Perceptions of Engineering, Nursing, and Psychology Students' Personalities

By Harris, Julie A. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, October 1994 | Go to article overview

Perceptions of Engineering, Nursing, and Psychology Students' Personalities


Harris, Julie A., Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Abstract

Student judges (N = 60) completed a personality measure responding in the way they believed male and female students in engineering, nursing, or psychology would complete the inventory. Engineering, nursing, and psychology were considered to be historically male dominated, female dominated, and sex neutral disciplines, respectively. The accuracy of the student judges was assessed by comparing their judgements with those of upper year students (N = 66) in each of the six target conditions. Three personality traits distinguished the three faculties both in self ratings and peer ratings. Engineering students were found to be, in general, high on cognitive structure (preferring clear information) and endurance (working long hours). Nursing students were generally high on nurturance (sympathetic and comforting). Psychology students were found to consistently fall in between the two other faculties. The results suggest that differences exist in the personalities of students in the above faculties and that these differences can be perceived by others.

Resume

Des juges etudiants (N = 60) ont rempli un formulaire d'evaluation de la personnalite. Ils devaient repondre selon la facon dont ils croyaient que les etudiants de sexe masculin et de sexe feminin en genie, sciences infirmieres ou en psychologie procederaient a l'inventaire. Le genie, les sciences infirmieres et la psychologie etaient des domaines consideres respectivement comme a predominance masculine, a predominance feminine, et neutre. L'exactitude des juges etudiants a ete evaluee en comparant leurs jugements a ceux d'etudiants plus avances d'une annee (N = 66) dans chacune des situations cibles. Trois traits de personnalite distinguaient les trois facultes, dans les auto - evaluations comme dans l'evaluation par les pairs. On accordait generalement aux etudiants en genie une note elevee en structure cognitive (preference pour des informations claires) et endurance (longues heures de travail). On accordait generalement aux etudiants en sciences 7infirmieres une note elevee en ce qui a trait au soin attentif des autres (sympathie et reconfort). Quant aux etudiants en psychologie, ils tombaient toujours quelque part entre ceux des deux autres facultes. Les resultats laissent croire qu'il existe des differences de personnalite entre les etudiants des facultes susmentionnees, et que ces differences peuvent etre percues par les autres etudiants.

Individuals group people they meet into various categories based on such features as the person's physical appearance, sex, behaviour, personality, and vocation (Allport, 1961; Kenny, Horner, Kashy, & Chu, 1992; Stangnor, Lynch, Duan, & Glass, 1992). Research in impression formation and social stereotypes has suggested that individuals develop mental categories, each with a particular label and expected behaviours or personality characteristics for individuals within that category (Fiske, Neuberg, Beattie, & Milberg, 1987).

Past empirical research has found that students in different faculties have distinct personality characteristics. For example, physical science students are more neurotic and introverted than are applied science students (Wankowski, 1979). Science and engineering students have been reported to be more tough - minded, conscientious, and conforming than arts, social science, and mixed major students (Kline & Lapham, 1992). Furthermore, science students have also been found to be precise (exacting) where as social science and arts students are sociable and high on sentience or sensitive to experiences of the senses (Harris, 1993).

Lubinski and Benbow (1992) recently reviewed many years of data on large samples and concluded that average sex differences exist in preferences for, and ability in certain professions. Males were more likely to pursue a career in math and science, whereas females frequently choose the social sciences and the humanities.

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