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Personality/definition/Saucier: Personality can be defined in either of two strongly contrasting ways, either as (a) a set of attributes that characterize an individual, or as (b) the underlying system that generates such attributes. Funder (1997(1), pp. 1– 2) provided a definition that takes in both (a) and (b): personality is ‘an individual’s characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour, together with the psychological mechanisms – hidden or not – behind those patterns’. >Personality/Funder, >Personality/Allport, >Attributes/Saucier.
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One approach to defining personality focuses on attributes. In this approach, personality is a particular set of predications, that is, statements about a subject or entity. Person-description is predication where the entity is a person, and both trait descriptors and situation descriptors are predicates.
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Understood as attributes, personality is a set of predications made of persons. Dynamic situational aspects that are transitory, existing in the moment only, would be excluded, unless they linger and become recurrent or chronic. Only predicates with atemporality – relative stability across time – can be considered personality. Twelve categories of person-descriptors are controversial:
(1) Situational predicates that are recurrently applicable to a particular person, that is, have high atemporality e.g. „always cleaning“, „constantly with friends“.
(2) Indicators of geographical or ethnic origin. Does being ‘Estonian’ or ‘Mexican-American’ or ‘from Paris’ indicate personality?
(3) Social and occupational role categories.
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It is noteworthy that career-interest measures show even higher stability than do personality measures (Low, Yoon, Roberts and Rounds 2005)(2).
(4) Physical attributes.
(5) Attributes denoting social status.
(6) Attributes indicating the effect one has on others (i.e., social effects). Indeed, some definitions of personality stress that it consists of ‘internal’ factors (Child 1968(3); Hampson 1988(4)), at least those that are not strictly observable.
(7) Attributes that involve global evaluations. A study of the most evaluative personality descriptors isolated multiple, clear content dimensions among them (Benet-Martínez and Waller 2002)(5), tending to refute the objection that there are pure evaluation terms without any personality-related content.
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(8) Attributes indicating eccentricity, deviance, normality or conformity to convention.
(9) Attributes indicative of psychopathology. Because of substantial correlations between variables in the two domains (Krueger and Tackett 2003)(6), one can indeed say that ‘the field of personality abuts abnormal psychology’ (Buss 1995(7), p. 3).
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The language of psychopathological attributes is primarily an expert language (cf. Block 1995)(8), but this expert language does filter down into lay language, so that terms originally of a professional/technical nature (e.g., depressed, anxious, neurotic, obsessive and compulsive) freely enter the everyday vocabulary.
(10) Generalized attitudes, values and belief dispositions.
(11) ‘Temporary state’ attributes.
(12) Attributes that indicate abilities.
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We can see personality as described by attributes (external perspective) or as a personality system (internal perspective) > Exterior/interior/Saucier, > Personality system/Saucier.
1. Funder, D. C. 1997. The personality puzzle. New York: Norton
2. Low, K. S. D., Yoon, M., Roberts, B. W. and Rounds, J. 2005. Stability of vocational interests from early adolescence to middle adulthood: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies, Psychological Bulletin 131: 713–37
3. Child, I. L. 1968. Personality in culture, in E. F. Borgatta and W. W. Lambert (eds.), Handbook of personality theory and research. Chicago: Rand McNally
4. Hampson, S. E. 1988. The construction of personality: an introduction, 2nd edn. London: Routledge
5. Benet-Martínez, V. and Waller, N. G. 2002. From adorable to worthless: implicit and self-report structure of highly evaluative personality descriptors, European Journal of Personality 16: 1–41
6. Krueger, R. F. and Tackett, J. L. 2003. Personality and psychopathology: working toward the bigger picture, Journal of Personality Disorders 17: 109–28
7. Buss, A. H. 1995. Personality: temperament, social behaviour, and the self. Boston: Allyn and Bacon
8. Block, J. 1995. A contrarian view of the five-factor approach to personality description, Psychological Bulletin 117: 187–215
Gerard Saucier, „Semantic and linguistic aspects of personality“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Philip J. Corr
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018