Emotional Competency

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Personality Traits
Intrinsic differences that remain stable throughout most of our life

Personality traits are intrinsic differences that remain stable throughout most of our life. They are the constant aspects of our individuality.

Personality Theories

Personalities are distinctive. Each individual behaves according to certain distinctive patterns throughout a variety of situations. Humans are finely tuned to observe these behavior patterns of acquaintances and to notice behavior differences among people.  

You might use words such as talkative, cheerful, cold, disorganized, compulsive, intellectual, shrewd, shortsighted, flirtatious, or ruthless to describe various people you know. Also, you have probably observed that these various behaviors stay with the person consistently over time and throughout a variety of circumstances. These persistent behavior patterns, called personality traits, are stable over time, consistent in a variety of situations, and differ from one individual to the next. Personality can be defined as the psychological qualities that bring continuity to an individual’s behavior in different situations and at different times. [zimbardo] 

Over the years several efforts have helped to understand and develop a common vocabulary to describe personality traits. The most fruitful begin with the simple idea that humans introduce words into their language to describe interesting aspects of the world around them. This idea forms the basis for the lexical hypothesis, which states: [DeRaad] 

Those individual differences that are of most significance in the daily transactions of persons with each other will eventually become encoded into their language. The more important is such a difference, the more people will notice it and wish to talk of it, with the result that eventually they will invent a word for it.

Beginning with a list of more than 18,000 descriptive terms extracted from unabridged dictionaries, researchers first selected then extensively studied a list of adjectives describing stable personality traits. Subjects were asked to rate each term according to how well it described the behavior of particular people they knew well. Common factors were extracted from this data and the result is the “The Big Five Personality Factors” which is very similar to the “Five Factor Model of Personality”.  

The American-English form of the structure identifies these five personality factors: 

Factor

Trait Characteristics

Inverse Trait Characteristics

IExtraversion/Surgency

Talkative, extroverted
Aggressive, verbal
Sociable, bold
Assertive, social
Unrestrained, confident

Shy, quiet
Introverted, silent
Untalkative, bashful
Reserved, withdrawn
Timid, unaggressive

IIAgreeableness

Sympathetic, kind
Warm, understanding
Soft-hearted, helpful
Considerate, cooperative
Trustful, affectionate

Cold, unsympathetic
Unkind, rude
Harsh, inconsiderate
Insensitive, insincere
Hard, uncharitable

IIIConscientiousness

Organized, neat
Orderly, systematic
Efficient, responsible
Precise, thorough
Practical, dependable

Disorganized, disorderly
Careless, unsystematic
Inefficient, sloppy
Haphazard, inconsistent
Impractical, negligent

IVEmotional Stability

Unenvious, relaxed
Unexcitable, patient
Undemanding, imperturbable
Unselfconscious, uncritical
Masculine, optimistic

Moody, temperamental
Jealous, touchy
Envious, irritable
Fretful, emotional
Self-pitying, nervous

VIntellect

Creative, intellectual
Imaginative, philosophical
Artistic, complex
Inventive, intelligent
Innovative, deep

Uncreative, unimaginative
Unintellectual, unintelligent
Simple, unreflective
Shallow, imperceptive
Unsophisticated, uniquisitive.

These five factors can be further understood by looking at the following two tables of single pole markers for each trait. The table of trait markers lists the top 10 adjectives that correlate most positively with each factor. The table of inverse trait markers lists the top 10 adjectives that correlate most negatively with each factor.

Trait Markers:

Surgency

Agreeableness

Conscientiousness

Emotional stability

Intellect

Extraverted
Talkative
Assertive
Verbal
Energetic
Bold
Active
Daring
Vigorous
Unrestrained

Kind
Cooperative
Sympathetic
Warm
Trustful
Conscientious
Pleasant
Agreeable
Helpful
Generous

Organized
Systematic
Thorough
Practical
Neat
Efficient
Careful
Steady
Conscientious
Prompt

Unenvious
Unemotional
Relaxed
Imperturbable
Unexcitable
Undemanding

Intellectual
Creative
Complex
Imaginative
Bright
Philosophical
Artistic
Deep
Innovative
Introspective

 

Inverse Trait Markers:

Surgency

Agreeableness

Conscientiousness

Emotional stability

Intellect

Introverted
Shy
Quiet
Reserved
Untalkative
Inhibited
Withdrawn
Timid
Bashful
Unadventurous

Cold
Unkind
Unsympathetic
Distrustful
Harsh
Demanding
Rude
Selfish
Uncooperative
Uncharitable

Disorganized
Careless
Unsystematic
Inefficient
Undependable
Impractical
Negligent
Inconsistent
Haphazard
Sloppy

Emotional
Irritable
Fretful
Jealous
Touchy
Nervous
Insecure
Fearful
Self-pitying
High-strung

Unintellectual
Unintelligent
Unimaginative
Uncreative
Simple
Unsophisticated
Unreflective
Imperceptive
Uninquisitive
Shallow

Anyone’s personality can be measured along these five dimensions using a variety of questionnaires and assessment instruments designed for this. The result can be displayed in a chart showing where your personality falls between the extreme poles for each trait. The following chart is an example, where each triangle marker represents the degree each of the five factors is present for a particular individual. The factor numbers are in the first column, followed by the factor names. In this chart the names have been chosen so that their first letters (E, A, C, N, O) can be rearranged to spell OCEAN, which provides a useful mnemonic for remembering the factor names. Factor IV is listed with reverse polarity to enable this mnemonic. The last column names each inverse trait.  

 

 

Your Personality Profile

 

I

Extraverted

–––––––▲–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Introverted

II

Agreeable

––––––––––––––––––––––––––▲––––––

Antagonistic

III

Conscientious

–––▲––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Disorganized

IV

Neurotic

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––▲–––––

Emotionally Stable

V

Open

––––––––––––▲––––––––––––––––––––––

Closed

In this example the person is more extroverted than introverted, but not extremely so. Note that the factor I marker is not all the way to the left. People vary in the strength with which their personalities exhibit each trait. Most people fall somewhere between the extremes of each pole, and are neither pure extrovert nor pure introvert, for example. This person is somewhat antagonistic (not agreeable), quite conscientious, rather emotionally stable and somewhat more open to experience (high intellect) than closed to experience.

Personality is stable over very long periods of time; personality traits do not change. They form the stable second layer in the architecture for interaction model. Understanding, accepting, and applying your personality traits is an important part of knowing yourself.

Another study focused on descriptive nouns. [Saucier] An analysis of the results extracted eight factors. Their names, along with the five nouns having the highest correlation for each factor are shown in the following table.

Factor 1
Social Unacceptability

Factor 2
Intellect

Factor 3
Egocentrism

Factor 4
Ruggedness

Trash
Dumbbell
Dummy
Twit
Moron

Philosopher
Nonconformist
Pioneer
Poet
Artist

Snob
Gossip
Eavesdropper
Critic
Materialist

Tough
Jock
Sportsman
Machine
Aggressor

 

Factor 5
Delinquency

Factor 6
Attractiveness

Factor 7
Liveliness

Factor 8
Disorientation

Lawbreaker
Pothead
Drunk
Alcoholic
Rebel

Babe
Darling
Sweetie
Honey
Beauty

Joker
Clown
Goof
Comedian
Comic
Klutz
Worrywart
Sleepyhead
Daydreamer
Speculator

These factors may relate directly to the primal concerns of people as follows:

Factor 1: Social Unacceptability, relates to inclusion or exclusion from a social group. This is a basic decision humans make as social animals. The poles, or underlying primal decision, can be though of as: Exclude Include

Factor 2: Intellect, relates to human intelligence and higher levels of cognition. Smart is sexy and it has been said that the brain is the most important sex organ. Many believe that intelligence distinguishes us as humans, and it may be interpreted as an indicator of evolutionary advancement. Intelligence is an important indicator of stature. The poles can be described as: Bright Dull

Factor 3: Egocentrism, relates to a lack of empathy and respect for others. It may be related to an overzealous display of status, a generous or false self-image, failure to counterbalance the first-person viewpoint, or a counterfeit display of stature. Its poles can be labeled: Arrogant Humble or  Narcissistic Empathetic.

Factor 4: Ruggedness, relates to dominance, aggression, and power. Its poles can be labeled: Dominant Submissive

Factor 5: Delinquency, relates to cheating. The theory of reciprocal altruism describes the importance and effectiveness of  “cheater detectors” for the social interaction of humans. The poles can be labeled: Cheater Plays fair

Factor 6: Attractiveness, relates directly to sex and procreation. The poles can be labeled as: Sexy Repulsive, ugly, disgusting.

Factor 7: Liveliness, relates to attracting attention, perhaps as a strategy for attracting a mate. The terms seem to describe a real party animal. Possible labels for the poles are: Loud Quiet, reserved

Factor 8: Disorientation, relates to competence and reliability. Poles can be labeled: Incompetent Competent.

Quotations:

  • “Men do not change, they unmask themselves.” ~ Madame de StaelExternal Link
  • “You cannot change the stripes on a tiger.” ~ Folk wisdom
  • “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

References:

Five Factor Constellations and Popular Personality Types, Leland R. Beaumont

The International Personality Item Pool, a web site maintained by Dr. Lewis R. Goldberg

Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors, by Sanjay Srivastava's

[zimbardo] Psychology: Core Concepts, by Phillip G. Zimbardo, Ann L. Weber, Robert L. Johnson

Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1041-1053. [abstract] [pdf]

International Personality Item Pool Representation of the NEO PI-R™

The Personality Project, a web site by William Revelle, Director Graduate Program in Personality, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University

Personality Theories, by Dr. C. George Boeree, Psychology Department Shippensburg University

[DeRaad] The Big Five Personality Factors, by Boele De Raad

[Saucier] Factor Structure of English-Language Personality Type-Nouns, Gerard Saucier, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003 Oct;85(4):695-708.

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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