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Scientific Study of Personality Paper

Ryan Love

Psych 645

November 10, 2018



Scientific Study of Personality Paper

Personality is the distinctive patterns of opinions, emotional state, and actions that make

each person unique (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 8). It matures within individuals and relics

constant throughout one’s life. People evaluate and define the personalities of others around

them, and usually people do not understand they are doing it. Detecting how and why people act

the way they do is no different from what a personality psychologist does. Though, informal

assessments of character primarily focus on individuals, and personality psychologists focus

more on origins of character, which applies to everyone. Over the years, personality research has

exposed many theories to help explain how and why certain personality traits develop.

To define personality one must understand exactly what the term personality means.

According to Cervone and Pervin (2010), “Personality refers to psychological qualities that

contribute to an individual’s “enduring and distinctive patterns of feeling, thinking, and

behaving” (p. 8). Enduring means the quality that appears to be consistent overtime and in

different situations of an individual’s life (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). People change overtime and

their behaviors do as well in different situations. “The introvert at one period in life turns out to

be an extravert in later life” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 8).

While some introverts in certain social situations become extrovert in other situations

(Cervone & Pervin, 2010). A personality psychologist’s job is to distinguish and explain patterns

of an individual’s psychological functioning, and the observed patterns that stick out overtime

and during certain situations (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Distinctive is when personality

psychology focus on the psychological factors that separates individual’s from one another

(Cervone & Pervin, 2010). For example, an individual is not going to say they feel angry when

things do not go his or her way, but feel good when things go his or her way. Contribute to

means that personality psychologist’s look for psychological aspects that remotely influence and

attempts to explain a person’s “distinctive and enduring tendencies” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p.


Personality psychology is descriptive. Researchers describe patterns in personality

development, and the “differences in a population of people, or patterns of behavior exhibited by

a particular individual in different situations” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 8). Personality

theorists want to shift from such description to scientific explanation by distinguishing

psychological aspects that “contribute to the patterns of development, individual differences, and

individual behavior that are observed” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 8). The goal of a personality

psychologist is to identify and explain an individual’s “patterns of psychological functioning,

including both patterns characteristic of all people and those idiosyncratic to the individual”

(Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 8). When personality psychologists say “feeling, thinking, and

behaving it means that the notion of personality is comprehensive; it refers to all aspects of

persons: their mental life, their emotional experiences, and their social behavior” (Cervone &

Pervin, 2010, p. 9). Personality psychologists have a difficult job and aim to understand the

whole person (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

Case Studies Method

Personality psychologists learn about one’s personality by studying the individual

closely. Psychologists use case studies so they can obtain all aspects of human personality.

During a case study, the psychologist has sufficient contact with the client while developing “an

understanding of the psychological structures and processes that are most important to that

individual’s personality” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p 9). Case studies are considered

“idiographic methods, in that the goal is to obtain a psychological portrait of the particular

individual under study” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 45). Case studies allow psychologists to

observe the person’s personality during situations (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

Correlational Designs

Correlation coefficient measures the degree in which two variables go together (Cervone

& Pervin, 2010). According to Cervone and Pervin (2010), “A correlation coefficient is a

number that reflects the degree to which two measures are linearly related” (p.48). When a

person scores higher on variable I may score higher on variable II, this means that person is

positively correlated (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). A negative correlation is when a person scores

higher on variable I than variable II (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). However, if the two variables do

not go together in a systematic linear way then they are uncorrelated (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

Correlational research is a strategy researchers use to study the relationship between

“variables in a large population of people, where none of the variables is experimentally

manipulated” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 48). Sometimes researchers have to use more

complicated statistical strategies to “determine whether two variables are related, even after

controlling for the influence of some other variables” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 49).

According to Cervone and Pervin (2010), “Even if such alternative approaches to analyzing data

are used, one would still have a correlational research strategy if one is looking at the relation

among variables without manipulating these variables experimentally” (p. 49). People with

higher levels of positive emotions appear to live longer (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). The most

common test is questionnaires, which are used first to get an idea of an individual’s personality

(Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

Experimental Designs or True Experiments


Controlled experiments are when participants are randomly placed “to an experimental

condition” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 50). The experiment consists of different” conditions

that manipulate one or more variables of interest” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 50). According to

Cervone and Pervin (2010), “Random assignment assures that there is no systematic relationship

between the experimental conditions and people’s pre-experimental psychological tendencies”

(p. 52). If individuals placed in different situations act different after the experimental

manipulation, even though the individuals were the same before, then manipulation was the

cause (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 53). The indicated research strategy where variables are

manipulated by random assignment of individuals to different conditions is the main branch of

experimental research (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 53).

How These Methods Differ

Each method is different and each has their own unique way of measuring personality.

Case studies primary advantage is “that they are conducted in clinical settings they overcome the

potential superficiality and artificiality of correlational and experimental methods” (Cervone &

Pervin, 2010, p. 55). During a case study, the experimenter learns a great deal of important

aspects of a person’s life that may not occur appear in a short experiment or a survey

questionnaire (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 55). The experimenter performing the case study can

observe how the applicant thinks and feels about situations (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). The

experimenter observes “the behavior of interest directly and does not have to extrapolate from a

somewhat artificial setting to the real world” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 55).

Another benefit “is that clinical research may be the only feasible way of studying some

phenomena” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 55). When clinician’s must inquire a study’s all factors

of “personality processes, individual-environment relationships, and the within person


organization of personality, in-depth case studies may be the only option’ (Cervone & Pervin,

2010, p. 55).

The limitations of a case study method have two problems: First, evidence from a case

study does not apply to all people, and second, a case study method “does not provide evidence

that one psychological process casually influences another” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 56).

The second limitation is identifying causes. Researchers set out to find the causes of the

phantasm the researcher’s study (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Case studies do not provide a valid

casual explanation (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 56). Case studies are also just a reflection of

what researchers believe, rather than trusting the objective measurement strategies, and

researchers rely on impressionistic reports (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Two researchers

conducting the same test are more than likely to have two different outcomes, and this decreases

the validity of case studies evidence (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Verbal reports are also

considered just as it is ‘verbal reports’ (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

Correlational research and questionnaires strengths and advantages are that researchers

can study larger groups of people (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). The Internet makes it easier for

researchers because now surveys can be put on the Internet and more people can participate. This

allows psychologists to gather more information from a larger diverse group of people (Cervone

& Pervin, 2010). The second advantage is reliability. Most questionnaires have exceptionally

reliable evidence of the psychological aspects they are designed to measure (Cervone & Pervin,

2010). According to Cervone and Pervin (2010), “This is important in that the reliability of the

tests is necessary to detect important features of personality that might be overlooked if one

employed measures lacking reliability” (p. 58).


However, correlation studies also have their limitations, such as providing superficial

information about a person (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). “A correlational study will provide

information about an individual’s scores on the various personality tests that happen to have been

used in research” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 58). The second limitation is similar to a case

study, “in a correlational study it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about causality” (Cervone

& Pervin, 2010, p. 58). The third limitation is when people participate in questionnaires they

tend to be biased when describing themselves, and this is referred to as response style (Cervone

& Pervin, 2010). Laboratory research is artificial and limited to specific contexts (Cervone &

Pervin, 2010).

Psychologists believe that what may work in the laboratory may not work in other areas,

even though there are relationships between isolated variables visible, this may not play a role in

the complexity of human behavior (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Laboratory studies usually involve

little exposures to stimuli, and could miss crucial processes that are displayed over time

(Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Social psychology of research looks at the factors influencing

behaviors in humans that are not part of the experimental design (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).

According to Cervone and Pervin (2010), “Among such factors may be cues implicit in the

experimental setting that suggest to the subject that the experimenter has a certain hypothesis

and, “in the interest of science,” the subject behaves in a way that will confirm it” (p. 60). The

objective and essence provided to the study may differ from one participant to the other “in ways

that are not part of the experimental design and thereby serve to reduce both reliability and

validity” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 61).

Experimenters can make mistakes that could influence the study without knowing it, the

experimenter could mistakenly make an error in data, or discharge cues to the participants, which

influences their behavior in a certain way (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). This causes the participant

to behave accordingly with the hypothesis (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Some defend the

laboratory experiments because they believe that research is the correct foundation for testing

casual hypotheses (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). Some phenomena’s are not discovered outside the

laboratory, and there is little theoretical “support for the contention that subjects typically try to

confirm the experimenter’s hypothesis or for the significance of experimental artifacts more

generally” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 61). One limitation is that some phenomena cannot be

composed in the laboratory (Cervone & Pervin, 2010). “A personality theory may make

predictions about people’s emotional reactions to extreme levels of stress or their thoughts about

highly personal matters” (Cervone & Pervin, 2010, p. 61). This is unethical, exposing

participants to high levels of stress in a laboratory (Cervone & Pervin, 2010).


Scientific studies have several ways of measuring personality. How the researcher

chooses to conduct a test is important to achieve reliability and validity within the test.

Psychologists must know the strengths and limitations when assessing the alternative approaches

to research. Some tests results may assist in another approach. Research methods can coincide

with other research, and data from alternative research procedures can be considered in the

inquiry of a more extensive theory.



Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. A. (2010). Personality: Theory and research (11th ed.). Hoboken, NJ:

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.