The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology, by Philip J. Corr and Gerald Matthews (Eds.) Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 904 Pages (ISBN 978-0-521-86218-9, US $199.95 Hardcover; ISBN 978-0-521-68051-6, CA $96.95, Paperback)
Reviewed by ALEXANDER L. CHAPMAN
A comprehensive review of personality psychology, this book covers a range of topics, including those that are standard in personality texts (conceptualisation, biological and cultural perspectives) as well as more unique additions (social pain and hurt feelings, animal models, and politics). Although the introductions are lengthy (approximately 33 pages), these chapters do provide a useful guide to the book and key issues addressed in remaining chapters. The chapters are generally written in a manner appropriate for graduate students, professionals, or academics. Given the broad scope and careful attention to the defining of key constructs and methods, this book will appeal to an audience with varying familiarity with personality psychology.
Within the first couple of sections, the authors often grapple with key conceptual issues. Chapter 1 covers a breadth of issues in relation to personality psychology. In particular, the discussion of "grand theories," criteria for a sound theory, and philosophy of science will stimulate critical analysis of the constructs we use in personality psychology. From the author's perspective, the goals of a good theory include comprehensive and parsimonious description, as well as prediction. Beyond describing peoples' personalities parsimoniously in a manner that predicts behaviour, might it also be valuable to make our theories relevant to applied implications, such as health, cultural and social relations, and psychopathology?
Also within the first few sections, chapters addressed the transaction of personality and environment. Chapters 2 and 3 provided thought-provoking discussions of the nature of "situations," the influence of perceptions, and the transaction of situations and persons. In particular, Chapter 3's interesting discussion of individual situation profile stability provided a synthesis of models emphasising situational variability and those espousing the consistency of trait expression. Reflected in these chapters, a strength cutting across this book was the focus on transactional models of personality. In this way, the book goes beyond anachronistic debates about the importance of context versus traits.
The chapters on description and measurement generally underscored the tight conceptual focus across the book. Although parts of Chapter 5 involved a helpful review of the "trait" construct, much of the chapter is mired in historical review and heavily reliant on quotations from personality researchers or theorists. Similarly, although Chapter 7 provided an extensive discussion of measurement and statistical issues, the chapter organisation is hard to follow, with no section headings and less focus/structure than is found in other chapters.
The section on development, health, and personality change addressed many important issues, such the temporal stability of personality, the distinction between personality and temperament, the role of early environments, and attachment theory. In Chapter 1 1, the authors define temperament distinctly from personality and review research on temperament in childhood and the interaction of temperament with parenting in the prediction of future outcomes. I would like to have seen more discussion of the potentially bidirectional association of temperament and parenting. Although the authors' definition of temperament included temporal stability, the issue of stability is complex. Notwithstanding, the following chapter included an excellent discussion of the different types of stability of personality as well as mechanisms underlying stability. Perhaps future work will examine the stability of personality X environment transactions, rather than simply the stability of individual traits. …