Communication and Social Influence Processes

By Charles R. Berger; Michael Burgoon | Go to book overview

Communication and Personality: Improving the Predictive Fit

Thomas M. Steinfatt

D uring the period from 1950 to roughly the mid-1970s, much of the research in interpersonal communication concentrated on the person in the communication situation. The factors the person brought into the situation in terms of personality, and the way the communication process influenced the person, especially in terms of attitude change, were two overriding concerns of research. Many data sets involved a measure of personality in some fashion ( Bettinghaus, Miller, & Steinfatt, 1970; Steinfatt, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1987; Steinfatt & Miller, 1971, 1974; Steinfatt, Miller, & Bettinghaus, 1969, 1974; Steinfatt & Seibold, 1979; Steinfatt, Seibold, & Frye, 1974). The personality measures in these studies usually predicted as expected, but with smaller effect sizes than anticipated.

Prior to the 1960s, aside from occasional negative results and the usual cautions concerning the interpretation of results, little criticism appeared in the literature regarding the predictive power of personality. Meehl and Hathaway ( 1946) had discussed concerns with subjects who were "faking good" or "faking bad," Cronbach ( 1946, 1950) discussed the problem of response sets, and Edwards ( 1953, 1957) discussed a property of test items he called social desirability. But these were discussions set in terms of the normal problems associated with measurement in any scientific inquiry.

In 1964, Vernon suggested that all was not well in predicting behavior from personality; he was joined in 1968 by Peterson, and in the 1970s by Endler ( 1973, 1975). DeFleur and Westie ( 1958), Deutscher ( 1966), and McGuire ( 1969) voiced similar concerns with respect to attitude/behavior relationships. Others ( Bem, 1965; Mischel, 1969; Nisbett and Ross, 1980;

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