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Toward an Integrative Personality Psychology

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  1. Toward an Integrative PersonalityPsychology Artur Nilsson Lund University, Sweden The 13th European Congress ofPsychology, July 10th, 2013, Stockholm, Sweden

  2. The problem Integrative work has special importance for personality psychology • Many personality psychologists, such as Allport, Mayer, and Pervin, have, following William Stern, described personality as a unified system. • Others, like Dan McAdams, denythat personality is necessarily a unified system, but nevertheless maintain a strong integrative theme in ourunderstandingof the whole person. • The philosopher Donald Davidson has demonstrated that the attribution ofunity is integral to the interpretation ofanycreature as a linguisticbeing(i.e. a person). Unityincreases the scope, and consequentpower, ofourtheoriesofbehavior.

  3. How do wefacilitatesuch integrative work? Weneed a conceptualframeworkthat is integrative and comprehensiveto guide integrative personalityresearch and idiographic interpretation! Previousattemptstoconstructsuch a framework(e.g. McAdams; McCrae & Costa; Mischel& Shoda) aretoodescriptive, thusthreateningtoreify the field and stiflecritical normative thinking.

  4. Theses 1. The studyof personality consistsofthe studyoftraits, defined as objectivebehavioralregularities, and the studyofworldviews, defined as subjectivesourcesofmeaning 2. Traits and worldviewsaremutuallyirreducible and equallybasicaspectsofpersonality (e.g. in terms of universalism) 3. Weneedtoaccount for unity not just withintraits, butalsowithinworldviews and betweentraits and worldviews

  5. Argument for thesis 1 • Personality psychology is concernedwithbehavior Behavior is described not just mechanisticallybutalso as laden withmeaning and intentionality (reason-based action) Reasons areconstitutiveof actions. E.g. an altruistic action is altruisticonlyifit expresses an altruistic intention. Reasons arepartlyconstituted by a backgroundofbeliefs, goals, values, etc. (”the holism of the mental”). Therefore, worldviewsneedto be studied in theirown right, as sourcesofmeaning in personality

  6. The studyoftraits The reductionoftraits to causalstructureis problematic: • It wouldrequireus to measure and conceptualizetraits in behavior-independent, self-report independent, idiosyncratic terms (Boag, 2011; Harré, 1998; Lamiell, 1987) • It is basedupon the false presupposition that the onlytypeofexplanation at ourdisposal is the mechanisticone Traitconstructssummarize the complexobjectivepatterningofbehavior, thusmaking it intelligible. Stability is the demarcating ideal. Includes not just the Big Five, butalso socio-cognitive and other traits, and both mental and observablebehavior

  7. Traitsexplain non-mechanistically! To explain a phenomenon in terms of a traitis: to make it intelligible by fitting it into a pattern thatincludestheoreticalassumptionsaboutrationales and capacitiesassociatedwith the trait in an empiricallyadequateway

  8. The studyofworldviews Worldview constructssummarize the person’ssubjectivemeanings. Demarcated by centrality as source ofmeaning. Meaningsareconceptual and propositional mental contents and the epistemic, emotional, and conative-volitionalattitudesheldtowardthem. Central sources of meaningare the concepts, presuppositions, and scripts throughwhich we think, feel, and act; the background, substrata, or skeleton of intentionality Both abstract philosophical notions (e.g. free will) and experientially derived (life-narratives and goals), whether consciousand deliberated or unconsciousand internalized

  9. On a philosophical note, I am not suggestingthat mental statesareentirely transparent to the subject. Persons do not necessarily understand, or have the abilitytoverbalize, the depthstructureoftheirsubjectiveontology. This makes the studyofworldviewsmoredependentupon expert vocabularythan the standard lexicaltrait approach.

  10. Limitations ofprevious worldview research It consistsofscatteredislandsof research. There is no systematic top-down study or taxonomyof broad worldview patterns (cf. the Big Five). Worldviewsaretreated as derivativelyinterestinginsofar as they cause particularbehaviors (socio-cognitivetheory) or form part of mental regularities (traittheory); not as sourcesofmeaning in personality Personality modelsthattakemeaningintoaccountincludegoals, viewofself and life events (e.g. Kelly; Little; McAdams), but not viewofworld, society, and life in general

  11. Examples of worldview constructs Goals, life-story narratives, lay theories of persons and groups, just-, dangerous-, competitive-, static-, mechanistic-/organismic-, and benevolent-world beliefs, moral intuitions, values, assumptions about human nature, socio-political attitudes, beliefs about free will and determinism, ontological and religious beliefs, epistemological beliefs

  12. Aretraits and worldviewsreally different? Objection: Persons canhavestablewaysofviewing the world, thereforeworldviewsaretraits (Allport, 1966) Theyprovide different kinds of information, illuminating personality from different perspectives (objective/subjective): • Traitself-report: proxy for objectivebehavioralregularities, e.g. ”I tendto/usually/often/seldom get irritated” • Worldview self-report: currentsubjectiveexperienceregardlessofitstruth or falsity, e.g. ”I believethatweshould be tough on crime, ”Human nature is basicallygood” They focus on different kinds of discourse (e.g. culturallynovel, cognitivelysophisticated, unusualphenomena..)

  13. Aretraitsmorebasicthanworldviews? Traitsareoftenthoughtof as moreinherently universal and worldviews as relativelymoreculture-dependent Buttheory and research on values (Schwartz), social beliefs (Leung et al.), and moral intuitions (Haidt et al.) indicate a highdegreeofuniversality Despiteour different historic-culturalworlds, thereare: • universal existentialconditions: changeableness and terminalityoflife, social relationships, human limitations, injustice and evil, freedom, relation to nature … • and a common biologicalconstitution for endowing the worldwithmeaning

  14. If wetake the intentionallevelofdescriptionseriously, universalism is in fact a methodological approach ratherthan a propertyoftraits or worldviews per se A universalist approach emphasizescommonalities and strips awaylayersofculturalmeaning for interculturalcomparability A historic-culturalapproach studies personality aspects in theirhistoric-culturalembedment, emphasizingdifferences Bothapproachesareusefullyapplicabletobothtraits and worldviews

  15. Normative implications • Worldviewsneedto be studiedsystematically in theirown right, as basicsourcesofmeaning in personality • Thisincludesapplying a universalist approach, and investigatingdevelopmentalorigins, and heritabilities • Weneedtoaccount for, and search for, unity not just withintraits (i.e. the consistencyofbehavior), butalsowithinworldviews and betweentraits and worldviews • The conclusionsareequallyapplicabletoindividualdifferences and personalistic approaches

  16. Buthow do westudyworldviewssystematically? 1. Factor analyzing worldview items 2. Trying to find worldview items thatmapontocurrentmodelsoftraits 3. Theoreticalanalysisofsimilarities and differencesbetween worldview models

  17. Thankyou for your attention! Contact: