Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Personality Psychology / Edition 1 available in Paperback
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Table of Contents
UNIT: Personality Traits
Issue: Is the Five-Factor Model an Adequate Theory of Personality?
YES: Robert R. McCrae and Oliver P. John, from “An Introduction to the Five-Factor Model and Its Applications,” Journal of Personality, 1992
NO: Jack Block, from “A Contrarian View of the Five-Factor Approach to Personality Description,” Psychological Bulletin, 1995
Robert McCrae and Oliver John present the historical development and contemporary status of the five-factor model as an adequate and sufficient theory of personality. Jack Block argues that there are methodological, theoretical, and conceptual reasons to believe that the five-factor model is not a theory at all, is not as consensual as we are led to believe, and is limited to a small part of the domain that is personality psychology.
Issue: Is Personality Stable Across the Life Span?
YES: Robert R. McCrae and Paul T. Costa, Jr., from “The Stability of Personality: Observation and Evaluations,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1994
NO: Sanjay Srivastava, et al., from “Development of Personality in Early and Middle Adulthood: Set Like Plaster or Persistent Change?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
Robert McCrae and Paul Costa, Jr. summarize that people’s personalities are basically “fixed” by age 30. Sanjay Srivastava and colleagues suggest that many people experience predictable changes in personality at particular times in life.
Issue: Is Neuroticism a Purely Negative Trait?
YES: Jerry Suls and René Martin, from “The Daily Life of the Garden Variety Neurotic: Problem Exposure, Hyperreactivity, Mood Spillover and Maladaptive Coping,” Journal of Personality, 2005
NO: David Watson and Alex Casillas, from “Neuroticism: Adaptive and Maladaptive Features,” Virtue, Vice, and Personality: The Complexity of Behavior, 2003
Jerry Suls and René Martin explain how the increased emotional distress that is associated with neuroticism can be traced back to a few maladaptive psychological habits common to people who are highly neurotic. David Watson and Alex Casillas argue that the emotional oversensitivity that leads highly neurotic people to experience emotional distress can also have important self-protective benefits.
Issue: Is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) a Valid Tool for Career Selection?
YES: Mary H. McCaulley and Charles R. Martin, from “Career Assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,” Journal of Career Assessment, 1995
NO: Randall J. Larsen and David M. Buss, from Personality Psychology: Domains of Knowledge about Human Nature, 4th ed., McGraw-Hill, 2010
Mary McCaulley and Charles Martin describe how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBRI) works and claim that it is a useful tool for helping people choose their careers. Randy Larsen and David Buss review the psychological literature on the MBTI’s reliability and validity, and conclude that it is not a valid tool for career selection.
UNIT: Biological Bases of Personality
Issue: Do Animals Have Personalities?
YES: Samuel D. Gosling and Oliver P. John, from “Personality Dimensions in Nonhuman Animals: A Cross-Species Review,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1999
NO: Clive D. L. Wynne, from “What Are Animals? Why Anthropomorphism Is Still Not a Scientific Approach to Behavior,” Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews, 2007
Samuel Gosling and Oliver John present the case that when the behaviors of animals are carefully observed and analyzed, certain consistent regularities appear that look a lot like specific personality dimensions identified in humans. Clive Wynne argues that anthropomorphismascribing human qualities to animalshas no place in the scientific study of animal behavior. To the extent that a theory of personality holds that personality traits are caused by underlying cognitive processes that only humans have, animals cannot be said to have a personality.
Issue: Are Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Driven by Evolution?
YES: David M. Buss, from “The Great Struggles of Life: Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Psychology,” American Psychologist, 2009
NO: Wendy Wood and Alice H. Eagly, from “Social Structural Origins of Sex Differences in Human Mating,” in S. Gangestad and J. A. Simpson, eds., The Evolution of Mind: Fundamental Questions and Controversies, 2007
Evolutionary psychologist David Buss argues that differences between men’s and women’s sexual behaviors and desires result from the different evolutionary pressures men versus women have faced with respect to reproduction. Alice Eagly and Wendy Wood attribute sex differences in human behavior to the differing social and occupational roles men and women have been taught to abide by, which are similar across cultures.
Issue: Is the Positive Psychology Movement Fundamentally Flawed?
YES: Richard S. Lazarus, from “Does the Positive Psychology Movement Have Legs?” Psychological Inquiry, 2003
NO: Christopher Peterson and Nansook Park, from “Positive Psychology as the Evenhanded Positive Psychologist Views It,” Psychological Inquiry, 2003
The late psychologist Richard Lazarus laid out several philosophical and methodological criticisms of the positive psychology movement and said that if positive psychologists don’t address these issues, the movement will wind up being just a fad. Positive psychologists Christopher Peterson and Nansook Park defend positive psychology and its potential to make important and unique contributions to our understanding of the positive side of human experience.
Issue: Can We Make Ourselves Happier?
YES: Julia K. Boehm and Sonja Lyubomirsky, from “The Promise of Sustainable Happiness.” In The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009
NO: Laurel C. Newman and Randy J. Larsen, from “How Much of Our Happiness Is Within Our Control?” Original Work, 2009
Julia Boehm and Sonja Lyubomirsky argue that people can increase their happiness in lasting ways through various happiness-boosting exercises. Laurel Newman and Randy Larsen describe several lines of research indicating that people have less control over their own happiness than most positive psychologists claim.
Issue: Does Money Lead to Happiness?
YES: Richard E. Lucas and Ulrich Schimmack, from “Income and Well-Being: How Big Is the Gap Between the Rich and the Poor?” Journal of Personality, 2008
NO: David G. Myers, from “The Funds, Friends, and Faith of Happy People,” American Psychologist, 2000
Richard Lucas and Ulrich Schimmack reinterpret correlations between income and happiness by comparing the very rich to the very poor in terms of happiness in several large data sets. They conclude that their data are consistent with the idea that money makes people happy. David Myers contents that a good deal of data, ranging from comparisons of happiness in rich and poor nations to changes in national income and national happiness over time, show that the actual relationship is fairly small. He concludes that wealth does not necessarily lead to sustained happiness or satisfaction.
Issue: Is Our Self-Esteem Dependent on Others’ Views of Us?
YES: Mark R. Leary, from “Making Sense of Self-Esteem,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1999
NO: Jennifer Crocker and Katherine M. Knight, from “Contingencies of Self-Worth,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2005
Mark Leary argues that self-esteem is an evolutionary adaptation that has evolved to help us monitor our inclusion in or exclusion from important social groups. Jennifer Crocker and Katherine Knight argue that self-esteem is contingent on success in domains that are highly important to us, and is not necessarily dependent on others’ views of us.
UNIT: Cognitive and Psychoanalytic
Issue: Should Freud’s Theories Be Abandoned as Useless?
YES: R. C. Tallis, from “Burying Freud,” The Lancet, 1996
NO: John F. Kihlstrom, from “Commentary: Psychodynamics and Social CognitionNotes on the Fusion of Psychoanalysis and Psychology,” Journal of Personality, 1994
R. C. Tallis presents a no-holds-barred summary of the major critiques of Freud’s ideas, arriving at the conclusion that Freudian theory is totally and completely without merit. John Kihlstrom takes the position that pieces of Freudian theory may be useful and that condemning the entire work would be akin to throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
Issue: Are Positive Illusions Healthy?
YES: Shelley E. Taylor and Jonathon D. Brown, from “Illusion and Well-Being: A Social Psychological Perspective on Mental Health,” Psychological Bulletin, 1988
NO: C. Randall Colvin, Jack Block, and David C. Funder, from “Overly Positive Self-Evaluations and Personality: Negative Implications for Mental Health,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1995
Shelley Taylor and Jonathon Brown argue that most people have overly positive views of themselves, which they call, “positive illusions.” They claim that positive illusions, rather than accurate self-perceptions, are associated with mental health. C. Randall Colvin, Jack Block, and David Funder argue that Taylor and Brown overestimate the extent to which most people’s positive self-views are illusory as well as the extent to which positive illusions are adaptive.
Issue: Is “Emotional Intelligence” Really Intelligence?
YES: John D. Mayer, Peter Salovey, and David R. Coruso, from “Emotional Intelligence: Theory, Findings, and Implications,” Psychological Inquiry, 2004
NO: Gerald Matthews, Richard D. Roberts, and Moshe Zeidner, from “Seven Myths about Emotional Intelligence,” Psychological Inquiry, 2004
John Mayer and colleagues summarize the research and argue that emotional intelligence is a unique new ability, recently documented, that predicts certain positive life outcomes above and beyond general cognitive intelligence. Gerald Matthews and colleagues review another body of literature and conclude that current definitions of emotional intelligence are too vague, that measures are too imprecise, and emotional intelligence appears to be more of a collection of a few known personality traits than a new and unique dimension of intelligence.
Issue: Does Birth Order Influence Our Personalities?
YES: Nicholas C. Herrera, et al., from “Beliefs about Birth Rank and Their Reflection in Reality,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
NO: Judith Rich Harris, from “Context-Specific Learning, Personality, and Birth Order,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2000
Nicholas Herrera and colleagues argue that beliefs about birth order are important. These researchers document the existence beliefs that firstborns are more intelligent, complete more education and attain higher occupational prestige than later-born people. Judith Rich Harris argues that birth order, and behavior patterns have an effect, but only within families and are irrelevant outside the home.
Issue: Does the Internet Improve Social Relationships?
YES: Patti M. Valkenburg and Jochen Peter, from “Social Consequences of the Internet for Adolescents: A Decade of Research,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2009
NO: Norman H. Nie, from “Sociability, Interpersonal Relations, and the Internet: Reconciling Conflicting Findings,” American Behavioral Scientist, 2001
Patti Valkenburg and Jochen Peter present a historical view that Internet activity enhances social connectedness. They suggest that as more and more of the population goes online, existing relationships can be maintained and nurtured through online interactions. Norman Nie argues that there are only so many hours in a day, and the hours a person spends on the Internet are hours that must be taken away from other activities. There is evidence that time spent in face-to-face interactions goes down with increasing Internet use.
UNIT: Contemporary Topics
Issue: Are Stereotypes about a Culture’s Personality True?
YES: Robert R. McCrae, Antonio Terracciano, and 79 Members of the Personality Profiles of Cultures Project, from “Personality Profiles of Cultures: Aggregate Personality Traits,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005
NO: Antonio Terracciano and colleagues, from “National Character Does Not Reflect Mean Personality Trait Levels in 49 Cultures,” Science, 1995
The personality of a culture can be thought of as the mean level within that culture on a number of basic personality traits. Some nations or cultures have distinct personality profiles, revealing that “people from there” do differ from others in terms of personality. Antonio Terracciano and colleagues collected ratings from outsiders about what they believe people from different regions are like. They report that while there are some true personality differences between groups from different cultures, those differences do not appear to map onto the beliefs people hold about those cultures, suggesting that cultural stereotypes are not accurate reflections of what “people from there” are really like.
Issue: Are Young Adults More Narcissistic Than Previous Generations?
YES: Jean M. Twenge, from Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, EntitledAnd More Miserable Than Ever Before, Free Press, 2006
NO: Kali H. Trzesniewski, M. Brent Donnellan, and Richard W. Robins, from “Is ‘Generation Me’ Really More Narcissistic Than Previous Generations?” Journal of Personality, 2008
Social psychologist Jean Twenge argues that the self-esteem movement that caught fire in the late 1980s and 1990s created a generation of young narcissists. Developmental psychologist Kali Trzesniewski and her colleagues argue that today’s young adults are no more narcissistic or self-centered than other generations were at that age.
Issue: Is It Ethical to Enhance Cognitive Abilities?
YES: Henry Greely, et al., from “Towards Responsible Use of Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs by the Healthy,” Nature, 2008
NO: Eva Orlebeke Caldera, from “Cognitive Enhancement and Theories of Justice: Contemplating the Malleability of Nature and Self,” Journal of Evolution and Technology, 2008
Henry Greely and colleagues first present and then tear apart several of the major ethical reasons for not using drugs to enhance cognitive abilities. They make the case that, if we can do it, and if it does no harm to the person or the immediate social context, then we should do it. Eva Orlebeke Caldera bases her “no” position on several subtle ethical nuances, such as a reconsideration of the “natural lottery” of individual differences and their social consequences, what happens when you turn chance into a choice, and the notion that “because we can” is not an argument for “we should.”