Personality psychology Organized and relatively enduring

Personality psychology Organized and relatively enduring

Organized and relatively enduring

Organized means that the psychological traits and mechanisms, of a given person, are not simply a random collection of elements. Rather, personality is coherent because the mechanisms and traits are linked to one another in an organized fashion. Imagine the simple case of two desires-a desire for food and a desire for intimacy. If you have not eaten for a while and are experiencing hunger pangs, then your desire for food might override your desire for intimacy. On the other hand, if you have already eaten, then your desire for food may temporarily subside, allowing you to pursue your desire for intimacy. Our personalities are organized in the sense that they contain decision rules, which govern which needs are activated. Depending on the circumstances.

Psychological traits are also relatively enduring over time, particularly in adulthood, and are generally consistent over situations. To say that someone is angry now is not saying anything about a trait. A person may be angry now but not tomorrow or maybe angry in this situation but not in others. Anger is more of a state than a trait. To say that someone is anger-prone or generally hot-tempered, however, is to begin to describe a psychological trait. Someone who is anger-prone is frequently angry, relative to others, and shows this proneness time and time again in many different situations (e.g., the person is argumentative at work, is hostile and aggressive while playing team sports for recreation, or argues a lot with family members).

There may be some occasions when this generalization about the consistency of personality from situation to the situation does not hold. Some situations may be overpowering and suppress the expression of psychological traits. Generally talkative persons, for example, may remain quiet during a lecture, at the movies, or in an elevator (although you undoubtedly have experienced someone who could not or would not keep quiet even in the theater).

The debate about whether people are consistent across situations in their lives has a long history in personality psychology. Some psychologists have argued that the evidence for consistency is weak (Mischel, 1968). For example, honestly measured in one situation (say, cheating on a test) may not correlate with honestly measured in another situation (say, cheating on income taxes). We will go into this debate more fully later in the book, but for now, we will simply say that most personality psychologists believe that, although people are not perfectly consistent, there is enough consistency to warrant including this characteristic in a definition of personality. 

The fact that personality includes relatively enduring psychological traits and, mechanisms do not preclude change over time. Indeed, describing precisely how we change over time is one goal of personality psychologists. However, the changes of interest to personality psychologists are those that are relatively enduring and universal across persons. For example, in adolescence, most people are concerned with forming their identities, whereas in young adulthood most people have their identities and, so begin to focus on generating a career or a family (or both). Thus personality psychology is concerned with traits and mechanisms that are relatively enduring over time, as well as the major shifts that occur in personality over the lifetime.

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