13 Sep One of the most interesting topics in personality is whether our personality stays consistent over time or stays the same. Additionally, as you saw in your readings personalit
One of the most interesting topics in personality is whether our personality stays consistent over time or stays the same. Additionally, as you saw in your readings personality change is not just studied over a person's lifetime but also how our personality adjusts in different situations.
I would like you to make an argument for how much personality changes or stays consistent either across the lifespan or across different situations. You can include your opinion but also please cite information that you have read. I would like you in making your argument to include a new source ourside of your textbook or course readings for the week. Do a search online to find some research that backs up your opinion. Share with the class what that research states, and how they came to that conclusion. Please cite it in APA style. I want you to try to work on stating an idea/opinion but then backing it up by your readings/research you did.
C H A P T E R 1
The Emergence of Personality
Dan P. McAdams
How do we become who we are? This is the question of personality development. If there is a more compelling question in all of psychologi- cal science, I cannot think of it.
The phrase “who we are” pertains to person- ality itself, which may be conceived as those socially consequential features of a person’s psychological makeup that distinguish him or her from other human beings—the psychologi- cal differences that make the biggest difference in adaptation to human life. The phrase “how do we become” pertains to development. How does a person’s characteristic psychological makeup come to be? How does it emerge, how does it change, and in what ways does it—personality itself—demonstrate continuity over develop- mental time?
In this opening chapter for the Handbook of Personality Development, I consider the emer- gence of personality in two very different sens- es. The first is signaled by my opening question, the developmental question around which the Handbook is constructed. I argue that person- ality development may be usefully construed from three different standpoints. These are the standpoints of the person as (1) a social actor, (2) a motivated agent, and (3) an autobiographi- cal author (McAdams, 2015a, 2015b; McAdams & Olson, 2010). Each standpoint corresponds to a line of personality development running across the human life course, from infancy
through old age. This tripartite conception of personality development provides an organiz- ing framework for the Handbook.
The second sense of emergence refers to the emergence of personality studies as a legitimate and powerful intellectual movement in psy- chological science. Personality psychology has endured a conflicted history within the broad discipline of psychology. While all fields of study are shaped by their history, personality psychology has an especially notable story to tell, I think, for the field has struggled mightily over the past 40 years to emerge from a difficult past. Let’s just say that, beginning in the 1960s, personality psychology went through a tumul- tuous adolescence, filled with Sturm und Drang (Barenbaum & Winter, 2008; McAdams, 1997). And the field still bears the psychological scars to prove it. While some observers of this his- tory argue that trauma ultimately produced re- silience (Kenrick & Funder, 1988), the insecuri- ties and confusions that plagued the field during its protracted adolescence for decades made it nearly impossible to address seriously the topic of personality development. In a nutshell, it was extraordinarily difficult to think systematical- ly about how personality itself might develop when it was not clear what personality itself was, or even if such a thing existed.
Personality psychology finally emerged as a mature and confident scientific discipline
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over the past two decades. Its emergence en- ables us now to consider the question of how indeed the phenomenon of personality itself emerges, and how it develops over the human life course. Therefore, current developmental conceptions derive from a historical legacy. In what follows, I consider both senses of the word emergence as applied to personality, then I end with a case example of personality development in one life of substantial histori- cal significance: the life of former U.S. Presi- dent Barack Obama. Our understanding of the emergence and development of personality across the human life course, shaped as it is by the history of our science, comes fully alive in the close examination of a real human being developing over time.
Struggling to Emerge as a Field: A Brief (and Troubled) History Early Promise
The future looked bright when Gordon Allport and Henry Murray first carved out an intellec- tual space for the field of personality psychol- ogy in the mid-1930s. In the field’s first au- thoritative text, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Allport (1937) brought together British and American research on individual differences, German studies of character, and investigations into abnormal psychology and mental hygiene to create a new subdiscipline in psychology. In Explorations in Personality, Murray (1938) took a slightly different tack, drawing more from the psychoanalytic tradition (Freud and Jung, mainly), cultural anthropol- ogy, and the case studies he and his colleagues assembled at the Harvard Psychological Clinic; but his take-home message was very similar to Allport’s. Both men envisioned an integra- tive field of psychological study aimed at un- derstanding the whole person. Whereas 1930s experimental psychology dissected persons into their component pieces (sensation, perception, habit, and conditioning) in order to generate universal laws of animal behavior, personality psychology should aim instead to synthesize the psychological pieces, Allport and Murray argued, and to bring inquiry to bear upon the individual human life.
Allport (1937, 1961) was especially sensitive to the tension inherent in such an enterprise, for personality psychology would need to launch nomothetic investigations to examine
psychological variation across different human beings, while also conducting idiographic studies that aimed to examine personality structure, dynamics, and development within the single case. In Allport’s view, the central construct to be employed in this endeavor was the dispositional personality trait—a position that anticipated the seminal contributions of Cattell (1943), Eysenck (1952), Guilford (1959), and the many personality psychologists who contributed to the formulation of the Big Five trait taxonomy (e.g., Goldberg, 1993; McCrae & Costa, 1987). For Murray (1938), motivational constructs (needs, motives, goals, complexes), rather than traits per se, were deemed to be the most important variables for conceptualizing psychological variation between persons, and the key to understanding the individual life. As such, Murray’s perspective anticipated the seminal contributions of McClelland (1961) on need for achievement, Winter (1973) on the power motive, Deci and Ryan (1991) on intrinsic motivation and self-determination, and motivational approaches espoused by Cantor (1990), Emmons (1986), and Sheldon (2004), among others.
The early promise of the field was also captured in the grand theories of personality proposed in the first half of the 20th century, systematized and collated in personality textbooks, such as that of Hall and Lindzey (1957). Broad theoretical conceptions offered by Freud, Jung, Adler, Rogers, Maslow, Kelly, and others, as well as by Allport and Murray themselves, provided integrative conceptual frameworks for understanding the whole person, and for specifying the most important individual differences to be studied. In the years immediately following World War II, personality researchers mined these theories for their most valuable constructs, launching innovative research programs to assess and elaborate phenomena such as authoritarianism (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950), achievement motivation (McClelland, 1961), anxiety (Taylor, 1953), extraversion (Eysenck, 1952), and identity (Marcia, 1966). During the same period, methodologists published a series of classic papers that extended and refined the science of personality measurement (e.g, Campbell & Fiske, 1959; Cronbach & Meehl, 1955; Loevinger, 1957). Blessed with integrative theories, provocative constructs, and increasingly sophisticated assessment methods, postwar personality psychology seemed destined for success.
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But rumblings of discontent could be heard by the early 1960s. A surprisingly contentious de- bate arose regarding the meaning of self-report items commonly used on personality scales. Many items held a social desirability bias, crit- ics observed. Regardless of the content of the item, some respondents may simply rate them- selves in an especially positive and socially de- sirable manner (Crowne & Marlow, 1960), po- tentially undermining the validity of self-report scales. Similarly, some respondents may tend to agree with nearly any statement about the self (yea-sayers), while others may tend to dis- agree (nay-sayers), suggesting that test-taking styles (rather than trait-specific content) may ultimately determine people’s scores on trait scales. After the publication of hundreds of ar- ticles and monographs on the subject, personal- ity psychologists seemed to exhaust the issue, ultimately concluding the following: (1) The problem of test-taking styles is technically real, but mainly trivial and (2) minor tweaks to ex- isting scales can resolve the issue well enough (Block, 1965).
The decade-long debate over response styles foreshadowed the course of future controversies in the field of personality psychology: First, a plausible critique is levied, but in exaggerated terms; second, those who perceive themselves to be targets of the critique respond with fierce counterattack; third, a protracted battle ensues, filling up countless pages in journals and books while spreading a sense of discord and confu- sion; and fourth, the combatants finally run out of energy, or others run out of patience, and rea- sonable people conclude that the original critics may have had a point, but they took it way too far.
The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a number of trends, both in science and in society, that chal- lenged basic assumptions of personality psy- chology. The dramatic, and sometimes coun- terintuitive, findings of experimental social psychology (e.g., iconic studies by Asch  and Milgram  on conformity and on obe- dience to authority) illustrated the power of situational variables to shape behavior, over and against individual differences in personality. Social upheavals cast serious doubt on the ade- quacy of frameworks for identifying “types” or “kinds” of people and stable individual differ- ences. Both in clinical work and in the study of normal persons, personality diagnosis and as-
sessment came to be viewed in some circles as nothing more than “labeling,” promulgated by an establishment interested in retaining its own power, or by small-minded observers under the sway of stereotypes (Goffman, 1961; Rosen- hahn, 1973). The antiwar, civil rights, and wom- en’s movements all sensitized Americans to the pervasive influence of culture and environment on human behavior and experience—influence experienced in the contexts of family, class, eth- nicity, race, and nation-state. The implicit mes- sage was this: The person is a product—even a victim—of social context; therefore, one should focus on context rather than the person—on social influence rather than individuality. In addition, some came to see personality psy- chology as dominated by an Anglo-masculine viewpoint. One could reasonably argue in 1970 that the only whole persons whom personality psychologists ever studied anyway were upper- middle-class white males.
The field of personality psychology endured a number of devastating critiques around this time: Carlson (1971) chastised the field for ig- noring Allport’s original call for idiographic studies; Fiske (1974) despaired that personal- ity constructs were hopelessly imprecise, im- possible to pin down with concrete behaviors; Shweder (1975) suggested that behavioral scien- tists abandon all efforts to study stable individ- ual differences; and Sechrest (1976) wondered whether there was really a “there” there when it came to the so-called “field” of personality psychology, joking that there are two ways to spell it: c-l-i-n-i-c-a-l and s-o-c-i-a-l.
But the strongest critique came from Mischel (1968), who best captured the cultural ethos of the late 1960s. Based on a highly selective re- view of the empirical literature, Mischel con- cluded that personality dispositions, typically measured via paper-and-pencil questionnaires, account for very little of the variance in human behavior. For the most part, there is little cross- situational generality for human thought, feel- ing, and action, Mischel argued. Instead, what human beings do (and feel and think) tends to be dictated mainly by factors specific to the given situational context. Individual differ- ences in situations are more effective predictors of behavior than are individual differences in personality variables (e.g., traits), which are es- sentially nothing more than stereotypic labels. Mischel suggested that the only place traits may truly exist is in the minds of personality psychologists. Thus, personality psychologists
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may be guilty of committing a fundamental attribution error by invoking broad categories concerning internal dispositions to explain (and predict) the behavior of others, labels that they are probably loath to apply to themselves.
Mischel’s critique ignited an internecine feud in personality psychology—what came to be called the person–situation debate. Which is more important in the prediction of behavior: the person (e.g., his or her traits) or the situa- tion? Defenders of the trait position viewed the situationist critique as an indictment on the en- tire field of personality psychology. They had a point: If psychologists could not even concede that individual differences in basic traits pre- dicted, or at least were associated with, cor- responding behavioral trends, then the very existence of personality itself must be called into question (Hogan, DeSoto, & Solano, 1977). From the beginning, the trait advocates were on the defensive.
Following Mischel (1968, 1973), the advanc- ing forces for situationism found intellectual sustenance in social learning theory (Bandura, 1971), and they found ideological allies among many social psychologists who tended then to be (by either training or disposition) suspicious of dispositional explanations in psychology. In an ironic turn, the term trait psychologist be- came a label of ill repute in many circles of psy- chological science during the 1970s and early 1980s. Jackson and Paunonen (1980) wryly ob- served that “trait psychologists” seemed then to be viewed “like witches of 300 years ago. . . . [T]here is confidence in their existence, and even possibly their sinister properties, although one is hard pressed to find one in the flesh or even meet someone who has” (p. 523). As if to save the field’s founder from eternal damnation, Zuroff (1986) went to great lengths to prove that Allport himself was not a trait psycholo- gist. Allport never claimed that behavior was perfectly consistent from one situation to the next, Zuroff showed. Nor did he ever claim that individual differences in trait scores perfectly predict individual differences in behavior. But of course, no credible personality psychologist had ever claimed these things!
The debate raged on for at least 15 years, dominating the discourse in journals and books published in personality psychology. The controversy produced important conceptual papers, and it led to refinements in research methodology. Nonetheless, it is difficult to argue with Rorer and Widiger’s (1983) assessment, when they concluded, “a great deal of nonsense
has been written on the trait–situation topic” (p. 446). By the mid-1980s, both sides in the conflict seemed to settle on the compromise position of interactionism—behavior is a function of the interaction of the person and the situation, a position that each side claimed it had held all along (Maddi, 1984).
When the dust finally settled on the person–sit- uation debate, the field of personality psychol- ogy began to make notable progress in fulfill- ing some of the promise that Allport (1937) and Murray (1938) envisioned half a century earlier. By the mid-1990s, signs of the field’s vigorous (re-)emergence were everywhere to be seen.
Most important, the field’s cardinal con- struct—the idea of a basic personality trait— began to receive overwhelming empirical sup- port. For example, longitudinal studies began to show that individual differences in disposition- al personality traits are highly stable over long periods of time (Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000). Studies of twins suggested substantial heritabil- ity for personality traits (Tellegen et al., 1988). In light of such findings, it is difficult now to argue that traits are merely attributional fictions residing in the heads of personality psycholo- gists.
Importantly, studies wherein behavior is ag- gregated across many situations and over time show again and again that individual differ- ences on trait scores are significantly, and often robustly, associated with summary behavioral trends (Fleeson & Gallagher, 2009), even as it remains difficult to predict exactly what a per- son will do in any single situation. Trait scores, moreover, are powerful predictors of many of the most consequential outcomes in human life, including psychological well-being, occu- pational success, marital stability, health, and mortality (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006; Rob- erts, Kuncel, Shiner, Caspi, & Goldberg, 2007). Forging a much-needed consensus in the 1980s, the Big Five framework now provides an elegant and heuristically powerful scheme for organiz- ing the many dispositional traits that might be invoked to describe and explain variation in human behavior (McCrae & Costa, 1987), and a few rival schemes have also enjoyed signifi- cant notice (Ashton et al., 2004). And neurosci- entists have made important advances in iden- tifying the cortical reward circuits and control systems that constitute the biological bases of traits (DeYoung et al., 2010).
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With the consolidation of the trait concept, personality psychologists have moved vigor- ously into other important domains to explore features of psychological individuality that go well beyond traits. In the tradition of Murray (1938), motivational approaches to personality have flourished in the past few decades. Draw- ing from theoretical sources as diverse as evolu- tionary theory, lifespan developmental psychol- ogy, self-determination theory, Maslow’s (1968) theory of needs, McClelland’s (1961) theory of social motives, and many other sources, person- ality psychologists have examined the manifes- tations, dynamics, and development of people’s life goals and strivings, generally conceiving of this domain as separate from but complemen- tary to the domain of dispositional personality traits (e.g., Freund & Riediger, 2006; Hofer & Bush, 2011; Kenrick, Griskevicius, Neuberg, & Schaller, 2011; Sheldon & Schuler, 2011). Re- searchers have also redoubled their efforts to understand the role of ideological beliefs and values in personality (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009; Schwartz, 2009).
Over the past two decades, narrative perspec- tives on human lives have gained increasing favor among personality psychologists (McAd- ams & Manczak, 2015). In terms of methodol- ogy, researchers have demonstrated growing interest in assessing features of human person- ality as they are revealed in autobiographical memories and other storied accounts of human experience (Baddeley & Singer, 2007). With respect to theory, McAdams (1996) and others (e.g., McLean, Pasupathi, & Pals, 2007) have formulated new conceptions of personality that feature the role of life stories in the construction of the self. A central concept in this literature is narrative identity, which refers to a person’s in- ternalized story of his or her reconstructed past and imagined future, the narrative of how “I came to be the person I am becoming” (McAd- ams & McLean, 2013). Variations in structural and content features of life narratives constitute important individual differences in personal- ity itself, separate from dispositional traits and predictive of important life outcomes above and beyond traits (Adler, Lodi-Smith, Philippe, & Houle, 2016).
In the Meantime . . .
During the decades of crisis and revival in per- sonality psychology, researchers in develop- mental psychology were articulating new theo- retical frameworks and empirical agendas for
the study of meaningful and orderly psychologi- cal change over time. Just a year after Mischel (1968) threw the field of personality psychology into turmoil, Bowlby (1969) published one of the game-changing psychological books of the 20th century: Attachment and Loss, Volume 1. Almost half a century later, attachment theory continues to stimulate exciting research in de- velopmental psychology, much of which would seem to have direct bearing on the issue of per- sonality development. Surprisingly few explicit connections have been made, however, between personality psychology and the traditions of re- search that have grown up around attachment theory—often grouped by developmentalists under the rubric of socioemotional develop- ment.
Going back to Thomas, Chess, and Birch (1970), developmental scientists have examined the early-emerging trends in behavior, emo- tion, and attention that fall under the category of infant temperament. Important advances in this research domain were made throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but it is only within the last decade or so that researchers have system- atically considered the relationship between early temperament and adult personality traits (Rothbart, 2007; Shiner & DeYoung, 2013). Many other important trends in developmental psychology have, until quite recently, barely registered a signal in the mainstream literature on personality psychology. These include the study of childhood agency and the development of competence (Walls & Kollat, 2006), emotion regulation in the family (Thompson & Meyer, 2007), moral development (Narvaez & Laps- ley, 2009), the dynamics of emerging adult- hood (Arnett, 2000), parenting and caregiving through midlife (Lachman, 2001), and the ar- chitecture of development in old age (Baltes, 1997). Moreover, personality psychologists are just beginning to take seriously the lessons of the life-course developmental tradition (Elder, 1995), with its emphasis on linked lives, social convoys, social class, and the exigencies of the historical moment within which a developing human life is situated.
Links between the study of personality and the study of human development should have been made decades ago, I would argue. But for their part, personality psychologists were unable to make them. They were unable to make them because for many years the concept of personal- ity itself was not secure enough to warrant ex- pansion into the developmental domain. During the dark days of the person–situation debate,
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situationists constructed an image of human life that privileged the influences of short-term ef- fects and constantly changing environments. Therefore, it was incumbent on personality psy- chologists to show that dispositional traits were stable enough and efficacious enough to resist the forces of instability, change, and flux. Sure, contexts change by the moment, but personality perseveres, to some extent at least. Yet the study of human development is fundamentally about change—change over the long haul, rather than from one situation to the next, but change nev- ertheless. Personality psychologists were unable to embrace fully this kind of change—the kind of change that goes under the title of personality development—until they had achieved a suitable level of confidence in the solidity and stability of their own pet constructs and, by extension, the legitimacy of the very idea of human personality.
After an extended adolescence, personality psychology has finally emerged as a confident and mature discipline, well positioned to pursue generative collaborations with many different fields in psychology and the behavioral scienc- es. At this moment in history, then, one of the brightest prospects on the horizon is the pursuit of a rich scientific understanding of personality development over the human life course.
Personality Development: A Conceptual Itinerary
If every human being on the planet were exactly the same, psychological science could still ex- amine fundamental laws of human sensation, perception, emotion, cognition, and social rela- tions. But there would be no field of personal- ity psychology, for personality is fundamentally about difference. Going back to Allport (1937) and Murray (1938), personality psychologists have typically focused less on human nature per se and rather more on variations on the broad theme of human nature—how one person is demonstrably and consequentially different from another. Thus, the fact that human beings evolved to live in social groups is a feature of human nature; the fact that some human beings are more sociable than others, by contrast, is a feature of personality. Personality is about the psychological differences that make the biggest difference for adaptation to social life. Person- ality development, then, is about the temporal course of emergence, growth, change, and con- tinuity as it pertains to these consequential psy- chological differences.
In what follows, I briefly sketch a conceptual itinerary for the development of personality over the human life course. An itinerary is like a schedule or guidebook; it labels the main top- ics that will be addressed, and it organizes them into a meaningful sequence. Synthesizing tradi- tional and emerging trends in personality psy- chology and the study of human development, the itinerary I propose identifies three lines of personality development in human beings, each following a sequence from infancy or childhood through late life (McAdams, 2015a, 2015b; Mc- Adams & Olson, 2010).
Describing the sense in which a person de- velops as a social actor, the first traces the line of development running from the emergence of temperament differences in infancy to the maturation of dispositional personality traits in the adult years. Depicting a related but dif- ferent sense whereby a person becomes a mo- tivated agent over time, the second line runs from the childhood apprehension of intention- ality through the establishment of life goals and values. Finally, a third line—tracking the de- velopment of the person as an autobiographical author—runs from the emergence of autobio- graphical memory to the construction of a self- defining life story in the adult years.
Each of the three lines, then, tracks the de- velopment of characteristic differences among human beings—differences in traits, goals (and values), and narratives, respectively (McAdams & Pals, 2006). Moreover, there is a sense in which the features of the developing social actor emerge first in developmental time, apparent even in temperament dimensions of infancy, whereas features of motivated agency become psychologically apparent later on, and features of autobiographical authorship after that. In other words, the rough contours of traits may emerge first, followed next by goals and values, and finally by the stories people create to make sense of their lives. As suggested in Figure 1.1, the author’s developing stories layer over the agent’s developing goals and values, which in turn layer over the actor’s developing traits. Per- sonality thickens over time.
Becoming a Social Actor: From Temperament to Traits
The primal arena wherein consequential psy- chological differences between human be- ings are expressed and observed is the group. Human beings evolved to live in complex social
1. the emergence of Personality 9
groups, striving to get along and to get ahead so as to garner the resources that are needed for survival and reproduction. Within the group, each individual is like an actor on the theatri- cal stage, performing roles in ways that reflect both situational demands and dispositional ten- dencies. In all human groups, social actors ob- serve each other and observe themselves. Over time, observations coalesce into social reputa- tions (Hogan, 1982): Actor A comes to be seen (by others and by the self) as an especially co- operative person on whom group members can count; Actor B exudes energy and confidence; Actor C avoids the limelight; and Actor D is perceived to be unreliable and even malicious, and comes to occupy a marginalized status in the group.
Personality begins, then, with the differ- ent reputational signatures that social actors achieve as they jockey for status and acceptance in the group. Reputational signatures are the shorthand mental representations that observers formulate in their minds regarding the disposi- tional traits of the social actors they observe, in- cluding even their own. While people’s disposi- tional traits arise from genetic and experiential factors that reside within the actor, there is still a basic human sense in which the traits live in the group, and are dependent on the group’s im- primatur for their very psychological existence. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, we still must concede that the tree fell. But personality traits, like extraversion and consci- entiousness, have no meaning outside a social context. Not only do other actors need to be present on stage to take part in the performanc- es wherein these traits are expressed, but oth-
ers need to observe the performance if the traits are to become known to the group, and thereby captured in social reputations. Ultimately, repu- tational advantages lead to greater acceptance and status in the group, which promote survival and reproductive success. There are few things more important in life than developing person- ality traits that promote the kind of social repu- tations that maximize the chances for success in human groups.
Young children first recognize themselves in mirrors and other