emphasis on collectivism, or interde-

pendence among people. For them, self-

e s t e e m i s b a s e d o n a s e c u r e s e n s e o f

belonging to social groups. As a result, peo-

ple in Asian cultures are more apt to engage

in self-criticism (Ross et al., 2005). By correct-

ing personal faults, they add to the well-

being of the group (Kitayama, Markus, &

Kurokawa, 2000). And, when the group suc-

ceeds, individual members feel better about

themselves, which raises their self-esteem.

Perhaps self-esteem is still based on suc-

cess in both Eastern and Western cultures

(Brown et al., 2009). However, it is fascinating

that cultures define success in such different

ways (Schmitt & Allik , 2005). The Nor th

American emphasis on winning is not the

only way to feel good about yourself.



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• Figure 12.2 English psychologist Hans Eysenck (1916–1997) proposed the personality theory that many personality traits are related to whether you are

mainly introverted or extroverted and whether you tend to be emotionally stable or

unstable (highly emotional). These characteristics, in turn, are related to four basic

types of temperament first recognized by the early Greeks. The types are melan-

cholic (sad, gloomy), choleric (hot-tempered, irritable), phlegmatic (sluggish, calm),

and sanguine (cheerful, hopeful). Adapted from Eysenck, 1981.

Self-Esteem Note that in addition to having a faulty self-concept, Alesha has low self-esteem (a negative self-evaluation). A person with high self-esteem is confident, proud, and self-respecting. One who has low self-esteem is insecure, lacking in confidence, and self-critical. Like Alesha, people with low self-esteem are usually anxious and unhappy. People who have low self-esteem typically also suffer from poor self-knowledge. Their self-concepts are inconsistent, inaccurate, and confused. Problems of this type are explored later in this chapter.

Self-esteem tends to rise when we experience success or praise. It also buffers us against negative experiences (Brown, 2010). A person who is competent and effective and who is loved, admired, and respected by others will almost always have high self-esteem (Baumeister et al., 2003). The reasons for having high self-esteem, however, can vary in different cultures. See “Self-Esteem and Culture” for more information.

What if you “think you’re hot,” but you’re not? Genuine self- esteem is based on an accurate appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. A positive self-evaluation that is bestowed too easily may not be healthy (Kernis & Lakey, 2010; Twenge & Campbell, 2001). People who think very highly of themselves (and let others know it) may at first seem confident, but their arrogance quickly turns off other people (Paulhus, 1998).

The Whole Human: Personality Theories As you can already see, it would be easy to get lost without a frame- work for understanding personality. How do our thoughts, actions, and feelings relate to one another? How does personality develop? Why do some people suffer from psychological problems? How

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Pe r s o n a l i t y 407

Self-esteem Regarding oneself as a worthwhile person; a positive evaluation of oneself.

Personality theory A system of concepts, assumptions, ideas, and principles used to understand and explain personality.

Trait theorist A psychologist interested in classifying, analyzing, and interrelating traits to understand personality.

Common traits Personality traits that are shared by most members of a particular culture.

Individual traits Personality traits that define a person’s unique individual qualities.

only a few of the many personality theories. These are the four major perspectives we will consider:

1. Trait theories attempt to learn what traits make up per- sonality and how they relate to actual behavior.

2. Psychodynamic theories focus on the inner workings of per- sonality, especially internal conflicts and struggles.

3. Humanistic theories stress private, subjective experience, and personal growth.

4. Behaviorist and social learning theories place importance on the external environment and on the effects of condi- tioning and learning. Social learning theories attribute differ- ences in personality to socialization, expectations, and mental processes.

With these broad perspectives in mind, let’s take a deeper look at personality.

The Trait Approach—Describe Yourself in 18,000 Words or Less

Gateway Question 12.2: Are some personality traits more basic or important than others?

The trait approach is currently the dominant method for study- ing personality. Trait theorists seek to describe personality with a small number of key traits or factors. Take a moment to check the traits in ■ Table 12.1 that describe your personality. Don’t worry if some of your key traits weren’t in the table. More than 18,000 English words refer to personal characteristics. Are the traits you checked of equal importance? Are some stronger or more basic than others? Do any overlap? For example, if you checked “domi- nant,” did you also check “confident” and “bold”?

Answers to these questions would interest a trait theorist. To better understand personality, trait theorists attempt to analyze, classify, and interrelate traits. In addition, trait theorists often think of traits as biological predispositions, a hereditary readiness of

humans to behave in particular ways (Ashton, 2007). (We have encountered this idea before, in Chapter 3, in which we humans were described as having a biological predisposition to learn lan- guage.) As we have noted, traits are stable dispositions that a per- son shows in most situations (Matthews, Deary, & Whiteman, 2009). For example, if you are usually friendly, optimistic, and cau- tious, these qualities are traits of your personality.

What if I am also sometimes shy, pessimistic, or uninhibited? The original three qualities are still traits as long as they are most typical of your behavior. Let’s say our friend Annette approaches most situations with optimism, but tends to expect the worst each time she applies for a job and worries that she won’t get it. If her pessi- mism is limited to this situation or just a few others, it is still accu- rate and useful to describe her as an optimistic person.

Predicting Behavior As we have noted, separating people into broad types, such as “introvert” or “extrovert,” may oversimplify personality. However, introversion/extroversion can also be thought of as a trait. Know- ing how you rate on this single dimension would allow us to pre- dict how you will behave in a variety of settings. How, for example, do you prefer to meet people—face-to-face or through the Inter- net? Researchers have found that students high in the trait of introversion are more likely to prefer the Internet because they find it easier to talk with people online (Koch & Pratarelli, 2004; Rice & Markey, 2009). Other interesting links exist between traits and behavior. See “What’s Your Musical Personality?”

Classifying Traits Are there different types of traits? Yes, psychologist Gordon Allport (1961) identified several kinds. Common traits are characteristics shared by most members of a culture. Common traits tell us how people from a particular nation or culture are similar, or which traits a culture emphasizes. In America, for example, competitive- ness is a fairly common trait. Among the Hopi of northern Ari- zona, however, it is relatively rare.

Of course, common traits don’t tell us much about individuals. Although many people are competitive in American culture, vari- ous people you know may rate high, medium, or low in this trait. Usually we are also interested in individual traits, which describe a person’s unique qualities.

Adjective Checklist

Check the traits you feel are characteristic of your personality. Are some

more basic than others?

aggressive organized ambitious clever

confident loyal generous calm

warm bold cautious reliable

sensitive mature talented jealous

sociable honest funny religious

dominant dull accurate nervous

humble uninhibited visionary cheerful

thoughtful serious helpful emotional

orderly anxious conforming good-natured

liberal curious optimistic kind

meek neighborly passionate compulsive

■ TABLE 12.1

Copyright © Cengage Learning 2013

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C h a p te r 1 2408

Here’s an analog y to help you separate common traits from individual traits: If you decide to buy a pet dog, you will want to know the general characteristics of the dog’s breed (its common traits). In addition, you will want to know about the “personality” of a specific dog (its individual traits) before you decide to take it home.

Allport also made distinctions between cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. Cardinal traits are so basic that all of a person’s activities can be traced to the trait. For instance, com- passion was an overriding trait of Mother Teresa’s personality. Likewise, Abraham Lincoln’s personality was dominated by the cardinal trait of honesty. According to Allport, few people have cardinal traits.

Central Traits How do central and secondary traits differ from cardinal traits? Cen- tral traits are the basic building blocks of personality. A surpris- ingly small number of central traits can capture the essence of a person. For instance, just six traits would provide a good descrip- tion of Annette’s personality: dominant, sociable, honest, cheerful, intelligent, and optimistic. When college students were asked to describe someone they knew well, they mentioned an average of seven central traits (Allport, 1961).

Secondary traits are more superficial personal qualities, such as food preferences, attitudes, political opinions, musical tastes, and so forth. In Allport’s terms, a personality description might there- fore include the following items:

Name: Jane Doe Age: 22 Cardinal traits: None Central traits: Possessive, autonomous, artistic, dramatic,

self-centered, trusting Secondary traits: Prefers colorful clothes, likes to work alone,

politically liberal, always late

Source Traits How can you tell whether a personality trait is central or secondary? Raymond B. Cattell (1906–1998) tried to answer this question by directly studying the traits of a large number of people. Cattell began by measuring visible features of personality, which he called surface traits. Soon, Cattell noticed that these surface traits often appeared together in groups. In fact, some traits clustered together so often that they seemed to represent a single, more basic trait. Cattell called these deeper characteristics, or dimensions, source traits (or factors) (Cattell, 1965). They are the core of each indi- vidual’s personality.

How do source traits differ from Allport’s central traits? Allport clas- sified traits subjectively, and it’s possible that he was wrong at times. To look for connections among traits, Cattell used factor analysis, a statistical technique used to correlate multiple measurements and identify general underlying factors. For example, he found that imaginative people are almost always inventive, original, curious, cre- ative, innovative, and ingenious. If you are an imaginative person, we automatically know that you have several other traits, too. Thus, imaginative is a source trait. (Source traits are also called factors.)

Cattell (1973) identified 16 source traits. According to him, all 16 are needed to fully describe a personality. Source traits are mea- sured by a test called the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (often referred to as the 16  PF). Like many personality tests, the 16 PF can be used to produce a trait profile, or graph, of a person’s score on each trait. Trait profiles draw a “picture” of individual personalities, which makes it easier to compare them (• Figure 12.3).

The Big Five Noel is outgoing and friendly, conscientious, even-tempered, and curious. His brother Joel is reserved, hostile, irresponsible, tem- peramental, and disinterested in ideas. You will be spending a week in a space capsule with either Noel or Joel. Who would you

What’s Your Musical Personality?Discovering Psychology

Even if you like all kinds of music, you probably prefer some styles to others. Of the

styles listed here, which three do you enjoy

the most? (Circle your choices.)

blues jazz classical folk

rock alternative heavy metal

country soundtrack religious

pop rap/hip-hop soul/funk


In one study, Peter Rentfrow and Samuel

Gosling found that the types of music peo-

ple prefer tend to be associated with their

personality characteristics (Rentfrow & Gos-

ling, 2003). See if your musical tastes match

their findings (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007):

• People who value aesthetic experiences,

have good verbal abilities, and are liberal

and tolerant of others tend to like music

that is reflective and complex (blues, jazz,

classical, and folk music).

• People who are curious about new expe-

riences, enjoy taking risks, and are physi-

cally active prefer intense, rebellious

music (rock, alternative, and heavy metal


• People who are cheerful, conventional,

extroverted, reliable, helpful, and conser-

vative tend to enjoy upbeat conventional

music (country, soundtrack, religious,

and pop music).

• People who are talkative, full of energy,

forgiving, and physically attractive, and

who reject conservative ideals tend to

prefer energetic, rhythmic music (rap/

hip-hop, soul/funk, and electronic/dance


Unmistakably, personality traits affect our

everyday behavior (Rentfrow, Goldberg, &

Levitin, 2011).

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Pe r s o n a l i t y 409

Cardinal trait A personality trait so basic that all of a person’s activities relate to it.

Central traits The core traits that characterize an individual personality.

Secondary traits Traits that are inconsistent or relatively superficial.

Surface traits The visible or observable traits of one’s personality.

Source traits (factors) Basic underlying traits, or dimensions, of personality; each

source trait is reflected in a number of

surface traits.

Factor …