Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chapter 11 Journal

Chapter 11 discusses the personality psychologists and the origin of personality study. The main goals of personality study is to explain the differences in characteristics of individuals and their accompanying behaviors as well as determining how best to judge other people’s character and know what to expect of them. From early on people tried to explain personality, through astrology and physiognomy with the latter still enduring. Physiognomy involved the use of physical traits to explain personality traits; people today still judge the character of others based only on their physical features. The most rational idea before the scientific exploration of psychology was proposed by Christian Thomasius. He thought the best way to measure personality was to assign a certain number to each trait, a thought that would be tested even after his time. The first person to truly dig into personality was Robert Woodworth; he was asked to come up with a system to identify emotionally disturbed recruits for WW1 and he set out to do so. He created a test called the Personal Data Sheet, a primitive and obvious test, but it led to an expansion of the study of personality. Woodworth’s Personal Data Sheet was followed by the Bernreuter Personality Inventory which attempted to measure introversion, dominance, neuroticism and self-sufficiency, despite no empirical evidence to his inventory. This was followed by a trait-centered theory by Hugh Hartshone and Mark May, assessing paper and pencil testing to actual behavior and the results indicated that people are often unaware of or lie about their true natures. Harvard Allport took these results and applied Gestalt ideas, allowing him to conclude that behavior could be inconsistent in specific ways due to a hierarchy of traits, but consistent in larger ways. Since these psychologists much research has been done into personality and many tests have been created to assess personality in a more accurate way. One test still used today, despite its limitations and flaws, is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which measures 10 areas using yes, no and unsure responses. An “improved” version of the MMPI was created shortly after, the California Psychological Inventory (CPI). This test rated 15 personality traits using true and false responses and it is among the top five personality tests to this day. The Rorschach Inkblot Test was another interesting creation, though it measured more unconscious processes than its predecessors, using inkblots as the focal point. How patients described the blots indicated deeper unconscious ideas that were believed to play a large role in personality. Another projective test is known as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and was created bu Henry Murray. The test involved a series of black and white images, shown with no context, and asks participants to create a story. These stories were believed to explain underlying feelings that may not even be apparent to the participant. Many tests have been created over the years, some remain useful and some proved to be invalid measurements but the main goal was always to try to determine the root of a person’s personality. Some traits are innate while others are learned. Much learning is social and personality can develop depending on who we surround ourselves with. A main outcome of learned personality research was the concept of learned helplessness, the thought that nothing can be done to change a situation so instead of fighting it, the subject simply accepts their fate. From this came the an opposite idea of learned optimism, the thought that one could learn mental skills that could change point of view into a more positive one. Personality psychology has been put on the back burner since its peak due to advancements in other areas but it is still a valid area of study that may hold a lot of answers about individuals. The most interesting concept in this chapter was that of learned helplessness. This concept, created by Martin Seligman, raises many questions. If we can learn to be helpless, can we unlearn it? Is learned helplessness an inevitable outcome of existence or can we fight it and instead learn optimism, as later suggested by Seligman himself? The purpose of this idea was to explain why some people accept their fates, while others may be less docile. The information he used to explain learned helplessness came from experiments involving shocking dogs and assessing their reactions, and willingness to escape the inevitable shock. Some dogs realized they could escape and did, while others simply accepted the shock. 

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