Senin, 15 Oktober 2007

Studying Personality

Living with people is probably the best way to determine their personality, as many college roommates have found out. Unfortunately, living with someone, as a method of personality assessment, takes too long and is fraught with ethical implications. So, how do psychologists measure personality in a reasonable time and without ethical violations?

All of the methods below will be affected by one of the basic problems in any type of personality assessment, namely the discrepancy between self report and actual behavior. This problem may occur without subjects realizing it, and it highlights the fact the we are often unaware of the biases we possess about ourselves. We are often struck by the discrepancy in how others view us compared to how we see ourselves. For example, I was shocked to learn some years ago that students find me a fearful stimulus, because I consider myself as easy going and pleasant. My colleagues all laugh when I tell that story, so I guess they do not find me that easy going and pleasant either. Now, I take extra effort in the first few classes to appear less scary.

The problem of self-report and actual behavior may also be created intentionally. Often, we take pains to present a certain image to the rest of the world, and that image may not reflect our actual personality or behavior. Dating, for instance, has been criticized because people tend to try to project an image, rather than their true selves, while dating. When I have interviewed, for example, I wear a suit or a sport coat. But they are the only suit and sport coat I own. When I wear them on campus, jaws drop and people ask me why I am wearing them. More seriously, criminals and mental patients may have good reason to cover up their true natures and intentions in order to be discharged from prison or therapy, respectively. With the above in mind, let's examine a few methods for studying personality.

At first glance, an interview may not seem like a very sophisticated method for determining personality. However, a skilled interviewer may be able to determine and infer much from a short interview. Interviews come in two basic types. The structured interview treats all interviewees as similarly as possible in order to assess differences among them. Employment interviews or college admission interviews may be seen as structured interviews. Unstructured interviews are less rigid by definition. An interviewer conducting such interviews may allow each interview to follow its own unique path. Interviewees may be encouraged to pursue topics they have brought up. In the hands of practiced interviewers, unstructured interviews allow deeper penetration into the personality than do structured interviews. All serious decisions concerning therapy, admission to mental health in-patient therapy, or other such situations nearly always include one or more interviews.

Rating scales have been developed to provide a tool for quickly determining both your own personality and the personality of others. Rating scales of self are particularly subject to problems relating to self-knowledge. In other words, the better you know yourself, the better the rating will be. The same logic applies to ratings of others. An interesting problem with ratings, in general, is the halo effect. The halo effect states that extreme scores on one rating will affect nearby subsequent scores in the same direction. So, an extreme negative rating on an item will bias the next several items in a negative direction. The effect also holds for extreme positive ratings. In essay tests, you can exploit the halo effect by submitting your best answer first. Do not try it with me because I read essay tests by the question, not by the student, so that I may control for the halo effect.

Personality inventories have been discussed earlier. They include the 16 PF, the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), the CPI (California Personality Inventory), and many others. All of these techniques ask subjects a great many questions in a pencil-and-paper format, and then the answers yield scores on a number of scales. Those scale scores are usually reported in a standard way with lines connecting them, thus, the "personality profile." The MMPI also includes scales designed to check for random responding and faking "tough" or "nice." One should not rely on scores on inventories as the only method of assessment. But when used correctly, they provide a valuable shortcut to a quick view into an individual's personality.

Projective techniques originally stemmed from psychoanalytic theory. They were designed to tap into a person's unconscious without that person being aware of such probing. The most famous such technique is the Rorschach Inkblot test (see Handout 17 4). Subjects are asked to describe all of the possible things they perceive a particular inkblot to be. Responses are analyzed according to a prescribed method. Another projective test is the TAT or Thematic Apperception Test. In the TAT, subjects are shown a series of pictures of ambiguous situations. They are then asked to tell a story about the people in the picture: Who are they, how did they get there, what are they doing, what is going to happen? Suppose, for example, a picture of two women walking down a country road at sunset toward a small house in the background, is shown. If a subject says that they live in the house, are mother and daughter, they just had dinner, and are enjoying a quiet evening's walk, that is one thing. But, if the story is that the two women's car broke down nearby, they are walking toward the house for help, but will not get it because they will be harmed, then those two stories might prove useful in further questioning of each subject. Finally, the Draw-a-person type of test asks subjects to draw themselves, their family members, or even their houses. Their drawings are then interpreted. One 6-year-old girl I tested drew her parents and siblings as huge, and herself as very small. I interpreted that as a reflection of her perception of her role in the family. Projective tests can be very useful in individual cases, but are usually not used in making comparisons between subjects.


* Personality Tests on the WWW--index, basic, short, links, graphics
o Offers 21 links to on-line personality tests. Includes tests for type-A personality, left or right brain, assertiveness, and others.
* Spending Personality Self-Test--interactive, basic, medium, links
o Page contains on-line version of commercially available test users may take in order to analyze their spending habits.
* Somatic Inkblot Series--index, adv., short, links, graphics
o Home page of the Somatic Inkblot Series, dedicated to the use of projective techniques. The page has links to sample inkblots, a journal, membership information, and others.
* Keirsey Temperament Sorter--interactive, interm., long, links
o Users may take this personality test based upon Jung's theories. The test yields 16 combinations of personality types.
* Axiom Software Ltd.--index, basic, short, links, graphics
o Home page of provider of personality-profiling test, DISC, page has links to information on personality profiling and other topics.
* The Personality Tests--index, basic, short, links, graphics, Java
o Links to on-line interactive personality tests includes: Keirsey Temperament Sorter, Enneagram, Personality Profile, Color Test, and the Maykorner Test (requires Java).

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