Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Corr I 192
Personality traits/developmental psychology/Donnellan/Robins: we emphasize that the potential neurobiological bases of the Big Five in no way precludes the possibility that personality traits are affected by life experiences and change over time.
Corr I 193
How stable is personality? There is no simple answer to these types of questions because there are different ways of conceptualizing and measuring stability and change (e.g., Caspi and Shiner 2006(1); Roberts and Pomerantz 2004(2)).
2004). The broadest distinction is between homotypic and heterotypic stability (or continuity).
A. Homotypic stability refers to the stability of the exact same thoughts, feelings and behaviours across time.
B. Heterotypic stability refers to the stability of personality traits that are theorized to have different manifestations at different ages. Heterotypic stability can only be understood with reference to a theory that specifies how the same trait ‘looks’ (i.e., manifests itself) at different ages and it broadly refers to the degree of personality coherence across development.
What is the evidence for heterotypic continuity? Longitudinal studies covering long periods of the lifespan provide important evidence of personality coherence. For example, Caspi, Moffitt, Newman and Silva (1996)(3) found that children who were rated as being irritable and impulsive by clinical examiners at age three were more likely to be dependent on alcohol and to have been convicted of a violent crime by age twenty-one.
Corr I 193
The superficial manifestations of self-control are likely to be quite different in pre-schoolers and adolescents; however, the underlying psychological characteristic of being able to forgo immediate impulses to obtain desired long-term outcomes seems to have an appreciable degree of consistency across development.
Homotypic stability concerns the evaluation of different kinds of change using the exact same measure of personality across time or across age groups. Four types of stability and change are typically examined: (a) absolute stability (i.e., mean-level stability), (b) differential stability (i.e., rank-order consistency), (c) structural stability, and (d) ipsative stability.
Corr I 194
b) Differential stability reflects the degree to which the relative ordering of individuals on a given trait is consistent over time. For example, a population could increase substantially on a trait but the rank ordering of individuals would be maintained if everyone increased by exactly the same amount. Conversely, the rank ordering of individuals could change substantially over time but without any aggregate increases or decreases (e.g., if the number of people who decreased offset the number of people who increased).
c) Structural stability refers to similarity over time in patterns of co-variation among traits, or items on a personality scale. For example, one can use structural equation modelling techniques to test whether the intercorrelations among the Big Five domains are the same at the beginning versus the end of college (Robins, Fraley, Roberts and Trzesniewski 2001)(4). Likewise, investigations of structural stability often include the testing of measurement invariance (e.g., Allemand, Zimprich and Hertzog 2007)(5).
d) Ipsative stability refers to continuity in the patterning of personality characteristics within a person and how well the relative salience (or extremity) of these attributes is preserved over time. For example, a researcher might investigate the degree to which an individual’s Big Five profile is stable over time – if an individual’s cardinal (i.e., most characteristic) trait in adolescence is Openness to Experience,
Corr I 195
is this also likely to be true in adulthood? Examinations of these kinds of questions are fairly rare and often use methods that quantify the similarity of personality profiles such as within-person correlation coefficients (e.g., Ozer and Gjerde 1989)(6). >Five-Factor Model/Developmental psychology.


1. Caspi, A. and Shiner, R. L. 2006. Personality development, in W. Damon and R. Lerner (Series eds.) and N. Eisenberg (Vol. ed.), Handbook of child psychology, vol. III, Social, emotional, and personality development, 6th edn, pp. 300–65. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
2. Roberts, B. W. and Pomerantz, E. M. 2004. On traits, situations, and their integration: a developmental perspective, Personality and Social Psychology Review 8: 402–16
3. Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Newman, D. L. and Silva, P. A. 1996. Behavioural observations at age 3 years predict adult psychiatric disorders, Archives of General Psychiatry 53: 1033–9
4. Robins, R. W., Fraley, R. C., Roberts, B. W. and Trzesniewski, K. H. 2001. A longitudinal study of personality change in young adulthood, Journal of Personality 69: 617–40
5. Allemand, M., Zimprich, D. and Hertzog, C. 2007. Cross-sectional age differences and longitudinal age changes of personality in middle adulthood and old age, Journal of Personality 75: 323–58
6. Ozer, D. J. and Gjerde, P. F. 1989. Patterns of personality consistency and change from childhood through adolescence, Journal of Personality 57: 483–507


M. Brent Donnellan and Richard W. Robins, “The development of personality across the lifespan”, 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.
Developmental Psychology
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-07-20
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