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Personality, 9e

Jerry M. Burger

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The Biological Approach: Theory,
Application, and Assessment
Chapter 9
Chapter Outline
 Hans Eysenck’s theory of personality
 Temperament
 Evolutionary personality psychology
 Application: Children’s temperaments and
school

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Chapter Outline
 Assessment: Brain electrical activity and
cerebral asymmetry
 Strengths and criticisms of the biological
approach

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Hans Eysenck’s Theory of
Personality
 Structure of personality
 Eysenck employed factor analysis to identify
supertraits
 All traits can be subsumed within three basic
personality dimensions
 Extraversion–introversion
 Neuroticism
 Psychoticism

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Figure 9.1 - Eysenck’s
Hierarchical Model of Personality

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Hans Eysenck’s Theory of
Personality
 Eysenck divided the elements of personality
into units that can be arranged hierarchically
 Basic structure - Specific response level
 Initial factor analytic research yielded in two
basic dimensions
 Extraversion–introversion
 Neuroticism
 Personality dimensions are independent of one
another
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Figure 9.2 - Traits Associated with Eysenck’s
Two Major Personality Dimensions

Source: From Eysenck, H. J., and Eysenck, B. G. (1968), Manual for the Eysenck Personality Inventory, San Diego:
EDITS. Reprinted by permission of Educational and Industrial Testing Service.

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Hans Eysenck’s Theory of
Personality
 Extraverts are outgoing, impulsive, uninhibited,
and sociable
 Introverts are quiet, introspective, reserved,
and distant except to intimate friends
 People high on neuroticism are unstable or
highly emotional, easily upset, and angered
 Individuals low on neuroticism are less prone to
emotional swings

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Hans Eysenck’s Theory of
Personality
 Psychoticism - Third supertrait found by
Eysenck
 People on the high end of psychoticism are
egocentric, aggressive, and impersonal

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Biological Basis for
Personality
 Eysenck’s arguments
 Consistency of extraversion–introversion over
time
 Cross-cultural researches indicate the three
dimensions of personality
 Genetics play a vital role in determining a
person’s placement on the personality
dimensions

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Physiological Differences: Stimulation
Sensitivity and Behavioral Activation/Inhibition
Systems
 Sensitivity to stimulation
 Introverts and extraverts differ in how their
brains respond to emotional stimuli
 Introverts are quickly aroused when exposed to
external stimulation

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Physiological Differences: Stimulation
Sensitivity and Behavioral Activation/Inhibition
Systems
 Sensitivity to reinforcement
 Reinforcement sensitivity theory
 Human brain has a behavioral approach system
(BAS) and a behavioral inhibition system (BIS)
 Individuals differ in the strength of these
systems, and differences are stable over time

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Physiological Differences: Stimulation
Sensitivity and Behavioral Activation/Inhibition
Systems
 People with a high BAS seek out and achieve
pleasurable goals
 Experience more anger and frustration
 Individuals low on BAS get pleasure out of
rewards and anticipating those rewards
 People with a high BIS are apprehensive and
quick to retreat from problematic situations
 Experience more anxiety

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Temperament
 General behavioral dispositions that can be
expressed in different ways depending on an
individual’s experiences
 Development into stable personality traits
depends on complex interplay of genetic
predispositions and environment

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Temperament and
Personality
 Dimensions in temperament
 Emotionality - Intensity of emotional reactions
 Children high on emotionality frequently express
anger
 As adults, they are easily upset and have quick
temper

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Temperament and
Personality
 Activity - Person’s general level of energy
 Highly active children move around a lot and prefer
games that require running and jumping
 As grown-ups, they are always on the go and prefer
high-energy activities
 Sociability - General tendency to affiliate and
interact with others
 Sociable children seek out other children to play
 As adults, they have a lot of friends and enjoy social
gatherings
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Temperament and
Personality
 Gender differences in temperament
 Girls exhibit a higher level of effortful control
than boys
 Boys are identified with an increased level of
surgency than girls

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Temperament and
Personality
 Adult personalities are determined by both
inherited temperament and the
environment
 Temperament influences the environment
which in turn influences the way temperament
develops into stable personality traits

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Inhibited and Uninhibited
Children
 Inhibited children: Controlled and
gentle ones
 Attached to their parents
 Slow to explore new environments
 Anxiety to novelty
 Uninhibited children: Excited and
rough ones
 Quick to explore new environments

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Inhibited and Uninhibited
Children
 Inhibited and uninhibited styles represent
inherited biological temperaments
 Inhibited children run the risk of developing
social anxiety disorder
 Uninhibited children are likely to exhibit
disruptive behavior disorders

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Table 9.1 - Correlations Between Inhibition
Measures at 21 Months and Behaviors at Age 5
1/2 Years

Source: From “Inhibited and uninhibited children: A follow-up study,” by J. S. Reznick et al., Child Development,
1986, 57, 660–680. Reprinted by permission of the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

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Evolutionary Personality
Psychology
 Inherited tendencies to become nervous and
upset in certain situations that allows our
species to survive
 Natural selection - Inherited characteristics
of a species that help them meet, survive
and reproduce
 Responsible for psychological mechanisms

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Evolutionary Personality
Psychology
 Anxiety and social exclusion
 Anxiety - Unpleasant emotional state, a
normally functioning person would avoid
 Primary cause - Social exclusion
 Primitive people avoided behaviors that lead to
social exclusion in order to survive and reproduce

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Children’s Temperaments
and School
 Easy child
 Eagerly approaches new situations, adaptive,
and experiences a positive mood
 Difficult child
 Tough to adapt to new environments and are
often in a negative mood
 Slow-to-warm-up child
 Tend to withdraw from unfamiliar situations
and are slow to adapt to new tasks and activities
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Children’s Temperaments
and School
 Temperament and academic performance
 Children with either the difficult or slow-to-
warm-up pattern perform poorly
 Children with an easy temperament get higher
grades

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Children’s Temperaments
and School
 Studies indicate that temperament is not related
to intelligence
 Certain temperaments are compatible with the
requirements of the classroom
 Student’s behavior evokes responses from the
teacher
 Teachers misinterpret temperamental differences in
students

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Children’s Temperaments
and School
 Matching temperament and teaching
 Goodness of fit model
 Creation of environment and procedures conducive
to learning based on the temperament of the student
 Teachers who match teaching style with
temperament:
 Increase child’s chances of academic success
 Contribute to the child’s feelings of self-worth

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Brain Electrical Activity and
Cerebral Asymmetry
 Measuring brain activity
 Electroencephalograph (EEG) - Measures
electrical activity in different parts of the
human brain
 Easy and does not harm the individual
 Records brain activity in quick intervals
 Alpha wave is useful for research on personality and
emotion

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Brain Electrical Activity and
Cerebral Asymmetry
 Cerebral asymmetry
 Difference in the activity level between the
anterior region of a person’s right and left
cerebral hemisphere
 Different patterns are associated with
differences in emotional experience
 Higher activation in the:
 Left hemisphere is associated with positive moods
 Right hemisphere is indicative of negative moods

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Brain Electrical Activity and
Cerebral Asymmetry
 Individual differences in cerebral symmetry
 Hemisphere which displays the higher activity
level differs among people
 Differences in cerebral asymmetry tend to be
stable over time
 Left hemisphere activity is related to movement
toward the source of the emotion

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Brain Electrical Activity and
Cerebral Asymmetry
 Right hemisphere activity is related to
movement away from the source of emotion
 Anxiety sufferers have higher right side
activation than nonanxious individuals
 Measures of cerebral asymmetry are useful to
predict bipolar disorder

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Strengths of the Biological
Approach
 Provides a bridge between the study of
personality and discipline of biology
 Identified realistic parameters for
psychologists interested in behavior change
 Researchers have generated empirical
support for hypotheses advanced from this
perspective

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Criticisms of the Biological
Approach
 Biologists face limits on their ability to test
their ideas
 Assumption that every human characteristic
serves a survival function
 Lack of an agreed-upon model on
temperament
 No schools of psychotherapy based on
biological approach
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