Personality Traits

By Gerald Matthews; Ian J. Deary et al. | Go to book overview

Preface to the First Edition

The stimuli for writing this book were private and public. In our conversations with colleagues in other areas of psychology we have noticed a lack of awareness of recent advances and retreats in personality psychology. In parallel with these conversations, we noticed that textbooks on personality and sections on personality in general psychology texts frequently failed to reflect what was happening in the research journals and at personality conferences. Many psychologists, we found, were under the impression either that traits had perished under Mischel's broadsword in 1968, or that trait theorists were still discussing how many angels were perched on their particular pinhead. Personality texts, more surprisingly, seemed stuck in an arcane formula, variously described as a Dutch Auction or a Hall of Fame. Thus, the typical book on personality has a number of more or less free-standing chapters on 'approaches to personality' handed down largely by great names: Freud, Jung, Maslow, Erikson, Horney, Sullivan, May, Kelly, Rogers. What many of these approaches shared was a lack of current, and often past, academic interest and a lack of empirical evidence or even testability. Within the Hall of Fame, traits appeared as one or two dusty portraits, neither more nor less distinguished than the other works on offer, though perhaps with a little less depth.

The typical book reviewing personality does not adequately represent current personality research. It offers a parallel world where knowledge does not progress and where stories pertaining to human personality are collected irrespective of their validity. The version of traits offered is frequently a straw man that entails a rigidity and narrowness not seen among living trait researchers. One still sees situationism and interactionism portrayed as alternatives to trait models, whereas the truth is that there are no credible situationists who deny the existence of traits and no trait theorists who deny the power of the situation. Situationism and trait theories are complementary, not alternatives, and interactionism is the description of the emergent approach consequent on recognising these truths. This does not deny that some researchers will devote their careers more to studying traits or situations, and there is more than one way to become an interactionist. It is a truism verging on cliché to say that behaviour is multifactorially determined and that there is a reciprocity between the person and the environment. However, this richness may only be captured by systematic empirical research that stakes out the lawful personological and situational (and interactional) factors influencing behaviour.

An accurate exposition of scientific research on personality must break the common mould from which many personality texts have been cast; it must explain

-xix-

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Personality Traits
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Figures x
  • Tables xiii
  • Boxes xvi
  • Preface to the First Edition xix
  • Preface to the Second Edition xxiii
  • I - The Nature of Personality Traits 1
  • 1 - The Trait Concept and Personality Theory 3
  • 2 - Persons, Situations and Interactionism 39
  • 3 - Personality Across the Life Span 58
  • 4 - Stable Traits and Transient States 77
  • 5 - Alternatives to Trait Theory 112
  • II - Causes of Personality Traits 133
  • 6 - Genes, Environments and Personality Traits 135
  • 7 - The Psychophysiology of Traits 166
  • 8 - The Social Psychology of Traits 204
  • III - Consequences and Applications 239
  • 9 - Stress 241
  • 10 - Traits and Health 273
  • 11 - Abnormal Personality Traits? 294
  • 12 - Personality, Performance and Information-Processing 325
  • 13 - Applications of Personality Assessment 357
  • 14 - Conclusions 391
  • References 411
  • Author Index 482
  • Subject Index 487
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