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Is it possible to quantify 'pettiness' in a personality?

Is it possible to quantify 'pettiness' in a personality?



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Petty is a word that is pretty clearly defined:

Not very important or serious

Relating to things that are not very important or serious

I'm interested in measuring the degree that someone is likely to be focused on, or taking issue with things that most would consider to be trivial, unimportant or nonsensical. For instance, when interviewing a candidate for a position, how could I determine how likely this person is to latch onto issues that most would forget about within minutes of them occurring?

To better illustrate what I'm trying to measure, suppose someone was exposed to the following bits of information in a day:

  1. The company lost over 14 billion in revenue due to gum-chewing
  2. The city government outlawed all use of purple on Wednesdays
  3. We realized that alien civilizations exist on Mars and have been emulating us by what they pick up from our radio emissions, and formed boy bands
  4. A co-worker wasn't wearing the exact color socks specified in the employee handbook

Despite the magnificence of events 1 - 3, the type of person very likely to place an inordinate amount of focus on all things petty can only dwell on number 4.

Is there a term for this and, moreover, a test to determine the degree of it in an individual's personality?


This sounds like Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Individuals with OCPD tend to obsess over unimportant details to the extent of it causing significant distress and a negative impact on productivity.

I'm not personally aware of a test to diagnose OCPD, but the DSM does contain diagnostic criteria for the disorder.


The Basics of Jung's Typology

Jung called Extraversion-Introversion preference general attitude, since it reflects an individual’s attitude toward the external world distinguished by the “direction of general interest” [Jung, 1971]: the extravert maintains affinity for, and sources energy from the outer world, whereas the introvert is the other way around – their general interest is directed toward their inner world, which is the source of their energy.

As mentioned above, Jung introduced a pair of judging functions - thinking and feeling - and a pair of perception functions – sensing (or “sensation”), and intuition.

Sensing-Intuition preference represents the method by which one perceives information: Sensing means an individual mainly relies on concrete, actual information - “in so far as objects release sensations, they matter” [1], whereas Intuition means a person relies upon their conception about things based on their understanding of the world. Thinking-Feeling preference indicates the way an individual processes information. Thinking preference means an individual makes decisions based on logical reasoning, and is less affected by feelings and emotions. Feeling preference means that an individual's base for decisions is mainly feelings and emotions.

Jung introduced the idea of hierarchy and direction of psychological functions. According to Jung, one of the psychological functions - a function from either judging or perception pair – would be primary (also called dominant). In other words, one pole of the poles of the two dichotomies (Sensing-Feeling and Thinking-Feeling) dominates over the rest of the poles. The Extraversion-Introversion preference sets the direction of the dominant function: the direction points to the source of energy that feeds it – i.e. to the outer world for extraverts and to the inner world for introverts.

Jung suggested that a function from the other pair would be secondary (also called auxiliary) but still be “a determining factor” [Jung, 1971]. I.e. if Intuition is dominant, then the auxiliary one is either Thinking or Feeling. If Sensing is dominant, then the auxiliary one can also be either Thinking or Feeling. However, if Thinking is dominant, then the auxiliary one is either Sensing or Intuition, and if Feeling is dominant then the auxiliary one is either Sensing or Intuition. In other words, the auxiliary function never belongs to the same dichotomy.

Jung called feeling and thinking types “rational” because they are characterized by the dominance of judging functions that provide reasoning rationale (be it thinking or feeling). “Rational” or Judging preference results in thinking, feelings, response and behaviour that consciously operate in line with certain rules, principles or norms. People with dominant "rational" or judging preference perceive the world as an ordered structure that follows a set of rules.


Machiavellianism (psychology)

In the field of personality psychology, Machiavellianism is a personality trait centered on manipulativeness, callousness, and indifference to morality. [1] Though unrelated to the historical figure or his works, the trait is named after the political philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli, as psychologists Richard Christie and Florence Geis used edited and truncated statements inspired by his works to study variations in human behaviors. [2] [3] [4] Their Mach IV test, a 20-question, Likert-scale personality survey, became the standard self-assessment tool and scale of the Machiavellianism construct. Those who score high on the scale (High Machs) are more likely to have a high level of deceitfulness and an unempathetic temperament. [5]

Machiavellianism
Machiavellianism is one of the traits in the dark triad model, along with psychopathy and narcissism.
SpecialtyPersonality psychology
CausesGenetic and environmental
Differential diagnosisSociopathy, Narcissism, Psychopathy, Sadism

It is one of the dark triad traits, along with narcissism and psychopathy. [6] [7]


The Idiographic Approach

The term “idiographic” comes from the Greek word “idios” meaning “own” or “private”. Psychologists interested in this aspect of experience want to discover what makes each of us unique.

No general laws are possible because of chance, free will and the uniqueness of individuals.

The approach tends to include qualatitative data, investigating individuals in a personal and detailed way. Methods of research include: case study, unstructured interviews, self-reports, autobiographies and personal documents.

Personality: - An Idiographic Approach

At the other extreme Gordon Allport found over 18,000 separate terms describing personal characteristics.

Whilst some of these are common traits (that could be investigated nomothetically) the majority, in Allport’s view, referred to more or less unique dispositions based on life experiences peculiar to ourselves.

He argues that they cannot be effectively studied using standardised tests. What is needed is a way of investigating them idiographically.

Carl Rogers, a Humanist psychologist, has developed a method of doing this, a procedure called the “Q-sort”. First the subject is given a large set of cards with a self-evaluative statement written on each one.

For example “I am friendly” or “I am ambitious” etc. The subject is then asked to sort the cards into piles. One pile to contain statements that are “most like me”, one statements that are “least like me” and one or more piles for statements that are in-between.

In a Q-sort the number of cards can be varied as can the number of piles and the type of question (e.g. How I am now?

How I used to be? How my partner sees me? How I would like to be?) So there are a potentially infinite number of variations. That, of course, is exactly as it should be for an idiographic psychologist because in his/her view there are ultimately as many different personalities as there are people.

Strengths

A major strength of the idiographic approach is its focus on the individual. Gordon Allport argues that it is only by knowing the person as a person that we can predict what the person will do in any given situation.

Findings can serve as a source of ideas or hypotheses for later study.

Limitations

The idiographic approach is very time consuming. It takes a lot of time and money to study individuals in depth. If a researcher is using the nomothetic approach once a questionnaire, psychometric test or experiment has been designed data can be collected relatively quickly.


Hans Eysenck’s Approach:

In England, he received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of London in 1940.

During World War II, he worked as a psychologist at an emergency hospital, where he did research on the consistency of psychiatric diagnosis.

The consequences led him to a lifelong hostility to conventional clinical psychology.

After the war, he taught at the University of London, as well as serving as the director of the psychology department of the Institute of Psychiatry, linked with Bethlem Royal Hospital.

He has written 75 books and around 700 articles, making him one of the most productive writers in psychology.

Eysenck retired in 1983 and persisted to write till his death on September 4, 1997.

Before his death in 1997, Eysenck’s theory remains influential and he was the most quoted existing psychologist, and he is the third most quoted psychologist of all time, after Freud and Piaget.

Eysenck was extremely doubtful about using psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in clinical cases.

On the other hand, he shielded behavioral therapy as the finest treatment for mental illness.


Moving too fast?

But not everyone is positive about this branch of psychology. Critics aren’t convinced that the research findings are strong enough to move so swiftly toward applications. Some disapprove of the field’s public interpretations, which they say have allowed overblown conclusions about the power of the positive, including the perception that people can stave off illness with more optimism.

According to critics, leaders in the field imply in their writings and public presentations that positive psychology can provide a psychological inoculation to protect from later adversity. That “seems far-fetched” based on what vocal critic University of Pennsylvania health psychologist James Coyne, PhD, has read in the literature.

Coyne believes the field’s translation to practical applications has moved faster than the science and has been swept up by popular culture, self-help gurus and life coaches. He points to companies, including FedEx, Adobe and IBM, that are hiring “happiness coaches” to work with employees, schools that are embedding positive psychology in their curriculum and the Army, which is hoping to reach all its 1.1 million soldiers with its resiliency training. And he bristles at the books coming out of the field with titles, such as “The How of Happiness.”

There are certainly instances of people overselling the claims of positive psychology, what University of Utah health psychologist Lisa G. Aspinwall, PhD, calls “saccharine terrorism.” Aspinwall is a lead author of a special issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine (Vol. 39, No. 1) that explored the link between positive psychology and health. And although best-selling authors such as minister Norman Vincent Peale of “The Power of Positive Thinking” fame and television producer Rhonda Byrne, who wrote “The Secret,” preach mindless versions of positive thinking, they don’t represent positive psychology research.

“Books like that are incredibly dangerous,” says Aspinwall. “But we can’t control what people will do with the research once it exists.”

In fact, argues Seligman, leaders in the field have been quite cautious with their claims. He adds that most of the programs applying positive psychology are based on solid research. The school programs, for example, emulate a program created and tested by researchers at the Penn Positive Psychology Center, which Seligman directs. Twenty-one replications of the program with children, adolescents and young adults have shown that it reliably prevents depression and anxiety, he says. Many positive psychology life coaches and motivational speakers have graduated from Penn’s Masters in Applied Positive Psychology program, which has trained more than 150 professionals in applying the science of positive psychology in their professional lives.

In addition, the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program was created with the help of a team of prominent positive psychologists and built on decades of research (for a detailed discussion of the Army’s program and how it’s being evaluated, see the January American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 1). One component of the program, for example, ties into research by Fredrickson that suggests that people who have at least three positive emotions for every one negative emotion tend to flourish and are more resistant to adversity than people with lower “positivity” ratios. Through the program, soldiers learn how to interpret their emotions and increase their positivity ratios.

The problem, says Julie Norem, PhD, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, is that the Army’s program doesn’t take into account individual differences that her own research suggests may make strategies — such as increasing optimism and positive emotions — backfire. While Norem doesn’t deny the many studies suggesting that optimism and positive mood can help some people, her work indicates that being optimistic and positive may not benefit everyone.

She studies people she calls “defensive pessimists” who deal with anxiety by thinking about everything that could go wrong. Her studies show that by processing the negative possibilities, defensive pessimists relieve their anxiety and work harder at their task to avoid those pitfalls. Several studies by Norem and others suggest that forcing optimism or a positive mood on an anxious defensive pessimist can actually damage performance on tasks that include math problems, anagrams and playing darts.

Another study, published in Psychological Science in 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 9), showed that if people with low self-esteem repeat a positive statement such as, “I’m a lovable person,” they actually feel worse than people with low self-esteem who didn’t repeat the statement. People with high self-esteem feel a little better, but not much.

These kinds of studies emphasize that interventions need to take into account individual differences, says Norem. “People who use defensive pessimism are anxious and have developed a good strategy for dealing with that anxiety,” she says. “They don’t need to be made into optimists.”

But the dominant message coming out of positive psychology doesn’t readily acknowledge this idea that one size does not fit all, she says. “If you’re going to define yourself as a field and then become prescriptive and say this is what people should do to be happier, you have the responsibility to search out other points of view and consider them,” says Norem. “You certainly need to take [those points of view] into consideration when you present your arguments to the public.”

Although many prominent positive psychology researchers agree with Norem that individual differences are important, they also believe that the research to date suggests that most people will benefit from the tenets of positive psychology. Seligman likens the risk of teaching resiliency and well-being to the risk of immunizations. A small group may suffer an allergic reaction, but the vast majority will benefit, he says.

Taking a small risk for a large gain is the definition of “public health,” says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, PhD, MD, the Army’s director of comprehensive soldier fitness. With rates of combat fatigue and suicide at all-time highs, the Army needed to take a proactive approach to help its soldiers become more psychologically resilient rather than follow the traditional model of waiting until they begin to flounder.

“If we had waited [for the science to catch up], we’d still be talking and planning,” she says.

Of the 3,100 sergeants who have completed the master resiliency training course, where they learn how to use the resiliency program to train other soldiers, she says, “none have said they’ve been harmed and hundreds have said it’s the best training they have had.”

Eventually, the Army will have enough data to tease out whether the intervention is not only working, but whether there are some soldiers who do better than others, and even whether there are some who do worse, says Seligman. The Army is systematically evaluating the program with controlled evaluation of more than 31,000 soldiers.

Coyne and other critics are worried that with programs like the Army’s that offer the message that people only need to be more optimistic to be healthier, wealthier and wiser, people may feel defeated if they can’t turn their lives around. As a health psychologist, Coyne is chiefly concerned about the research claiming that optimism, improving social ties and increasing a person’s sense of meaning and purpose can influence health.

“Particularly for cancer, there’s a strong biological component that isn’t movable in that way,” he says. Certainly, in terms of survival rates, he says, there’s no evidence that being more optimistic and positive will help a cancer patient live longer.

Aspinwall agrees that the data on cancer have not been convincing. But most researchers agree that the findings are robust with many studies linking optimism and positive emotion to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of infections.

Even for cancer patients, she says, there’s evidence that traits such as optimism and interventions to increase positive emotion can reduce pain and improve quality of life. In his new book, Seligman points to data from the Women’s Health Initiative study (Circulation, Vol. 120, No. 8) of more than 97,000 women that found that pessimism and “cynical hostility” were significant predictors of cancer.

“I don’t think you can damn all of positive psychology because the studies of cancer haven’t yielded much,” adds University of Michigan health psychologist Christopher Peterson, PhD, who’s working on a large initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine whether there are psychological factors that make people more resilient to illness and disease.


Entering or getting the data

There are multiple ways of reading data into R.

From a text file

For very small data sets, the data can be directly entered into R. For more typical data sets, it useful to use a simple text editor or a spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel or OpenOffice). You can enter data in a tab delimted form with one variable per column and columns labeled with unique name. A numeric missing value code (say -999) is more convenient than using "." ala Systat. To read the data into a rows (subjects) by columns (variables) matrix use the read.table command.

A very useful command, for those using a GUI is file.choose() which opens a typical selection window for choosing a file.

From the clipboard

For many problems you can just cut and paste from a spreadsheet or text file into R using the read.clipboard command from the psych package.

Files can be comma delimited (csv) as well. In this case, you can specify that the seperators are commas. For very detailed help on importing data from different formats (SPSS, SAS, Matlab, Systat, etc.) see the data help page from Cran. The foreign package makes importing from SPSS or SAS data files fairly straightforward.

From the web

For teaching, it is important to note that it is possible to have the file be a remote file read through the web. (Note that for some commands, there is an important difference between line feeds and carriage returns. For those who use Macs as web servers, make sure that the unix line feed is used rather than old Mac format carriage returns.) For simplicity in my examples I have separated the name of the file to be read from the read.table command. These two commands can be combined into one. The file can be local (on your hard disk) or remote.

For most data analysis, rather than manually enter the data into R, it is probably more convenient to use a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel or OpenOffice) as a data editor, save as a tab or comma delimited file, and then read the data or copy using the read.clipboard() command. Most of the examples in this tutorial assume that the data have been entered this way. Many of the examples in the help menus have small data sets entered using the c() command or created on the fly.

Data input example

For the first example, we read data from a remote file server for several hundred subjects on 13 personality scales (5 from the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), 5 from a Big Five Inventory (BFI), the Beck Depression Inventory, and two anxiety scales). The file is structured normally, i.e. rows represent different subjects, columns different variables, and the first row gives subject labels. (To read from a local file, we simply change the name of the datafilename.) produces this output

The data are now in the data.table "person.data". Tables allow one to have columns that are either numeric or alphanumeric. To address a particular row (e.g., subject = 5) and column (variable = 7) you simplely enter the required fields:

In order to select a particular subset of the data, use the subset function. The next example uses subset to display cases where the lie scale was pretty high

One can also selectively display particular columns meeting particular criteria, or selectively extract variables from a dataframe.

Reading data from SPSS or other stats programs

In addition to reading text files from local or remote servers, it is possible to read data saved in other stats programs (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Minitab). read commands are found in the package foreign. You will need to make it active first.

Data sets can be saved for later analyses using the save command and then reloaded using load. If files are saved on remote servers, use the load(url(remoteURLname)) command.


Etymology

Freud was a one of a kind thinker. There can be little question that he was influenced by earlier thinking regarding the human mind, especially the idea of there being activity within the mind at a conscious and unconscious level yet his approach to these topics was largely conceptual. His theoretical thoughts were as original as they were unique. It is a testament to Freud’s mind to know that whether you agree, disagree, or are ambivalent about his theory, it remains as a theoretical cornerstone in his field of expertise.


Gender Differences in Personality and Interests: When, Where, and Why?

How big are gender differences in personality and interests, and how stable are these differences across cultures and over time? To answer these questions, I summarize data from two meta-analyses and three cross-cultural studies on gender differences in personality and interests. Results show that gender differences in Big Five personality traits are ‘small’ to ‘moderate,’ with the largest differences occurring for agreeableness and neuroticism (respective ds = 0.40 and 0.34 women higher than men). In contrast, gender differences on the people–things dimension of interests are ‘very large’ (d = 1.18), with women more people-oriented and less thing-oriented than men. Gender differences in personality tend to be larger in gender-egalitarian societies than in gender-inegalitarian societies, a finding that contradicts social role theory but is consistent with evolutionary, attributional, and social comparison theories. In contrast, gender differences in interests appear to be consistent across cultures and over time, a finding that suggests possible biologic influences.


Alfred Adler: Inferiority and Birth Order

Alfred Adler's theory states that all of us are born with a sense of inferiority as evidenced by how weak and helpless a newborn is. By this, Adler was able to explain that this inferiority is a crucial part of our personality, in the sense that it is the driving force that pushes us to strive in order to become superior.

In addition to the Inferiority Theory of Personality, Adler also considers birth order as a major factor in the development of our personality. He believed that first born children may feel inferior and may even develop inferiority complex once their younger sibling arrives. The middle born children, on the other hand, are not as pampered as their older or younger sibling, but they have a sense of superiority to dethrone their older sibling in a healthy competition. Thus they have the greatest potential to be successful in life. The youngest children may feel like they have the least power to influence other members of the family. Because they are often the most pampered, they may develop personality problems of inferiority just like the first born.


Etymology

Freud was a one of a kind thinker. There can be little question that he was influenced by earlier thinking regarding the human mind, especially the idea of there being activity within the mind at a conscious and unconscious level yet his approach to these topics was largely conceptual. His theoretical thoughts were as original as they were unique. It is a testament to Freud’s mind to know that whether you agree, disagree, or are ambivalent about his theory, it remains as a theoretical cornerstone in his field of expertise.


Entering or getting the data

There are multiple ways of reading data into R.

From a text file

For very small data sets, the data can be directly entered into R. For more typical data sets, it useful to use a simple text editor or a spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel or OpenOffice). You can enter data in a tab delimted form with one variable per column and columns labeled with unique name. A numeric missing value code (say -999) is more convenient than using "." ala Systat. To read the data into a rows (subjects) by columns (variables) matrix use the read.table command.

A very useful command, for those using a GUI is file.choose() which opens a typical selection window for choosing a file.

From the clipboard

For many problems you can just cut and paste from a spreadsheet or text file into R using the read.clipboard command from the psych package.

Files can be comma delimited (csv) as well. In this case, you can specify that the seperators are commas. For very detailed help on importing data from different formats (SPSS, SAS, Matlab, Systat, etc.) see the data help page from Cran. The foreign package makes importing from SPSS or SAS data files fairly straightforward.

From the web

For teaching, it is important to note that it is possible to have the file be a remote file read through the web. (Note that for some commands, there is an important difference between line feeds and carriage returns. For those who use Macs as web servers, make sure that the unix line feed is used rather than old Mac format carriage returns.) For simplicity in my examples I have separated the name of the file to be read from the read.table command. These two commands can be combined into one. The file can be local (on your hard disk) or remote.

For most data analysis, rather than manually enter the data into R, it is probably more convenient to use a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel or OpenOffice) as a data editor, save as a tab or comma delimited file, and then read the data or copy using the read.clipboard() command. Most of the examples in this tutorial assume that the data have been entered this way. Many of the examples in the help menus have small data sets entered using the c() command or created on the fly.

Data input example

For the first example, we read data from a remote file server for several hundred subjects on 13 personality scales (5 from the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), 5 from a Big Five Inventory (BFI), the Beck Depression Inventory, and two anxiety scales). The file is structured normally, i.e. rows represent different subjects, columns different variables, and the first row gives subject labels. (To read from a local file, we simply change the name of the datafilename.) produces this output

The data are now in the data.table "person.data". Tables allow one to have columns that are either numeric or alphanumeric. To address a particular row (e.g., subject = 5) and column (variable = 7) you simplely enter the required fields:

In order to select a particular subset of the data, use the subset function. The next example uses subset to display cases where the lie scale was pretty high

One can also selectively display particular columns meeting particular criteria, or selectively extract variables from a dataframe.

Reading data from SPSS or other stats programs

In addition to reading text files from local or remote servers, it is possible to read data saved in other stats programs (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Minitab). read commands are found in the package foreign. You will need to make it active first.

Data sets can be saved for later analyses using the save command and then reloaded using load. If files are saved on remote servers, use the load(url(remoteURLname)) command.


Moving too fast?

But not everyone is positive about this branch of psychology. Critics aren’t convinced that the research findings are strong enough to move so swiftly toward applications. Some disapprove of the field’s public interpretations, which they say have allowed overblown conclusions about the power of the positive, including the perception that people can stave off illness with more optimism.

According to critics, leaders in the field imply in their writings and public presentations that positive psychology can provide a psychological inoculation to protect from later adversity. That “seems far-fetched” based on what vocal critic University of Pennsylvania health psychologist James Coyne, PhD, has read in the literature.

Coyne believes the field’s translation to practical applications has moved faster than the science and has been swept up by popular culture, self-help gurus and life coaches. He points to companies, including FedEx, Adobe and IBM, that are hiring “happiness coaches” to work with employees, schools that are embedding positive psychology in their curriculum and the Army, which is hoping to reach all its 1.1 million soldiers with its resiliency training. And he bristles at the books coming out of the field with titles, such as “The How of Happiness.”

There are certainly instances of people overselling the claims of positive psychology, what University of Utah health psychologist Lisa G. Aspinwall, PhD, calls “saccharine terrorism.” Aspinwall is a lead author of a special issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine (Vol. 39, No. 1) that explored the link between positive psychology and health. And although best-selling authors such as minister Norman Vincent Peale of “The Power of Positive Thinking” fame and television producer Rhonda Byrne, who wrote “The Secret,” preach mindless versions of positive thinking, they don’t represent positive psychology research.

“Books like that are incredibly dangerous,” says Aspinwall. “But we can’t control what people will do with the research once it exists.”

In fact, argues Seligman, leaders in the field have been quite cautious with their claims. He adds that most of the programs applying positive psychology are based on solid research. The school programs, for example, emulate a program created and tested by researchers at the Penn Positive Psychology Center, which Seligman directs. Twenty-one replications of the program with children, adolescents and young adults have shown that it reliably prevents depression and anxiety, he says. Many positive psychology life coaches and motivational speakers have graduated from Penn’s Masters in Applied Positive Psychology program, which has trained more than 150 professionals in applying the science of positive psychology in their professional lives.

In addition, the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program was created with the help of a team of prominent positive psychologists and built on decades of research (for a detailed discussion of the Army’s program and how it’s being evaluated, see the January American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 1). One component of the program, for example, ties into research by Fredrickson that suggests that people who have at least three positive emotions for every one negative emotion tend to flourish and are more resistant to adversity than people with lower “positivity” ratios. Through the program, soldiers learn how to interpret their emotions and increase their positivity ratios.

The problem, says Julie Norem, PhD, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, is that the Army’s program doesn’t take into account individual differences that her own research suggests may make strategies — such as increasing optimism and positive emotions — backfire. While Norem doesn’t deny the many studies suggesting that optimism and positive mood can help some people, her work indicates that being optimistic and positive may not benefit everyone.

She studies people she calls “defensive pessimists” who deal with anxiety by thinking about everything that could go wrong. Her studies show that by processing the negative possibilities, defensive pessimists relieve their anxiety and work harder at their task to avoid those pitfalls. Several studies by Norem and others suggest that forcing optimism or a positive mood on an anxious defensive pessimist can actually damage performance on tasks that include math problems, anagrams and playing darts.

Another study, published in Psychological Science in 2009 (Vol. 20, No. 9), showed that if people with low self-esteem repeat a positive statement such as, “I’m a lovable person,” they actually feel worse than people with low self-esteem who didn’t repeat the statement. People with high self-esteem feel a little better, but not much.

These kinds of studies emphasize that interventions need to take into account individual differences, says Norem. “People who use defensive pessimism are anxious and have developed a good strategy for dealing with that anxiety,” she says. “They don’t need to be made into optimists.”

But the dominant message coming out of positive psychology doesn’t readily acknowledge this idea that one size does not fit all, she says. “If you’re going to define yourself as a field and then become prescriptive and say this is what people should do to be happier, you have the responsibility to search out other points of view and consider them,” says Norem. “You certainly need to take [those points of view] into consideration when you present your arguments to the public.”

Although many prominent positive psychology researchers agree with Norem that individual differences are important, they also believe that the research to date suggests that most people will benefit from the tenets of positive psychology. Seligman likens the risk of teaching resiliency and well-being to the risk of immunizations. A small group may suffer an allergic reaction, but the vast majority will benefit, he says.

Taking a small risk for a large gain is the definition of “public health,” says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, PhD, MD, the Army’s director of comprehensive soldier fitness. With rates of combat fatigue and suicide at all-time highs, the Army needed to take a proactive approach to help its soldiers become more psychologically resilient rather than follow the traditional model of waiting until they begin to flounder.

“If we had waited [for the science to catch up], we’d still be talking and planning,” she says.

Of the 3,100 sergeants who have completed the master resiliency training course, where they learn how to use the resiliency program to train other soldiers, she says, “none have said they’ve been harmed and hundreds have said it’s the best training they have had.”

Eventually, the Army will have enough data to tease out whether the intervention is not only working, but whether there are some soldiers who do better than others, and even whether there are some who do worse, says Seligman. The Army is systematically evaluating the program with controlled evaluation of more than 31,000 soldiers.

Coyne and other critics are worried that with programs like the Army’s that offer the message that people only need to be more optimistic to be healthier, wealthier and wiser, people may feel defeated if they can’t turn their lives around. As a health psychologist, Coyne is chiefly concerned about the research claiming that optimism, improving social ties and increasing a person’s sense of meaning and purpose can influence health.

“Particularly for cancer, there’s a strong biological component that isn’t movable in that way,” he says. Certainly, in terms of survival rates, he says, there’s no evidence that being more optimistic and positive will help a cancer patient live longer.

Aspinwall agrees that the data on cancer have not been convincing. But most researchers agree that the findings are robust with many studies linking optimism and positive emotion to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of infections.

Even for cancer patients, she says, there’s evidence that traits such as optimism and interventions to increase positive emotion can reduce pain and improve quality of life. In his new book, Seligman points to data from the Women’s Health Initiative study (Circulation, Vol. 120, No. 8) of more than 97,000 women that found that pessimism and “cynical hostility” were significant predictors of cancer.

“I don’t think you can damn all of positive psychology because the studies of cancer haven’t yielded much,” adds University of Michigan health psychologist Christopher Peterson, PhD, who’s working on a large initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine whether there are psychological factors that make people more resilient to illness and disease.


Hans Eysenck’s Approach:

In England, he received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of London in 1940.

During World War II, he worked as a psychologist at an emergency hospital, where he did research on the consistency of psychiatric diagnosis.

The consequences led him to a lifelong hostility to conventional clinical psychology.

After the war, he taught at the University of London, as well as serving as the director of the psychology department of the Institute of Psychiatry, linked with Bethlem Royal Hospital.

He has written 75 books and around 700 articles, making him one of the most productive writers in psychology.

Eysenck retired in 1983 and persisted to write till his death on September 4, 1997.

Before his death in 1997, Eysenck’s theory remains influential and he was the most quoted existing psychologist, and he is the third most quoted psychologist of all time, after Freud and Piaget.

Eysenck was extremely doubtful about using psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in clinical cases.

On the other hand, he shielded behavioral therapy as the finest treatment for mental illness.


The Idiographic Approach

The term “idiographic” comes from the Greek word “idios” meaning “own” or “private”. Psychologists interested in this aspect of experience want to discover what makes each of us unique.

No general laws are possible because of chance, free will and the uniqueness of individuals.

The approach tends to include qualatitative data, investigating individuals in a personal and detailed way. Methods of research include: case study, unstructured interviews, self-reports, autobiographies and personal documents.

Personality: - An Idiographic Approach

At the other extreme Gordon Allport found over 18,000 separate terms describing personal characteristics.

Whilst some of these are common traits (that could be investigated nomothetically) the majority, in Allport’s view, referred to more or less unique dispositions based on life experiences peculiar to ourselves.

He argues that they cannot be effectively studied using standardised tests. What is needed is a way of investigating them idiographically.

Carl Rogers, a Humanist psychologist, has developed a method of doing this, a procedure called the “Q-sort”. First the subject is given a large set of cards with a self-evaluative statement written on each one.

For example “I am friendly” or “I am ambitious” etc. The subject is then asked to sort the cards into piles. One pile to contain statements that are “most like me”, one statements that are “least like me” and one or more piles for statements that are in-between.

In a Q-sort the number of cards can be varied as can the number of piles and the type of question (e.g. How I am now?

How I used to be? How my partner sees me? How I would like to be?) So there are a potentially infinite number of variations. That, of course, is exactly as it should be for an idiographic psychologist because in his/her view there are ultimately as many different personalities as there are people.

Strengths

A major strength of the idiographic approach is its focus on the individual. Gordon Allport argues that it is only by knowing the person as a person that we can predict what the person will do in any given situation.

Findings can serve as a source of ideas or hypotheses for later study.

Limitations

The idiographic approach is very time consuming. It takes a lot of time and money to study individuals in depth. If a researcher is using the nomothetic approach once a questionnaire, psychometric test or experiment has been designed data can be collected relatively quickly.


Machiavellianism (psychology)

In the field of personality psychology, Machiavellianism is a personality trait centered on manipulativeness, callousness, and indifference to morality. [1] Though unrelated to the historical figure or his works, the trait is named after the political philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli, as psychologists Richard Christie and Florence Geis used edited and truncated statements inspired by his works to study variations in human behaviors. [2] [3] [4] Their Mach IV test, a 20-question, Likert-scale personality survey, became the standard self-assessment tool and scale of the Machiavellianism construct. Those who score high on the scale (High Machs) are more likely to have a high level of deceitfulness and an unempathetic temperament. [5]

Machiavellianism
Machiavellianism is one of the traits in the dark triad model, along with psychopathy and narcissism.
SpecialtyPersonality psychology
CausesGenetic and environmental
Differential diagnosisSociopathy, Narcissism, Psychopathy, Sadism

It is one of the dark triad traits, along with narcissism and psychopathy. [6] [7]


Gender Differences in Personality and Interests: When, Where, and Why?

How big are gender differences in personality and interests, and how stable are these differences across cultures and over time? To answer these questions, I summarize data from two meta-analyses and three cross-cultural studies on gender differences in personality and interests. Results show that gender differences in Big Five personality traits are ‘small’ to ‘moderate,’ with the largest differences occurring for agreeableness and neuroticism (respective ds = 0.40 and 0.34 women higher than men). In contrast, gender differences on the people–things dimension of interests are ‘very large’ (d = 1.18), with women more people-oriented and less thing-oriented than men. Gender differences in personality tend to be larger in gender-egalitarian societies than in gender-inegalitarian societies, a finding that contradicts social role theory but is consistent with evolutionary, attributional, and social comparison theories. In contrast, gender differences in interests appear to be consistent across cultures and over time, a finding that suggests possible biologic influences.


The Basics of Jung's Typology

Jung called Extraversion-Introversion preference general attitude, since it reflects an individual’s attitude toward the external world distinguished by the “direction of general interest” [Jung, 1971]: the extravert maintains affinity for, and sources energy from the outer world, whereas the introvert is the other way around – their general interest is directed toward their inner world, which is the source of their energy.

As mentioned above, Jung introduced a pair of judging functions - thinking and feeling - and a pair of perception functions – sensing (or “sensation”), and intuition.

Sensing-Intuition preference represents the method by which one perceives information: Sensing means an individual mainly relies on concrete, actual information - “in so far as objects release sensations, they matter” [1], whereas Intuition means a person relies upon their conception about things based on their understanding of the world. Thinking-Feeling preference indicates the way an individual processes information. Thinking preference means an individual makes decisions based on logical reasoning, and is less affected by feelings and emotions. Feeling preference means that an individual's base for decisions is mainly feelings and emotions.

Jung introduced the idea of hierarchy and direction of psychological functions. According to Jung, one of the psychological functions - a function from either judging or perception pair – would be primary (also called dominant). In other words, one pole of the poles of the two dichotomies (Sensing-Feeling and Thinking-Feeling) dominates over the rest of the poles. The Extraversion-Introversion preference sets the direction of the dominant function: the direction points to the source of energy that feeds it – i.e. to the outer world for extraverts and to the inner world for introverts.

Jung suggested that a function from the other pair would be secondary (also called auxiliary) but still be “a determining factor” [Jung, 1971]. I.e. if Intuition is dominant, then the auxiliary one is either Thinking or Feeling. If Sensing is dominant, then the auxiliary one can also be either Thinking or Feeling. However, if Thinking is dominant, then the auxiliary one is either Sensing or Intuition, and if Feeling is dominant then the auxiliary one is either Sensing or Intuition. In other words, the auxiliary function never belongs to the same dichotomy.

Jung called feeling and thinking types “rational” because they are characterized by the dominance of judging functions that provide reasoning rationale (be it thinking or feeling). “Rational” or Judging preference results in thinking, feelings, response and behaviour that consciously operate in line with certain rules, principles or norms. People with dominant "rational" or judging preference perceive the world as an ordered structure that follows a set of rules.


Alfred Adler: Inferiority and Birth Order

Alfred Adler's theory states that all of us are born with a sense of inferiority as evidenced by how weak and helpless a newborn is. By this, Adler was able to explain that this inferiority is a crucial part of our personality, in the sense that it is the driving force that pushes us to strive in order to become superior.

In addition to the Inferiority Theory of Personality, Adler also considers birth order as a major factor in the development of our personality. He believed that first born children may feel inferior and may even develop inferiority complex once their younger sibling arrives. The middle born children, on the other hand, are not as pampered as their older or younger sibling, but they have a sense of superiority to dethrone their older sibling in a healthy competition. Thus they have the greatest potential to be successful in life. The youngest children may feel like they have the least power to influence other members of the family. Because they are often the most pampered, they may develop personality problems of inferiority just like the first born.