Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Exploration of the Activity-Specific Model of Temperament in Four Languages

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Exploration of the Activity-Specific Model of Temperament in Four Languages

Article excerpt

The application of psychological tests developed in one culture to other cultures brings with it the benefits of cross-cultural comparisons on a variety of topics, but the effect of cultural diversity on the perception of test material creates a fundamental problem for such comparisons. One approach to this problem is to attempt to select the most basic dynamical aspects of human performance, which are universal across cultures and which do not depend much upon the content or context of the activity. The present study considers the formal dynamical characteristics of activity, energetic level, plasticity, tempo and emotionality as aspects of temperament that could serve as universal factors.

Many researchers consider temperament as consisting of the content free, formal dimensions of behaviour, whereas personality is to be considered a socio-psychological construct comprising the content characteristics of human behaviour (Eysenck, 1990; Gray, 1970; Nebylitsyn, 1972; Rusalov, 1989; Strelau, 1994; Strelau & Angleitner, 1991). As Strelau and Angleigtner (1991, p.6) pointed out in their overview, "most temperament researchers agree that temperament, whatever the traits and structure to which this concept refers, has a strong biological determination... This assumption has its roots in the fact that temperament characteristics can be observed from the first weeks of life and individual differences in temperament traits have a strong genetic determination (Buss, Eysenck, Zuckerman, Netter, Fahrenberg)". The European tradition in the analysis of temperament developed by Kant, Wundt, Heymans, Adler, Kretchmer, Gray, Pavlov, Eysenck is centered around two basic components of temperament: Activity characteristics and Emotionality characteristics.

The two-component model of temperament was developed further in the studies of the types and properties of nervous systems carried by the Russian schools of psychology. Since the original animal work carried out by Pavlov at the beginning of the 20th century, extensive experimental work with human subjects was conducted in the laboratories of Teplov (1963), Nebylitsyn (1972), and then Rusalov (1979). These experiments showed that the strength of excitation or inhibition in the Central Nervous System (CNS) determined how long an individual could sustain activation or inhibition of activation. The mobility of CNS processes determined the plasticity of behaviour, i.e how easily an individual could start or stop activity, and how flexible and adaptive the individual could be to new circumstances or instructions. The balance between excitation and inhibition was thought to be the basis of emotionality, impulsivity, and detachment behaviour. The British psychologist Jeffrey Gray conducted most of the work on the translation and analysis of Pavlov's "types of CNS" and found a strong parallel between the concept of arousal, Eysenck's concept of Extraversion and the Pavlovian concept of the strength of a nervous system (Gray, 1970, 1991).

Vladimir Rusalov who, after Nebylitsyn, inherited the Laboratory of Differential Psychology and Differential Psychophysiology in the Institute of Psychology under the Russian Academy of Sciences, developed the first version of the Structure of Temperament Questionnaire (STQ) in the late 1970's to early 1980's based on his studies of the psycho-physiological correlates of consistent individual differences in physiological measures (Rusalov, 1979). He discovered consistent between-subject differences in the amplitudes and frequencies of delta- and theta-rhythms in frontal and occipital areas in cross spectral presentations, differences in the frequency and amplitude of beta-2 rhythms of frontal and occipital areas, and differences in the spatio-temporal coherence of the EEG as measured by the synchronization and coherence of alpha, beta-1, delta and theta rhythms. In addition to EEG studies, Rusalov measured evoked potentials, absolute thresholds in visual, auditory, and tactile modalities, strength of excitation in auditory and visual modalities, mobility in auditory and visual modalities, problem solving in deterministic and probabilistic conditions, and the speed of problem solving using a variety of intellectual tests. …

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