Friday, February 16, 2018

Curvature Blindness Illusion


All the lines crossing the page are the same shape half appear zig-zagged against the grey background.

The Remarkable “Curvature Blindness” Illusion

Humanistic Approaches


Humanistic Approaches

As the “third force” in psychology, humanism is touted as a reaction both to the pessimistic determinism of psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on psychological disturbance, and to the behaviorists’ view of humans passively reacting to the environment, which has been criticized as making people out to be personality-less robots. It does not suggest that psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and other points of view are incorrect but argues that these perspectives do not recognize the depth and meaning of human experience, and fail to recognize the innate capacity for self-directed change and transforming personal experiences. This perspective focuses on how healthy people develop. One pioneering humanist, Abraham Maslow, studied people who he considered to be healthy, creative, and productive, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others. Maslow (1950, 1970) found that such people share similar characteristics, such as being open, creative, loving, spontaneous, compassionate, concerned for others, and accepting of themselves. When you studied motivation, you learned about one of the best-known humanistic theories, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, in which Maslow proposes that human beings have certain needs in common and that these needs must be met in a certain order. The highest need is the need for self-actualization, which is the achievement of our fullest potential.(1)

Another humanistic theorist was Carl Rogers. One of Rogers’s main ideas about personality regards self-concept, our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. How would you respond to the question, “Who am I?” Your answer can show how you see yourself. If your response is primarily positive, then you tend to feel good about who you are, and you see the world as a safe and positive place. If your response is mainly negative, then you may feel unhappy with who you are. Rogers further divided the self into two categories: the ideal self and the real self. The ideal self is the person that you would like to be; the real self is the person you actually are. Rogers focused on the idea that we need to achieve consistency between these two selves. We experience congruence when our thoughts about our real self and ideal self are very similar—in other words, when our self-concept is accurate.(1)

High congruence leads to a greater sense of self-worth and a healthy, productive life. Parents can help their children achieve this by giving them unconditional positive regard, or unconditional love. According to Rogers (1980), “As persons are accepted and prized, they tend to develop a more caring attitude towards themselves” (p. 116). People raised in an environment of unconditional positive regard, in which no preconceived conditions of worth are present, have the opportunity to fully actualize. When people are raised in an environment of conditional positive regard, in which worth and love are only given under certain conditions, they must match or achieve those conditions in order to receive the love or positive regard they yearn for. Their ideal self is thereby determined by others based on these conditions, and they are forced to develop outside of their own true actualizing tendency; this contributes to incongruence and a greater gap between the real self and the ideal self. Both Rogers’s and Maslow’s theories focus on individual choices and do not believe that biology is deterministic.(1)


Unconditional Positive Regard
In the development of the self-concept, Rogers elevated the importance of unconditional positive regard, or unconditional love. Personality Development and the Self-Concept.(1)

Rogers based his theories of personality development on humanistic psychology and theories of subjective experience. He believed that everyone exists in a constantly changing world of experiences that they are at the center of. A person reacts to changes in their phenomenal field, which includes external objects and people as well as internal thoughts and emotions.(1)

Rogers believed that all behavior is motivated by self-actualizing tendencies, which drive a person to achieve at their highest level. As a result of their interactions with the environment and others, an individual forms a structure of the self or self-concept—an organized, fluid, conceptual pattern of concepts and values related to the self. If a person has a positive self-concept, they tend to feel good about who they are and often see the world as a safe and positive place. If they have a negative self-concept, they may feel unhappy with who they are.(1)

“The Good Life”
Rogers described life in terms of principles rather than stages of development. These principles exist in fluid processes rather than static states. He claimed that a fully functioning person would continually aim to fulfill his or her potential in each of these processes, achieving what he called “the good life.” These people would allow personality and self-concept to emanate from experience. He found that fully functioning individuals had several traits or tendencies in common

1. A growing openness to experience–they move away from defensiveness.
2.An increasingly existential lifestyle–living each moment fully, rather than distorting the moment to fit personality or self-concept.
3. Increasing organismic trust–they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment.
4. Freedom of choice–they are not restricted by incongruence and are able to make a wide range of choices more fluently. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behavior and so feel responsible for their own behavior.
5. Higher levels of creativity–they will be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.
6. Reliability and constructiveness–they can be trusted to act constructively. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.
7. A rich full life–they will experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely.(1)

Criticisms of Humanist Theories
Like Maslow’s theories, Rogers’ were criticized for their lack of empirical evidence used in research. The holistic approach of humanism allows for a great deal of variation but does not identify enough constant variables to be researched with true accuracy. Psychologists also worry that such an extreme focus on the subjective experience of the individual does little to explain or appreciate the impact of society on personality development.(1)





Thursday, February 15, 2018

Learning Approaches to Personality

In contrast to the psychodynamic approaches of Freud and the neo-Freudians, which relate personality to inner (and hidden) processes, the learning approaches focus only on observable behavior. This illustrates one significant advantage of the learning approaches to personality over psychodynamics: Because learning approaches involve observable, measurable phenomena, they can be scientifically tested.(1)


The Behavioral Perspective
Behaviorists do not believe in biological determinism: They do not see personality traits as inborn. Instead, they view personality as significantly shaped by the reinforcements and consequences outside of the organism. In other words, people behave in a consistent manner based on prior learning. B. F. Skinner, a strict behaviorist, believed that environment was solely responsible for all behavior, including the enduring, consistent behavior patterns studied by personality theorists.(1)

Skinner proposed that we demonstrate consistent behavior patterns because we have developed certain response tendencies (Skinner, 1953). In other words, we learn to behave in particular ways. We increase the behaviors that lead to positive consequences, and we decrease the behaviors that lead to negative consequences. Skinner disagreed with Freud’s idea that personality is fixed in childhood. He argued that personality develops over our entire life, not only in the first few years. Our responses can change as we come across new situations; therefore, we can expect more variability over time in personality than Freud would anticipate. For example, consider a young woman, Greta, a risk taker. She drives fast and participates in dangerous sports such as hang gliding and kiteboarding. But after she gets married and has children, the system of reinforcements and punishments in her environment changes. Speeding and extreme sports are no longer reinforced, so she no longer engages in those behaviors. In fact, Greta now describes herself as a cautious person.(1)


The Social-Cognitive Perspective

Albert Bandura agreed with Skinner that personality develops through learning. He disagreed, however, with Skinner’s strict behaviorist approach to personality development, because he felt that thinking and reasoning are important components of learning. He presented a social-cognitive theory of personality that emphasizes both learning and cognition as sources of individual differences in personality. In social-cognitive theory, the concepts of reciprocal determinism, observational learning, and self-efficacy all play a part in personality development.(1)


Reciprocal Determinism
In contrast to Skinner’s idea that the environment alone determines behavior, Bandura (1990) proposed the concept of reciprocal determinism, in which cognitive processes, behavior, and context all interact, each factor influencing and being influenced by the others simultaneously (Figure 1). Cognitive processes refer to all characteristics previously learned, including beliefs, expectations, and personality characteristics. Behavior refers to anything that we do that may be rewarded or punished. Finally, the context in which the behavior occurs refers to the environment or situation, which includes rewarding/punishing stimuli.(1)

Consider, for example, that you’re at a festival and one of the attractions is bungee jumping from a bridge. Do you do it? In this example, the behavior is bungee jumping. Cognitive factors that might influence this behavior include your beliefs and values, and your past experiences with similar behaviors. Finally, context refers to the reward structure for the behavior. According to reciprocal determinism, all of these factors are in play.(1)


Observational Learning
Bandura’s key contribution to learning theory was the idea that much learning is vicarious. We learn by observing someone else’s behavior and its consequences, which Bandura called observational learning. He felt that this type of learning also plays a part in the development of our personality. Just as we learn individual behaviors, we learn new behavior patterns when we see them performed by other people or models. Drawing on the behaviorists’ ideas about reinforcement, Bandura suggested that whether we choose to imitate a model’s behavior depends on whether we see the model reinforced or punished. Through observational learning, we come to learn what behaviors are acceptable and rewarded in our culture, and we also learn to inhibit deviant or socially unacceptable behaviors by seeing what behaviors are punished.(1)

We can see the principles of reciprocal determinism at work in observational learning. For example, personal factors determine which behaviors in the environment a person chooses to imitate, and those environmental events in turn are processed cognitively according to other personal factors.


Self-Efficacy
Bandura (1977, 1995) has studied a number of cognitive and personal factors that affect learning and personality development, and most recently has focused on the concept of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is our level of confidence in our own abilities, developed through our social experiences. Self-efficacy affects how we approach challenges and reach goals. In observational learning, self-efficacy is a cognitive factor that affects which behaviors we choose to imitate as well as our success in performing those behaviors.

People who have high self-efficacy believe that their goals are within reach, have a positive view of challenges seeing them as tasks to be mastered, develop a deep interest in and strong commitment to the activities in which they are involved, and quickly recover from setbacks. Conversely, people with low self-efficacy avoid challenging tasks because they doubt their ability to be successful, tend to focus on failure and negative outcomes, and lose confidence in their abilities if they experience setbacks. Feelings of self-efficacy can be specific to certain situations. For instance, a student might feel confident in her ability in English class but much less so in math class.


Julian Rotter and Locus of Control

Julian Rotter (1966) proposed the concept of locus of control, another cognitive factor that affects learning and personality development. Distinct from self-efficacy, which involves our belief in our own abilities, locus of control refers to our beliefs about the power we have over our lives. In Rotter’s view, people possess either an internal or an external locus of control (Figure 2). Those of us with an internal locus of control (“internals”) tend to believe that most of our outcomes are the direct result of our efforts. Those of us with an external locus of control (“externals”) tend to believe that our outcomes are outside of our control. Externals see their lives as being controlled by other people, luck, or chance. For example, say you didn’t spend much time studying for your psychology test and went out to dinner with friends instead. When you receive your test score, you see that you earned a D. If you possess an internal locus of control, you would most likely admit that you failed because you didn’t spend enough time studying and decide to study more for the next test. On the other hand, if you possess an external locus of control, you might conclude that the test was too hard and not bother studying for the next test, because you figure you will fail it anyway. Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control perform better academically, achieve more in their careers, are more independent, are healthier, are better able to cope, and are less depressed than people who have an external locus of control (Benassi, Sweeney, & Durfour, 1988; Lefcourt, 1982; Maltby, Day, & Macaskill, 2007; Whyte, 1977, 1978, 1980).(1)


Walter Mischel and the Person-Situation Debate
Walter Mischel was a student of Julian Rotter and taught for years at Stanford, where he was a colleague of Albert Bandura. Mischel surveyed several decades of empirical psychological literature regarding trait prediction of behavior, and his conclusion shook the foundations of personality psychology. Mischel found that the data did not support the central principle of the field—that a person’s personality traits are consistent across situations. His report triggered a decades-long period of self-examination, known as the person-situation debate, among personality psychologists.(1)

Mischel suggested that perhaps we were looking for consistency in the wrong places. He found that although behavior was inconsistent across different situations, it was much more consistent within situations—so that a person’s behavior in one situation would likely be repeated in a similar one. And as you will see next regarding his famous “marshmallow test,” Mischel also found that behavior is consistent in equivalent situations across time.(1)

One of Mischel’s most notable contributions to personality psychology was his ideas on self-regulation. According to Lecci & Magnavita (2013), “Self-regulation is the process of identifying a goal or set of goals and, in pursuing these goals, using both internal (e.g., thoughts and affect) and external (e.g., responses of anything or anyone in the environment) feedback to maximize goal attainment” (p. 6.3). Self-regulation is also known as will power. When we talk about will power, we tend to think of it as the ability to delay gratification. For example, Bettina’s teenage daughter made strawberry cupcakes, and they looked delicious. However, Bettina forfeited the pleasure of eating one, because she is training for a 5K race and wants to be fit and do well in the race. Would you be able to resist getting a small reward now in order to get a larger reward later? This is the question Mischel investigated in his now-classic marshmallow test.(1)

Mischel designed a study to assess self-regulation in young children. In the marshmallow study, Mischel and his colleagues placed a preschool child in a room with one marshmallow on the table. The child was told that he could either eat the marshmallow now, or wait until the researcher returned to the room and then he could have two marshmallows (Mischel, Ebbesen & Raskoff, 1972). This was repeated with hundreds of preschoolers. What Mischel and his team found was that young children differ in their degree of self-control. Mischel and his colleagues continued to follow this group of preschoolers through high school, and what do you think they discovered? The children who had more self-control in preschool (the ones who waited for the bigger reward) were more successful in high school. They had higher SAT scores, had positive peer relationships, and were less likely to have substance abuse issues; as adults, they also had more stable marriages (Mischel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989; Mischel et al., 2010). On the other hand, those children who had poor self-control in preschool (the ones who grabbed the one marshmallow) were not as successful in high school, and they were found to have academic and behavioral problems.(1)





Monday, February 12, 2018

Trait Perspective on Personality (Notes)

Personality Traits

Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion.(2)

When we observe people around us, one of the first things that strikes us is how different people are from one another. Some people are very talkative while others are very quiet. Some are active whereas others are couch potatoes. Some worry a lot, others almost never seem anxious. Each time we use one of these words, words like “talkative,” “quiet,” “active,” or “anxious,” to describe those around us, we are talking about a person’s personality—the characteristic ways that people differ from one another. Personality psychologists try to describe and understand these differences.(1)
Personality traits reflect basic dimensions on which people differ . According to trait psychologists, there are a limited number of these dimensions (dimensions like Extraversion, Conscientiousness, or Agreeableness), and each individual falls somewhere on each dimension, meaning that they could be low, medium, or high on any specific trait.(1)

An important feature of personality traits is that they reflect continuous distributions rather than distinct personality typesThis means that when personality psychologists talk about Introverts and Extraverts, they are not really talking about two distinct types of people who are completely and qualitatively different from one another. Instead, they are talking about people who score relatively low or relatively high along a continuous distribution. In fact, when personality psychologists measure traits like Extraversion, they typically find that most people score somewhere in the middle, with smaller numbers showing more extreme levels.(1)

There are three assumptions that characterize personality traits: 1) consistency, 2) stability, and 3) individual differences.

1.To have a personality trait, individuals must be somewhat consistent across situations in their behaviors related to the trait. For example, if they are talkative at home, they tend also to be talkative at work.

2. Individuals with a trait are also somewhat stable over time in behaviors related to the trait. If they are talkative, for example, at age 30, they will also tend to be talkative at age 40.

3. People differ from one another on behaviors related to the trait. Using speech is not a personality trait and neither is walking on two feet—virtually all individuals do these activities, and there are almost no individual differences. But people differ on how frequently they talk and how active they are, and thus personality traits such as Talkativeness and Activity Level do exist.(1)


History

In 1936, psychologists Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert extracted approximately 4,500 terms from Webster’s New International Dictionary which described types of behavior or personality traits.(3)

In the 1940s, Raymond Cattell reduced Allport and Odbert's list of traits to 171 words by eliminating synonyms. From there he applied a statistical procedure known as factor analysis to "analyze the correlations among traits and to identify the most important ones. On the basis of his research, he identified what he called “source” (more important) and “surface” (less important) traits, and he developed a measure that assesses 16 dimensions of traits based on personality adjectives taken from everyday language."(4)

"Investigation into the five factor model started in 1949 when D.W. Fiske was unable to find support for Cattell’s expansive 16 factors of personality, but instead found support for only five factors. Research increased in the 1980s and 1990s, offering increasing support for the five factor model. The five factor personality traits show consistency in interviews, self-descriptions, and observations, as well as across a wide range of participants of different ages and from different cultures. It is the most widely accepted structure among trait theorists and in personality psychology today, and the most accurate approximation of the basic trait dimensions."(5)

"Because this model was developed independently by different theorists, the names of each of the five factors—and what each factor measures—differ according to which theorist is referencing it."(5) "At least four sets of researchers have worked independently for decades on this problem and have identified generally the same five factors: Tupes and Christal were first, followed by Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute, Cattell at the University of Illinois, and Costa and McCrae at the National Institutes of Health."(6)


Lexical Approach

One of the approaches trait theorist employ is referred to as a lexical approach to personality, which assumes that traits can be described using single adjectives or descriptive phrases. If enough people regularly exhibit a form of behavior and no term exists in a given language to describe it, then according to the lexical hypothesis, a term will be created so that the trait may be considered and discussed with others.(3)


Criticism of Trait Perspective

Situational Influences on Personality
The person–situation debate in personality psychology refers to the controversy concerning whether the person or the situation is more influential in determining a person's behavior. Personality trait psychologists believe that people have consistent personalities that guide their behaviors across situations. Situationists, opponents of the trait approach, argue that people are not consistent enough from situation to situation to be characterized by broad personality traits.(7)

In his 1968 book Personality and Assessment, Walter Mischel asserted that personality instruments could not predict behavior with a correlation of more than 0.3. Social psychologists like Mischel argued that attitudes and behavior were not stable, but varied with the situation.(6)

In the years after the publication of Mischel’s (1968) book, debates raged about whether personality truly exists, and if so, how it should be studied. And, as is often the case, it turns out that a more moderate middle ground than what the situationists proposed could be reached. It is certainly true, as Mischel pointed out, that a person’s behavior in one specific situation is not a good guide to how that person will behave in a very different specific situation. Someone who is extremely talkative at one specific party may sometimes be reticent to speak up during class and may even act like a wallflower at a different party. But this does not mean that personality does not exist, nor does it mean that people’s behavior is completely determined by situational factors. Indeed, research conducted after the person-situation debate shows that on average, the effect of the “situation” is about as large as that of personality traits. However, it is also true that if psychologists assess a broad range of behaviors across many different situations, there are general tendencies that emerge. Personality traits give an indication about how people will act on average, but frequently they are not so good at predicting how a person will act in a specific situation at a certain moment in time.(1)



(1) Personality Traits: NOBA
(2)Wikipedia: Trait Theory
(3) Five-Factor Model of Personality: Psychologist World
(4) Introduction to Psychology (Open + Free)
(5) Lumen: Trait Perspective on Personality
(6) Big Five Personality Traits: Wikipedia
(7) Person-situation debate: Wikipedia

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Biological Approaches to Personality

How much of our personality is in-born and biological, and how much is influenced by the environment and culture we are raised in? Psychologists who favor the biological approach believe that inherited predispositions as well as physiological processes can be used to explain differences in our personalities (Burger, 2008).(1)

The biological perspective on personality emphasizes the internal physiological and genetic factors that influence personality. It focuses on why or how personality traits manifest through biology and investigates the links between personality, DNA, and processes in the brain. This research can include the investigation of anatomical, chemical, or genetic influences and is primarily accomplished through correlating personality traits with scientific data from experimental methods such as brain imaging and molecular genetics.(1)


Temperment
In psychology, “temperament” refers to the personality tendencies that we show at birth (and that are therefore biologically determined). For example, Thomas and Chess (1977) found that babies could be categorized into one of three temperaments: easy, difficult, or slow to warm up. After birth, environmental factors (such as family interactions) and maturation interact with a child’s temperament to shape their personality (Carter et al., 2008).

Research suggests that there are two dimensions of our temperament that are important parts of our adult personality: reactivity and self-regulation (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000). Reactivity refers to how we respond to new or challenging environmental stimuli; self-regulation refers to our ability to control that response (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981; Rothbart, Sheese, Rueda, & Posner, 2011). For example, one person may immediately respond to a new stimulus with a high level of anxiety while another barely notices it.(2)

Genes and Personality
In the field of behavioral genetics, the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart—a well-known study of the genetic basis for personality—conducted research with twins from 1979 to 1999. In studying 350 pairs of twins, including pairs of identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart, researchers found that identical twins, whether raised together or apart, have very similar personalities (Bouchard, 1994; Bouchard, Lykken, McGue, Segal, & Tellegen, 1990; Segal, 2012).(2)

These findings suggest the heritability of some personality traits, implying that some aspects of our personalities are largely controlled by genetics. Multiple twin studies have found that identical twins do have higher correlations in personality traits than fraternal twins. While identical twins may have some similar personality traits, however, they still have distinct personalities, suggesting that genetics are not the only factor in determining personality. One study measuring genetic influence on twins in five different countries found that correlations for traits between identical twins were 0.50 (i.e., they had 50% of traits in common), while for fraternal twins were about 0.20 (i.e., they had 20% of traits in common). These findings suggest that heredity and environment interact to determine an individual’s personality.(2)

It’s important to point out that traits are determined not by a single gene, but by a combination of many genes, and also by environmental factors that control whether certain genes are expressed. Many personality studies today investigate the activation and expression of genes and how they relate to personality. How DNA interacts with the environment determines what part of the DNA code is actually activated within an individual—in other words, which genes will be expressed. These small changes in individuals’ DNA help determine each person’s uniqueness—their distinct looks, abilities, brain functioning, and other characteristics that all work together to form a cohesive personality.(2)


The Brain and Personality
The biological approach to personality has also identified areas and pathways within the brain that are associated with the development of personality. A number of theorists, such as Hans Eysenck, Gordon Allport, and Raymond Cattell, believe that personality traits can be traced back to brain structures and neural mechanisms, such as dopamine and seratonin pathways. Researchers using a biological perspective will seek to understand how hormones, neurotransmitters, and different areas of the brain all interact to affect personality.(2)

One of the first documented cases that demonstrated the link between personality and the brain was that of Phineas Gage. In 1858, Gage was working as a blasting foreman for a railroad company. Due to a faulty blast, a railroad spike was blown through his head; miraculously, he survived the accident.(2)

The spike pierced Gage’s frontal lobe, and Gage experienced many subsequent changes in aspects of personality that we now know are associated with this area of the brain. The changes in Gage’s personality after his brain injury spurred interest in the biological factors involved in personality and implicated the frontal lobe as an important area associated with higher-order personality functions.(2)

Strengths of the Biological Perspective
One strength of the biological perspective is its strict adherence to scientific methodology. All factors are reduced to quantifiable variables that can be reliably measured by personality trait models and questionnaires. The personality measures are standardized across measurements, and these measures of personality are very compatible with statistical analyses, providing an easily administered and measurable definition of personality.(2)

This method can also be deterministic, meaning that some factors are identified as causal—i.e., certain brain structures or patterns may be identified as causing certain psychological outcomes. Because of this, the biological perspective can be useful in identifying causes of and effective treatments for personality and mood disorders. For example, identifying seratonin imbalance as a cause of depression led to the development of selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have been found to be an effective treatment for depression.(2)


Limitations of the Biological Perspective
A limitation of this perspective is that it focuses almost exclusively on the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate (the debate about whether genetics or environment are more influential in human development). Because of this exclusive focus, other factors that are integral to personality are not included. Hormones, neurotransmitters, and genetics are the key factors in this focus; the effects of environmental and social factors, however, are often overlooked. Twin studies have shown that heritable factors are not the only predictor of personality or even diseases such as schizophrenia; the biological perspective does not fully address non-heritable factors.