trait theory

In psychology, trait theory (also called dispositional theory) is an approach to the study of human personality. Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion.[1]According to this perspective, traits are relatively stable over time, differ across individuals (e.g. some people are […]

In psychology, trait theory (also called dispositional theory) is an approach to the study of human personality. Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion.[1]According to this perspective, traits are relatively stable over time, differ across individuals (e.g. some people are outgoing whereas others are shy), and influence behavior. Traits are in contrast to states which are more transitory dispositions.

In some theories and systems, traits are something a person either has or does not have, but in many others traits are dimensions such as extraversion vs. introversion, with each person rating somewhere along this spectrum.

Gordon Allport was an early pioneer in the study of traits, which he also referred to as dispositions. In his approach, “cardinal” traits are those that dominate and shape a person’s behavior; their ruling passions/obsessions, such as a need for money, fame etc. By contrast, “central” traits such as honesty are characteristics found in some degree in every person – and finally “secondary” traits are those seen only in certain circumstances (such as particular likes or dislikes that a very close friend may know), which are included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.

A wide variety of alternative theories and scales were later developed, including:

Currently, two general approaches are the most popular:

Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness.[1] Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than the average to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, envy, guilt, and depressed mood.[2] They respond more poorly tostressors, are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification. Neuroticism is a prospective risk factor for most “common mental disorders“,[3] such as depression, phobia, panic disorder, other anxiety disorders, and substance use disorder—symptoms that traditionally have been called neuroses.[3][4][5][6][7]

Neuroticism appears to be related to physiological differences in the brain. Hans Eysenck theorized that neuroticism is a function of activity in the limbic system, and his research suggests that people who score highly on measures of neuroticism have a more reactive sympathetic nervous system, and are more sensitive to environmental stimulation.[20]

Behavioral genetics researchers have found that a significant portion of the variability on measures of neuroticism can be attributed to genetic factors.[21]

A study with positron emission tomography has found that healthy subjects that score high on the NEO PI-R neuroticism dimension tend to have high altanserin binding in the frontolimbic region of the brain—an indication that these subjects tend to have more of the 5-HT2A receptor in that location.[22] Another study has found that healthy subjects with a high neuroticism score tend to have higher DASB binding in the thalamus; DASB is a ligand that binds to the serotonin transporter protein.[23]

Another neuroimaging study using magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain volume found that the brain volume was negatively correlated to NEO PI-R neuroticism when correcting for possible effects of intracranial volume, sex, and age.[24]

The results of one study found that, on average, women score moderately higher than men on neuroticism. This study examined sex differences in the ‘Big Five’ personality traits across 55 nations. It found that across the 55 nations studied, the most pronounced difference was in neuroticism.[33] This study found that in 49 of the 55 nations studied, women scored higher in neuroticism than men. In no country did men report significantly higher neuroticism than women.

Neuroticism, along with other personality traits, has been mapped across states in the USA. People in eastern states such as New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi tend to score high on neuroticism, whereas people in many western states, such as Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Oregon, and Arizona score lower on average. People in states that are higher in neuroticism also tend to have higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy.[34]

One of the theories regarding evolutionary approaches to depression focuses on neuroticism. A moderate amount of neuroticism may provide benefits, such as increased drive and productivity, due to greater sensitivity to negative outcomes. Too much, however, may reduce fitness by producing, for example, recurring depressions. Thus, evolution will select for an optimal amount and most people will have neuroticism near this optimum. However, because neuroticism likely has a normal distribution in the population, a minority will be highly neurotic.[35]

VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS)

Classification of strengths Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective Courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality[3] The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS), formerly known as the “Values in Action […]

Classification of strengths

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective
  2. Courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest
  3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  4. Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality[3]

The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS), formerly known as the “Values in Action Inventory,” is a psychological assessment measure designed to identify an individual’s profile of character strengths. It was created by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, well-known researchers in the field of positive psychology, in order to operationalize theirCharacter Strengths and Virtues Handbook (CSV).[1] The CSV is the positive psychology counterpart to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used in traditional psychology.[1] Unlike the DSM, which scientifically categorizes human deficits and disorders, the CSV classifies positive human strengths.[2] Moreover, the CSV is centered on helping people recognize and build upon their strengths. This aligned with the overall goal of the positive psychology movement, which aims to make people’s lives more fulfilling, rather than simply treating mental illness.[2] Notably, the VIA-IS is the tool by which people can identify their own positive strengths and learn how to capitalize on them.[2]

As a relatively new field of research, positive psychology lacked a common vocabulary for discussing measurable positive traits before 2004.[1] Traditional psychology benefited from the creation of DSM, as it provided researchers and clinicians with the same set of language from which they could talk about the negative. As a first step in remedying this disparity between tradition and positive psychology, Peterson and Seligman set out to identify, organize and measure character.

Peterson & Seligman began by defining the notion of character as traits that are possessed by an individual and are stable over time, but can still be impacted by setting and thus are subject to change.[1] The researchers then started the process of identifying character strengths and virtues by brainstorming with a group of noted positive psychology scholars. Then, Peterson & Seligman examined ancient cultures (including their religions, politics, education and philosophies) for information about how people in the past construed human virtue. The researchers looked for virtues that were present across cultures and time. Six core virtues emerged from their analysis: courage, justice, humanity, temperance, transcendence and wisdom.

Next, Peterson and Seligman proposed a model of classification which includes horizontal and vertical components. The hierarchical system is modeled after the Linnaean classification of species, which ranges from a specific species to more general and broad categories. The scientists stated the six core values are the broadest category and are, “core characteristics valued by moral philosophers and religious thinkers” (p. 13).[1] Peterson and Seligman then moved down the hierarchy to identifying character strengths, which are, “the psychological processes or mechanisms that define the virtues” (p. 13).[1]

The researchers began the process of identifying individual character strengths by brainstorming with a group of noted positive psychology scholars.[1] This exercise generated a list of human strengths, which were helpful when consulting with Gallup Organization. Peterson and Seligman then performed an exhaustive literature search for work that directly addresses good character in the domains of, “psychiatry, youth development, philosophy and psychology” (p. 15). Some individuals who influenced Peterson and Seligman’s choice of strengths include: Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Ellen Greenberger, Marie Jahoda, Carol Ryff, Michael Cawley, Howard Gardner, Shalom Schwartz. In an effort to leave no stone unturned, the researchers also looked for virtue-laden messages in popular culture. For example, the researchers examined Hallmark greeting cards, personal ads, graffiti, bumper stickers and profiles of Pokémon characters.

After identifying dozens of ‘candidate strengths’, the researchers needed to find a way to further refine their list. Therefore, Peterson & Seligman developed a list of 10 criteria (e.g., strengths must contribute to a sense of a fulfilling life, must be intrinsically valuable) to help them select the final 24 strengths for the CSV (see CSV for complete list of criteria). Approximately half of the strengths included in the CSV meet all 10 criteria, and half do not.[1] By looking for similarities between candidate strengths, the researchers distributed 24 character strengths between six virtue categories. Only after creating this a priori organization of traits, the researchers performed, “an exploratory factor analysis of scale scores using varimax rotation,” (p. 632) from which five factors emerged.[1] Peterson & Seligman state that they are not as concerned with how the 24 strengths are grouped into virtue clusters because, in the end, these traits are mixed together to form the character of a person.

Only 3 studies have checked the factor structure of the CSV, on which the VIA-IS is based.[1][9][10]

Using a second order factor analysis, Macdonald & colleagues (2008) found that the 24 strengths did not fit into the 6 higher order virtues model proposed in the CSV. None of the clusters of characters strengths that they found resembled the structure of the 6 virtue clusters of strengths. The researchers noted that many of the VIA character strengths cross-loaded onto multiple factors. Rather, the strengths were best represented by a one and four factor model. A one factor model would mean that the strengths are best accounted for by, “one overarching factor,” such as a global trait of character (p. 797).[9] A four factor model more closely resembles the ‘Big Five’ model of personality. The character strengths in the four factor model could be organized into the following four groups: Niceness, Positivity, Intellect and Conscientiousness.

Peterson and Seligman (2004) conducted a factor analysis and found that a five factor model, rather than their 6 hierarchical virtues model, best organized the strengths. Their study, however, did not include five of the character strengths in the results of their analysis. The researchers most likely did this because their results were plagued by the problem of strengths cross-loading on to multiple factors, similar to what occurred in Macdonald and colleagues (2008) study.[10] Clearly, empirical evidence casts doubt on the link proposed by Peterson & Seligman (2004) between the 24 strengths and associated 6 higher order virtues.

Brdar & Kashdan (2009) used more precise statistical tools to build upon the findings of the two earlier studies. They found that a four factor model (Interpersonal Strengths, Vitality, Fortitude and Cautiousness) explained 60% of the variance. One large, overarching factor explained 50% of the variance. The four factors found by Brdar and Kashdan (2009) are similar to the four factors found by Macdonald and colleagues (2008). Once again, the Brdar and Kashdan found that the 24 strengths did not fall into the 6 higher order virtues proposed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). The correlations found between many of the strengths demonstrates that each strength is not distinct, which contradicts the claims made by the creators of the VIA-IS.

Caution should be taken in interpreting the results from these three studies as their samples differ in age and country of origin.[10]

Affective neuroscience

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over December 30, 20134:04 PM ET MICHAELEEN DOUCLEF Affect is the experience of feeling or emotion.[1] Affect is a key part of the process of an organism‘s interaction with stimuli. The word also refers sometimes to affect display, which is “a facial, vocal, or gestural […]

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas. Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas.
Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

December 30, 20134:04 PM ET
MICHAELEEN DOUCLEF

Affect is the experience of feeling or emotion.[1] Affect is a key part of the process of an organism‘s interaction with stimuli. The word also refers sometimes to affect display, which is “a facial, vocal, or gestural behavior that serves as an indicator of affect” (APA 2006).

The affective domain represents one of the three divisions described in modern psychology: the cognitive, the conative, and the affective. Classically, these divisions have also been referred to as the “ABC of psychology”, in that case using the terms “affect”, “behavior“, and “cognition”. In certain views, the cognitive may be considered as a part of the affective, or the affective as a part of the cognitive.[2]

Affective states are psycho-physiological constructs. According to most current views, they vary along three principal dimensions: valence, arousal, and motivational intensity.[3]Valence is the subjective positive-to-negative evaluation of an experienced state. Emotional valence refers to the emotion’s consequences, emotion-eliciting circumstances, or subjective feelings or attitudes.[4] Arousal is objectively measurable as activation of the sympathetic nervous system, but can also be assessed subjectively via self-report. Arousal is a construct that is closely related to motivational intensity but they differ in that motivation necessarily implies action while arousal does not.[5] Motivational intensity refers to the impulsion to act.[6] It is the strength of an urge to move toward or away from a stimulus. Simply moving is not considered approach motivation without a motivational urge present.[7]

All three of these categories can be related to cognition when considering the construct of cognitive scope. Initially, it was thought that positive affects broadened cognitive scope whereas negative affects narrowed cognitive scope.[3] However, evidence now suggests that affects high in motivational intensity narrow cognitive scope whereas affects low in motivational intensity broaden cognitive scope. The cognitive scope has indeed proven to be a valuable construct in cognitive psychology.[3]

Affective neuroscience is the study of the neural mechanisms of emotion. This interdisciplinary field combines neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood.

Emotions are thought to be related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behavior, and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Paul Broca (1878),[2] James Papez (1937),[3] and Paul D. MacLean (1952)[4] suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the center of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. Research has shown that limbic structures are directly related to emotion, but non-limbic structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance. The following brain structures are currently thought to be involved in emotion:[5]

In its broadest sense, cognition refers to all mental processes. However, the study of cognition has historically excluded emotion and focused on non-emotional processes (e.g., memory, attention, perception, action, problem solving and mental imagery).[40] As a result, the study of the neural basis of non-emotional and emotional processes emerged as two separate fields: cognitive neuroscience and affective neuroscience. The distinction between non-emotional and emotional processes is now thought to be largely artificial, as the two types of processes often involve overlapping neural and mental mechanisms.[41] Thus, when cognition is taken at its broadest definition, affective neuroscience could also be called the cognitive neuroscience of emotion.

Main structures of the limbic system

  • Amygdala — The amygdalae are two small, round structures located anterior to the hippocampi near the temporal poles. The amygdalae are involved in detecting and learning what parts of our surroundings are important and have emotional significance. They are critical for the production of emotion, and may be particularly so for negative emotions, especially fear.[6] Multiple studies have shown amygdala activation when perceiving a potential threat; various circuits allow the amygdala to use related past memories to better judge the possible threat.[7]
  • Thalamus– The thalamus is involved in relaying sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex,[8] especially visual stimuli. The thalamus also plays an important role in regulating states of sleep and wakefulness.[9]
  • Hypothalamus– The hypothalamus is located below the thalamus. It plays a role in emotional responses by synthesizing and releasing neurotransmitters which can affect mood, reward and arousal.[10]
  • Hippocampus – The hippocampus is a structure of the medial temporal lobes that is mainly involved in memory. It works to form new memories and also connecting different senses such as visual input, smell or sound to memories. The hippocampus allows memories to be stored long term and also retrieves them when necessary. It is this retrieval that is used within the amygdala to help evaluate current affective stimulus.[11]
  • Fornix The fornix is the main output pathway from the hippocampus to the mammillary bodies. It has been identified as a main region in controlling spatial memory functions, episodic memory and executive functions.[12]
  • Mammillary body – Mammillary bodies are important for recollective memory.[13]
  • Olfactory bulb– The olfactory bulbs are the first cranial nerves, located on the ventral side of the frontal lobe. They are involved in olfaction, the perception of odors.[14]
  • Cingulate gyrus– The cingulate gyrus is located above the corpus callosum and is usually considered to be part of the limbic system. The different parts of the cingulate gyrus have different functions, and are involved with affect, visceromotor control, response selection, skeletomotor control, visuospatial processing, and in memory access.[15] A part of the cingulate gyrus is the anterior cingulate cortex, that is thought to play a central role in attention[16] and behaviorally demanding cognitive tasks.[17] It may be particularly important with regard to conscious, subjective emotional awareness. This region of the brain may also play an important role in the initiation of motivated behavior.[17]

Other brain structures related to emotion

  • Basal ganglia – Basal ganglia are groups of neuclei found on either side of the thalamus. Basal ganglia play an important role in motivation.[18]
  • Orbitofrontal cortex – Is a major structure involved in decision making and the influence by emotion on that decision.[19]
  • Prefrontal cortex — The term prefrontal cortex refers to the very front of the brain, behind the forehead and above the eyes. It appears to play a critical role in the regulation of emotion and behavior by anticipating the consequences of our actions. The prefrontal cortex may play an important role in delayed gratification by maintaining emotions over time and organizing behavior toward specific goals.[20]
  • Ventral striatum — The ventral striatum is a group of subcortical structures thought to play an important role in emotion and behavior. One part of the ventral striatum called the nucleus accumbens is thought to be involved in the experience of goal-directed positive emotion. Individuals with addictions experience increased activity in this area when they encounter the object of their addiction.
  • Insula — The insular cortex is thought to play a critical role in the bodily experience of emotion, as it is connected to other brain structures that regulate the body’s autonomic functions (heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc.). This region also processes taste information and is thought to play an important role in experiencing the emotion of disgust.
  • Cerebellum – Recently, there has been a considerable amount of work that describes the role of the cerebellum in emotion as well as cognition, and a “Cerebellar Cognitive Affective Syndrome” has been described.[21] Both neuroimaging studies as well as studies following pathological lesions in the cerebellum (such as a stroke) demonstrate that the cerebellum has a significant role in emotional regulation. Lesion studies[22] have shown that cerebellar dysfunction can attenuate the experience of positive emotions. While these same studies do not show an attenuated response to frightening stimuli, the stimuli did not recruit structures that normally would be activated (such as the amygdala). Rather, alternative limbic structures were activated, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and the insula. This may indicate that evolutionary pressure resulted in the development of the cerebellum as a redundant fear-mediating circuit to enhance survival. It may also indicate a regulatory role for the cerebellum in the neural response to rewarding stimuli, such as money,[23] drugs of abuse,[24] and orgasm.[25]

 

cognitive dissonance

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or […]

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.[1][2]

This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

Dissonance increases with:

  • The importance of the subject to us.
  • How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
  • Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.

Dissonance is often strong when we believe something about ourselves and then do something against that belief. If I believe I am good but do something bad, then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action. The discomfort often feels like a tension between the two opposing thoughts. To release the tension we can take one of three actions:

  • Change our behavior.
  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition.
  • Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions.

Dissonance is most powerful when it is about our self-image. Feelings of foolishness, immorality and so on (including internal projections during decision-making) are dissonance in action.

If an action has been completed and cannot be undone, then the after-the-fact dissonance compels us to change our beliefs. If beliefs are moved, then the dissonance appears during decision-making, forcing us to take actions we would not have taken before.

Cognitive dissonance appears in virtually all evaluations and decisions and is the central mechanism by which we experience new differences in the world. When we see other people behave differently to our images of them, when we hold any conflicting thoughts, we experience dissonance.

Dissonance increases with the importance and impact of the decision, along with the difficulty of reversing it. Discomfort about making the wrong choice of car is bigger than when choosing a lamp.

Note: Self-Perception Theory gives an alternative view.

Leon Festinger‘s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency (dissonance) tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance—as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.[1]

Self-Perception Theory

Zanna, M. P., & Cooper J., Dissonance and the Pill: An attribution approach to studying the arousal properties of dissonance. JPSP, 1974, 29, 703-709


This study tested the idea of whether dissonance had arousal properties.

Cognitive dissonance is often experienced as psychological discomfort or tension. Yet prior research hasn’t proven evidence of dissonance-produced attitude change.

Previous studies by Schachter showed that subjects unknowingly under the influence of epinephrine could be made to label their arousal as either angry or happy based on external stimuli. Another study with insomniacs showed that if they could get subjects to attribute their nocturnal arousal to a pill, they found it easier to fall asleep (and if they were told it would make them more relaxed and it didn’t work they were even more aroused).

Theoretically, this should also work with attitude change. People who are put into a cognitive dissonance situation but can attribute their arousal to another factor (a pill) should be less likely to change their attitudes than people who don’t attribute their arousal to the pill.

Procedure
Subjects were told to write an essay counter to their beliefs (about free speech on campus). One third were given a pill and told it would make them tense, one third told it would make them relaxed, and one-third were not given a pill at all. In this 2X3 experiment, the other variable was giving the subjects either high-choice in writing the counteressay (it’s up to you…) or low choice (do this…).

After writing the essay they completed an attitude questionnaire that asked them about campus speech and their present feelings.

Results
People who were told the drug would make them feel more tense did indicated they were more tense, and those in the “relaxed” condition felt more relaxed (vs control). Interestingly, the people in the high-choice control group reported more tension than either the “tense” or “relaxed” groups (which is expected by dissonance theory).

The overall results were as expected. For people in the control group, those in the high choice condition had a bigger attitude change (agree with the ban on speech) than the low-choice people. They had nothing to attribute their action on the essay to.

In the “tension” condiition, subjects were able to attribute their tenseness to the pill and not the essay, so the dissonance effect was realized and their attitudes didn’t change (agreement with the ban was low). On the contrary, in the “relaxed” condition there was increased cognitive dissonance (they felt tense rather than relaxed) and their shift in favor of the ban was more pronounced than with the control group.

Big Five personality traits

The Big Five personality traits, also known as the five factor model (FFM), is a widely examined theory of five broad dimensions used by some psychologists to describe the human personality and psyche.[1][2] The five factors have been defined as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Acronyms to aid in remembering the five […]

The Big Five personality traits, also known as the five factor model (FFM), is a widely examined theory of five broad dimensions used by some psychologists to describe the human personality and psyche.[1][2] The five factors have been defined as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Acronyms to aid in remembering the five traits include OCEAN and CANOE. Beneath each proposed global factor, a number of correlated and more specific primary factors are claimed. For example, extraversion is said to include such related qualities as gregariousness, assertiveness, excitement seeking, warmth, activity, and positive emotions.[3]

Five factors

  • Openness to experience: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has. It is also described as the extent to which a person is imaginative or independent, and depicts a personal preference for a variety of activities over a strict routine. High openness can be perceived as unpredictability or lack of focus. Moreover, individuals with high openness are said to pursue self-actualization specifically by seeking out intense, euphoric experiences, such as skydiving, living abroad, gambling, et cetera. Conversely, those with low openness seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance, and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven—sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret and contextualize the openness factor.
  • Conscientiousness: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. High conscientiousness are often perceived as stubborn and obsessive. Low conscientiousness are flexible and spontaneous, but can be perceived as sloppy and unreliable.[4]
  • Extraversion: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness. High extraversion is often perceived as attention-seeking, and domineering. Low extraversion causes a reserved, reflective personality, which can be perceived as aloof or self-absorbed.[5]
  • Agreeableness: (friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. It is also a measure of one’s trusting and helpful nature, and whether a person is generally well-tempered or not. High agreeableness is often seen as naive or submissive. Low agreeableness personalities are often competitive or challenging people, which can be seen as argumentative or untrustworthy.[5]
  • Neuroticism: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control and is sometimes referred to by its low pole, “emotional stability“. A high need for stability manifests as a stable and calm personality, but can be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned. A low need for stability causes a reactive and excitable personality, often very dynamic individuals, but they can be perceived as unstable or insecure.[5]

need for cognition

The need for cognition (NFC), in psychology, is a personality variable reflecting the extent to which individuals are inclined towardseffortful cognitive activities.[1][2] Need for cognition has been variously defined as “a need to structure relevant situations in meaningful, integrated ways” and “a need to understand and make reasonable the experiential world”.[3] Higher NFC is associated […]

The need for cognition (NFC), in psychology, is a personality variable reflecting the extent to which individuals are inclined towardseffortful cognitive activities.[1][2]

Need for cognition has been variously defined as “a need to structure relevant situations in meaningful, integrated ways” and “a need to understand and make reasonable the experiential world”.[3] Higher NFC is associated with increased appreciation of debate, idea evaluation, and problem solving. Those with a high need for cognition may be inclined towards high elaboration. Those with a lower need for cognition may display opposite tendencies, and may process information more heuristically, often through low elaboration.[4]

Need for cognition is closely related to the five factor model domain openness to ideas, typical intellectual engagement, and epistemic curiosity (see below). Need for cognition has also been found to correlate with higher self-esteem, masculine sex-role orientation, and psychological absorption[citation needed], while being inversely related to social anxiety.

The 18 statements from the revised Need for Cognition Scale (Cacioppo et al., 1984) used in the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education are shown below. Asterisks designate the items that are reverse scored.

  1. I would prefer complex to simple problems.
  2. I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking.
  3. Thinking is not my idea of fun.*
  4. I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities.*
  5. I try to anticipate and avoid situations where there is likely a chance I will have to think in depth about something.*
  6. I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours.
  7. I only think as hard as I have to.*
  8. I prefer to think about small, daily projects to long-term ones.*
  9. I like tasks that require little thought once I’ve learned them.*
  10. The idea of relying on thought to make my way to the top appeals to me.
  11. I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems.
  12. Learning new ways to think doesn’t excite me very much.*
  13. I prefer my life to be filled with puzzles that I must solve.
  14. The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me.
  15. I would prefer a task that is intellectual, difficult, and important to one that is somewhat important but does not require much thought.
  16. I feel relief rather than satisfaction after completing a task that required a lot of mental effort.*
  17. It’s enough for me that something gets the job done; I don’t care how or why it works.*
  18. I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally.

happiness and positive thinking

The Science of Character (8 mins) explores the neuroscience and social science that proves that we can shape who we are, and who we want to be. The film was part of the global Character Day 2015 (Sept 18). Millions of people … Continue reading

The Science of Character (8 mins) explores the neuroscience and social science that proves that we can shape who we are, and who we want to be. The film was part of the global Character Day 2015 (Sept 18). Millions of people participated in the day, with screenings in over 6700 classrooms, schools and organizations, a global online Q&A, and online discussion materials to catalyze deeper conversations about character development.

Published on Jun 23, 2013

Most of us think we know what would make us happy and that our only problem is getting it. But research in psychology, behavioral economics, and cognitive neuroscience shows that people are not very good at predicting what will make them happy, how happy it will make them, and how long that happiness will last. One reason for this is that our cultures provide us with both wisdom and myth about the true sources of human happiness.


Uploaded on Dec 17, 2008

http://www.ted.com Dan Gilbert presents research and data from his exploration of happiness — sharing some surprising tests and experiments that you can also try on yourself.


Published on Mar 13, 2013

Oliver Burkeman, winner of the Foreign Press Association Young Journalist of the Year Award, explores “happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking” in his best-selling book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

Burkeman says “For a civilization so fixated on achieving happiness, we seem remarkably incompetent at the task. Self-help books don’t seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth — even if you can get it — doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life and work often seem to bring as much stress as joy. We can’t even agree on what ‘happiness’ means”.

Oliver Burkeman seeks answers from an unusual collection of people — experimental psychologists and Buddhists, terrorism experts, spiritual teachers, business consultants, philosophers — who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. They argue that ‘positive thinking’ and relentless optimism aren’t the solution, but part of the problem. And that there is an alternative, ‘negative path’ to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty — those things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought provoking, counterintuitive and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is a celebration of the power of negative thinking.

New York based Burkeman, is a regular contributor to The Guardian. His work has also appeared in Esquire, Elle, GQ, the Observer and the New Republic. He holds a degree in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University.

Monkey Love

(Taken from the 2005 documentary, Monkey Love.) Harry Frederick Harlow (October 31, 1905 – December 6, 1981) was an American psychologist best known for his maternal-separation, dependency needs, and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, which manifested the importance of … Continue reading


(Taken from the 2005 documentary, Monkey Love.)

Harry Frederick Harlow (October 31, 1905 – December 6, 1981) was an American psychologist best known for his maternal-separation, dependency needs, and social isolation experiments on rhesus monkeys, which manifested the importance of caregiving and companionship in social and cognitive development. He conducted most of his research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow worked with him for a short period of time.

Harlow’s experiments were controversial; they included cultivating infant monkeys in isolation chambers for up to 24 months, from which they emerged intensely disturbed.[1] Some researchers cite the experiments as a factor in the rise of the animal liberation movement in the United States.[2] A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Harlow as the 26th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.[3]

The Johari window

The Johari window was created by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1914–1995) in 1955 and is a technique [1] used to help people better understand their relationship with themselves as well as others. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise. During the exercise, subjects […]

The Johari window was created by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1914–1995) in 1955 and is a technique [1] used to help people better understand their relationship with themselves as well as others. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise.

During the exercise, subjects are given a list of a few adjectives out of which they need to pick some that they feel describe their own personality. The subject’s peers are then given the same list, and each pick equal number of adjectives that describe the subject. These very adjectives are then inserted into a grid.[2]

The philosopher Charles Handy calls this concept the Johari House with four rooms. Room 1 is the part of ourselves that we see and others see. Room 2 is the aspects that others see but we are not aware of. Room 4 is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious part of us is seen by neither ourselves nor others. Room 3 is our private space, which we know but keep from others.

Open or Arena: Adjectives that are selected by both the participant and his or her peers are placed into the Open or Arenaquadrant. This quadrant represents traits of the subjects that both they and their peers are aware of.

Hidden or Façade: Adjectives selected only by subjects, but not by any of their peers, are placed into the Hidden or Façade quadrant, representing information about them their peers are unaware of. It is then up to the subject to disclose this information or not.

Blind : Adjectives that are not selected by subjects but only by their peers are placed into the Blind Spot quadrant. These represent information that the subject is not aware of, but others are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual about these “blind spots“.

Unknown: Adjectives that were not selected by either subjects or their peers remain in the Unknown quadrant, representing the participant’s behaviors or motives that were not recognized by anyone participating. This may be because they do not apply or because there is collective ignorance of the existence of these traits.