April 25, 2015

Summary "Me, myself and us" by Brian R Little

Me, myself and us by Brian R Little
The science of personality and the art of well-being.

Personality psychology emerged as an academic specialty in the 1930s, but its root extends back to philosophical and medical theories in the fourth century BCE Greece. Influential among these ancient theories were those that emphasized how various bodily humors  - air, black bile, blood, and yellow bit - gave rise to four corresponding temperamental types: phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine, and choleric personalities.

Freudian psychoanalytical theory saw personality as being shaped by the protected conflict between unconscious, primary sexual needs and the prohibitions of society. In George Kelly’s ‘The Psychology of Personal Constructs’, he challenged.

Generally speaking, introverts achieve higher marks in school, so by the time they are in university they are more likely to obtain a first class graduating average. The researchers suggest that learning environment that is critical. Extraverts learn better in environments that are stimulating and engaging and conventional schools may not be able to provide such an environment.

There are two other areas of intellectual achievement in which there are notable differences between those who are high and low on extroversion. Extraverts have better memories than introverts do, but only in short-term memory. Introverts do better on long-term memory tasks. Extraverts are more likely to opt for quantity, introverts for quality.

If we watch social interactions, we can easily spot the difference between introverted and extroverted styles. Extraverts stand closer, but speak more loudly. They tend to touch and poke, even hug. Introverts are less intense, more subdued, and definitely less huggy.

They also have contrasting verbal styles. Extraverts use direct, simple, concrete language. Introverts have a tendency to craft communications that are more oblique, contingently complex, and weasel-worded.

Human personality has both an inner and an outer reality. The inner reality consists of what we are intending to do - what personal projects we are pursuing at any given time. The outer reality consists of images that we create, consciously or not, for others. It in in the nexus between these two realities that our personalities are constructed, challenged, and reconstructed.

We can think of our everyday behavior as expressions of three different motivational sources that energize it. The first is biogenic: its roots are genetic and its influence arises from brain structures and processes that the rapidly emerging field of personality neuroscience is studying. If you make a loud noise near the newborns, what will they do? Some will orient toward the noise and others will turn away. Those who are attracted to the noise end up being extraverts later in development; those who turn away are more likely to end up being introverts.

One of the more interesting ways of informally assessing extroversion at the biogenic level is to do the lemon-drop test. There are several variations on the test, and I draw here on a demonstration procedure I frequently used with my undergraduates.7 Here are the ingredients you will need: an eyedropper, a cotton swab (the little stick with a wrap of cotton on either end, we use for babies and are admonished not to stick in our ears), a thread, concentrated lemon juice (regular lemon juice won’t work as effectively), and the willing tongue of a volunteer (such as yourself). Attach the thread to the center of the double-tipped cotton swab so that it hangs exactly horizontal. Swallow four times, then put one end of the swab on the tongue, holding it for twenty seconds. Then place five drops of the concentrated lemon juice on the tongue. Swallow, then place the other end of the swab on the same portion of the tongue and hold it for twenty seconds. Then hold up the swab by the thread. For some people the swab will remain horizontal. For others, it will dip on the lemon juice end. Can you guess which? For the extroverts, the swab stays relatively horizontal, but for introverts it dips. The reason is that introverts, because they have relatively high levels of chronic arousal, respond more vigorously to strong stimulation, like lemon juice, so they create more saliva. Extraverts, being less responsive to high levels of stimulation, stay relatively dry mouthed. In fact, there is evidence that because of this tendency toward lower salivation levels, extraverts actually have higher levels of tooth decay than do introverts

Each of the Big Five dimensions of personality can be assessed in terms of its biogenic roots.(The five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).  For example, there is growing evidence that highly agreeable individuals have higher levels of oxytocin.

In contrast with the American extroverted ideal, other cultures place a higher premium on introversion. This is sort of sociogenic sources of motivation.

Beyond the influence of the biogenic and sociogenic source of motivation, there is another compelling influence on our daily behavior that I call idiogenic motives. They represent the plans, aspirations, commitments and personal projects that we pursue in the course of daily life. Their origin is idiosyncratic and singular. By invoking biogenic causes we can explain a person’s behavior as the natural playing out of traits. By invoking sociogenic causes we can explain the same behavior as the natural consequences of social norms. But by invoking idiogenic causes we seek the reasons why a person is engaged in a particular pattern of behavior.

The situations and settings of our everyday lives plan an important role in the quality of our lives. The better the ‘fit’ between a person’s biogenic traits and the characteristics of the environment, the better the consequence for well-being.  One of the functions of the environment is to provide the right resources for enabling our personal projects. Our own research has shown that highly sociable individuals are happier if they are engaged in personal projects that involve a lot of social interaction.

[To fully connect with the audience, my lectures need to be fast paced, intense and interactive - in short, highly extroverted.]

High self monitors (HSM)  are concerned about how others see them, and they behave so as to reflect the norms and expectations of the situations they enter. Low Self Monitors (LSM) are less concerned with how others view them and are guided in their behavior by their own traits and values rather than situational expectations. Knowledge of SM scores provides us with rich material for reflection on the personality and well-being.

As you read this, that i am standing opposite to you when I ask you to do the following. Please write, with your finger, the letter Q on your forehead. Do it now.  Did you put the tail on the right side or the left side as viewed from inside your head looking outward? Which you did might offer a clue about whether you are a HSM or LSM. Those who put the tail to right side as viewed from inside your head looking outward more likely to be LSMs and those with the tail to the left m HSMs. The logic is that HSMs convey their information literally from the point of view of the audience, whereas LSMs do it from their own perspective. Another such example is when a person is served a steak. HSM like person will take steak even for putting slat first, whereas LSM will salt the steak first before tasting.

Are we better described as onions or avocados? When asked to list their attributes, HSM tend to report more publicly visible or available aspects of themselves, such as physical features, status, and roles they play. LSMs are more likely to report their internal attributes such as their values, enduring preferences, or the kind of subsumed by Big Five factors. HSMs are rather like Onions  one keep peeling back layer after layer, until one discovers no substantial self there at all. LSMs are like avocados when you dig down you discover a pit, a firm core that is invariant.

Students were asked to look at each situation and determine its SM press - that is, to what extent it was the kind of situation in which people should be monitoring their conduct very closely.

The highest SM press from the student’s interview are::

Job interview
Public speaking
Appearing in court
Meeting the dean of the university
Giving a seminar in class
Serving customers
First Date

The lowest SM press are:
Sick at home
Watching TV with friends
Rock concert
Camping alone
‘Talking to a close friend
At the beach
Grocery shopping
Dinner at McDonald's

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