Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 472
Personality/Shoda/Smith: Personality is typically defined as a construct that underlies individual differences in people’s customary thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The implication is that there is stability in these aspects of personal functioning, and that consistencies in behaviour should result. By the late 1920s, however, research on the stability of particular behaviours across situations was providing challenges to the assumption of cross-situational consistency (Hartshorne and May 1928(1); Newcomb 1929(2)).
Comprehensive reviews of the literature on situational consistency by Mischel (1968)(3) and Peterson (1968)(4) indicated that cross-situational inconsistency in behaviour is the rule rather than the exception, and that global trait measures typically correlated weakly with relevant behaviours. (e.g., Mischel and Peake (1982(5)).
Corr I 473
The “Personality Paradox”/Shoda/Smith: the consistent failure to find evidence for behavioural stability across situations (intra-individual variability) caused some to question the tenability of the basic concept of personality as a causal agent in behaviour (e.g., Shweder 1975)(6). ((s Cf. >Causality/Deci; >Causality/Developmental Psychology; >Causality/Evolutionary Psychology)).
This puzzling state of affairs–presumption of a stable dispositional structure, combined with little evidence for behavioural consistency–was dubbed the ‘personality paradox’ by Bem and Allen (1974)(7).
Attempts to reconcile this paradox have fuelled debate in the field of personality for more than three decades. Needed to resolve it was are conceptualization of personality that would allow one to predict and understand stable and unique patterns of intra-individual (transituational) variability. As Mischel (1973)(8) noted, this might require a new approach to the nature of situations and of personality stability that could reconcile the variability of behaviour, on the one hand, with the stability of the personality structure, on the other (Mischel and Shoda 1995)(9). >Situations/Mischel, >Situations/Shoda/Smith.


1. Hartshorne, H. and May, A. 1928. Studies in the nature of character, vol. 1, Studies in deceit. New York: Macmillan
2. Newcomb, T. M. 1929. Consistency of certain extrovert-introvert behaviour patterns in 51problem boys. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College, Bureau of Publications
3. Mischel, W. 1968. Personality and assessment. New York: Wiley 1973. Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality, Psychological Review 80: 252–83
4. Peterson, D. R. 1968. The clinical study of social behaviour. New York: Appleton
5. Mischel, W. and Peake, P. K. 1982. Beyond déjà vu in the search for cross-situational consistency, Psychological Review 89: 730–55
6. Shweder, R. A. 1975. How relevant is an individual difference theory of personality?, Journal of Personality 43: 455–85
7. Bem, D. J. and Allen, A. 1974. On predicting some of the people some of the time: the search for cross-situational consistencies in behaviour, Psychological Review 81:506–20
8. Mischel, W. 1973. Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality, Psychological Review 80: 252–83
9. Mischel, W. and Shoda, Y. 1995. A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure, Psychological Review 102: 246–68


Ronald E. Smith and Yuichi Shoda, “Personality as a cognitive-affective processing system“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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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.
Shoda, Yuichi
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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