Personality, Cognition, and Social Interaction

Personality, Cognition, and Social Interaction

Personality, Cognition, and Social Interaction

Personality, Cognition, and Social Interaction

Excerpt

Until very recently the scientific study of personality was primarily concerned with locating the individual with respect to a number of dimensions representing enduring characteristic dispositions, as formalized in the classic trait theories. In the 1950s and 1960s, however, a growing awareness that individual behavior was not highly consistent across different situations led many personologists to deemphasize generalized dispositions and focus instead on the impact of the social context in which social behavior takes place. This new personology favored constructs drawn from the behaviorist tradition in experimental psychology--particularly the notions of event-event and response-outcome contingency--as supplemented by new concepts such as vicarious learning, modeling, and self-reinforcement. The development of social-learning theory paved the way for an increasing interaction between personality and social psychology. If trait theorists tended to think of personality in terms of response tendencies that were stable across time and situations, social-learning theorists underscored the discriminativeness and flexibility of human behavior. Clearly, however, the operative factors in human behavior were not the objective stimulus conditions but the ways in which situations were perceived and the meanings attributed to them by the individual. Recognition of this fact led investigators to take seriously the cognitive processes by which the individual construes situations and plans behavior in a psychological environment. The resulting cognitive social-learning theory provides the basis for future links between personality and cognitive psychology.

This evolutionary trend--in which personality has "gone social" and "gone cognitive"--makes it quite difficult to draw sharp distinctions among the domains of personality, cognitive, and social psychology. Although some may see . . .

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