Thursday, April 9, 2015

How do we Study Personality? (Part 3)

I'd like to begin our discussion of research by making the distinction that we alluded to in the second part of lecture 1. And that's the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research. Understanding quantitative research as distinctly different from qualitative research, quantitative research can usually be identified by having a coefficient with it, a number. Quantifiable research has to do with counting, quantifying, to count. So anything that uses statistical measures, standardization, anything that has a numerical coefficient assigned to it is considered to be quantifiable research.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, is usually descriptive in nature. It's usually not measured. It's usually more of a description certainly as is evident in a case study or in observing a group or observing children and play behavior. That's qualifiable behavior, qualitative research.
Sometimes qualitative research takes on the guise of quantitative research. An example of this would be the Likert scale. So when an individual self assesses the amount of pain they have on a scale of one to five. It looks as if it's quantitative research. But it's really a qualitative measure.
So we have to be careful when we're analyzing research and we're understanding research findings that sometimes assigning a number to something arbitrarily, such as happens in a Likert scale of pain description, is the guise of quantitative research, when it's actually qualitative research. You're just using a number to describe an individual's interpretation of their level of pain or whatever it is that one is researching.

So we take a broad understanding of the difference between qualitative research and quantitative research. Regardless of the personality theory, assessment is a foundation in anything that a psychologist does, whether it's a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst who is assessing a patient's thoughts, their feelings, their emotions, their behavior against assessing these against some other theoretical model, or whether it is a research psychologist that is assessing the performance on a certain task as compared to a control group and their performance on a certain task, the assessment is made.

It could be an educational psychologist who is assessing the performance in an academic setting of a certain individual student against the standard of the other students. Whatever the theory or the application is, whether there's educational psychology or research laboratory psychology or therapeutic psychology, assessment is an intricate and important part of what the psychologist does.
Two concepts that are central to any type of psychological testing, whether that be qualitative or quantitative testing, are the concepts of reliability and validity. Simply put, reliability means that the results that the assessment yields, whether it's a psychometric test, which is yielding a quantitative result, or if it's a qualitative projective tests, where it has to do with different theorists describing the behavior, the idea of reliability means that the results that come from that test are reliable. In other words, they are consistent.

If someone takes an IQ test, for example, and they receive the score of 100 on a Wednesday. They should receive a similar score within a week, two weeks, a month, or even a year after taking that test again. Reliable means that it's yielding the same results consistently.

So this is the concept of a reliability. If you have an exam, psychometric examination for instance, that's measuring personality. And you're seeing great fluctuations from one day to the next, you have to call into question the reliability of that examination.

The other major concept in psychology and psychological assessment is validity. And validity means that the test is measuring what it claims to measure. For example, in IQ testing, if an individual is a non-English speaking test taker and the IQ test is presented in English, then that IQ test is not a validly assessing the individual's IQ. It's assessing their English reading skills or English comprehension skills.

So validity means is the test testing for what it's claiming to test. So these two central concepts validity and reliability are very important to understand when assessing the assessment measures.
Contemporary personality research relies on five major research methods. And these five major research methods vary in either being quantitative or qualitative. And they range in reliability and validity.

But those five major methods are self report, or what we call objective inventories. And we'll be exploring these in depth. These would have to do with answering as strongly agree or strongly disagree on a Likert scale. "I find this to be an accurate statement about myself" or an inaccurate statement. So these are objective inventories.

We also have projective techniques, which we are going to be exploring quite in depth, which are mostly in the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories. An example of the projective technique would be the Rorschach inkblot or the TAT, the thematic apperception test. This would be looking for themes in an individual's reaction to a stimulus. That's a projective test.
We also have clinical interviews. This is the third major technique. And that's where we do an in-depth interview of an individual one-on-one. It's also called N equals 1 design. So it's a clinical interview. This is what commonly happens between a therapist and patient. But it can also happen between a researcher and an interviewee.

The fourth major assessment tool is behavioral assessment procedures. And this is assessing someone's behavior through observation.

And finally thought and experience sampling procedures. We're going to be looking at this in depth as well. So these are the five major assessment tools that are used in personality research.
We'll find that different theories lend themselves to different assessment techniques. For example, the self report or the objective inventories are mostly used in trait theory personality inventories. Whereas psychodynamic techniques based on the nature of the theory which deals with the unconscious, which is not observable nor measurable, relies mostly on projective techniques. So each theory will have an assessment technique that is most applicable to that particular theory.
Now, ideally when psychologist is doing research on personality, they would use a multi-perspective assessment approach. So in other words, using more than just one of these particular tools. However, that's not the case typically.

Usually, we have one tool that's used exclusively in research. But it's important to realize that we can use multiple tools in assessing research. The problem is that using different tools typically means that you're coming from different theoretical backgrounds. And that runs into it to trouble when you're trying to make a bigger picture of personality theories using theoretical models that are not complementary. So typically we find that the tools that one uses, the assessment tools that one uses, is usually dictated by the theory in which they embrace, the school of thought from which they're coming from.

So there's a link in the assignment section that I put to qualitative methods. Dr. George Boeree created a great workbook that explores qualitative research methods and gives a nice introduction to those methods. And I encourage you to take a look at those and read about them. He goes farther into depth with qualitative research methods than the readings that we have on quantitative measures. So that is the links below on qualitative research methods in personality psychology.

Let's take a look now in depth on self report personality tests. Self report inventories typically exist in a forced answer, yes or no, agree disagree, or maybe a Likert scale of agree to strongly disagree on the scale of, say, one to five. And the individual is asked specific questions that they then answer. And the way they answer are standardized against a group of a population.

Maybe the most famous personality inventory that is used is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, known as the MMPI. It was first published in 1943. And it was standardized against a group of Minnesota men. It consisted of 567 questions or statements that one either answers as true or false pertaining to themselves. It's now in its second revision known as the MMPI-2.

And it was originally devised assessment tool for psychopathology to diagnose with the DSM disorders. But the items cover things from physical and psychological health to political attitudes, social attitudes, level of education, occupational, family, and marital factors. It looks for neuroses and psychotic behavior and thinking. It's a really broad ranging diagnosis and assessment tool. And again, it was a originally constructed to be used as a diagnosis tool in conjunction with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM.

Let's take a sample of some of the statements that one would answer either true or false to. "At times I get strong cramps in my intestines." "I'm often very tense on the job." "sometimes there's a feeling like something is pressing in on my head." "i wish I could do over some of the things I have done." "I used to like to do the dances in gym class."

"It distresses me that people have the wrong ideas about me." The things that run through my head sometimes are horrible." "There are those out there who want to get me." "Sometimes I think so fast I can't keep up." Or "I give up too easily when discussing things with others."
These are samples of the statements that one word answer either true or false to in whether or not they feel that they apply to them individually. Now there's a subtest of this, a version of this test, just for adolescents, MMPI-A. And it's a personality test that was standardized for the use of adolescence. And that was done in 1992. And that version of the exam has fewer questions. And the questions are specifically oriented towards adolescence.

Again, this test it was originally designed for diagnosis. But is today used also as an inventory for personality structures when doing research on, say, political attitudes and beliefs and behaviors, or social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It's used as a tool within research that goes beyond the diagnosis of mental illness.

Another example of a self report personality test is one you might be more familiar with if you've applied to a job. So if you have applied to a job at a major change, often you will sit down and take a test-- it's actually personality test-- as part of the screening for employment. And you may have 200 or more questions that you answer as either agree or disagree, or on a Likert scales one to five, strongly agree versus strongly disagree.

And this is a personality assessment. And they're looking for certain traits or certain ways that ideal candidates for position answer certain questions. So that would be another example of a use of a self report personality test.

Now, there are some criticisms of these self report tests. For example, it was found that when individuals are given a forced answer test, they will answer differently to an identical question or statement than if they were allowed to answer in their own words. For example, when asked if children should be able to think for themselves, individuals who that statement was given as an option, 61.5% of individuals answered that way. But when given an option to answer however they'd like only, 4.6% of individuals answered with the answer of being able to think for themselves. So it's forcing someone to answer in a particular way, which is seen as a fault in the assessment method.
Another criticism of the self report method is that if an individual is using this method, this research tool, to apply for a job, they're probably going to answer in a way that makes them look as good as possible. So not answering honestly, but answering in a way to, what is called, fake good, to look good. And this could lead to inaccurate information. This is another criticism.

What is the pro for this self-assessment test? Well, the thing that it does do well is that it is objective. It's quantitative. It gives you an exact score that you can measure and compare with other individuals who take the exam. So it gives the appearance of being very, as we say, objective or not subjective, not filtered through the opinion of someone, but equally scored amongst all who take it and in an objective or equal way, non-biased way.

Again, this is in itself objectivity. It's a very controversial topic in the field of philosophy of science and philosophy of psychology. But that is to one of the strengths of self report objective tests is that you have a number. And all individuals receive a score that can then be compared and analyzed using statistical methods. And that's what makes the test so appealing to researchers, scientifically minded researchers, that is.

Whereas the self-assessment tests used to be administered as a paper and pencil exam. Today there are typically administered as an online exam. And there's some great benefits to this for research.
It's less time consuming for the applicant to do this, to just go online and access it and click the Likert scale or the yes/no choice. It's also easier to score and to compile the data for the researcher. It's less expensive. The scoring is more objective because there's no scorer error that used to take place when hand scoring these examinations.

The method is accepted by younger members and by individuals who are familiar with technology. They're able to go online and take the test from their home. They don't have to go to a research lab or to an employment center or wherever.

And it also prevents test takers from looking ahead at questions in preparing for this. The tests are usually administered not unlike an online exam for a college that you might take for a class, where you get one item at a time, and you can't look ahead and consider your answer, and then go back and answer other questions. So there's a lot of more control in the administration, grading, and storing data by using an online test administration.

Typically, self report inventories have the highest validity and reliability ratings of all of the personality research methods that we'll be studying. Let's contrast the quantitative psychometric technique of self-assessment, self report personality tests, rather, with the projective techniques.
Now, to really understand the projective technique is going to require that we first discuss Freud theory, which will occur in a future lecture. But what I would like to introduce you to this concept of projective tests is that in psychoanalytic theory, the subjective is more important than the objective. If a self report inventory is measuring the personality objectively, then the projective tests is measuring the subjective response of an individual.

And that subjective response is-- and this is difficult to quite get your hands around without understanding the theory more in depth. But a projective test is accessing the unconscious. These are the unobservable and unmeasurable areas of the human psyche.

So for instance, just as a film projector projects an image onto a screen, an individual projects their own subjective inner emotional life onto anything they look at. This could be given as an example of two individuals going to see the same film. We'll see two different films. One person will leave the film saying, my goodness, what an inspiring film, it made me feel so wonderful. And the other person we'll find the film upsetting and never want to see it again.

We know in life that it's not the stimulus that determines reaction, it's the organism subjective response to the stimulus. This is the whole foundation of cognitive psychology incidentally. Beyond stimulus and response and finding that there's stimulus organism response. There's something that comes between the us and the stimulus.

So in a projective test, just as an individual would watch a film and give their subjective interpretation of that film, or someone looks at a work of art and gives their subjective response to that work of art, the psychoanalysts, the psychodynamic theorists say that this is accessing the unconscious attitudes of the individual that upon which their personality is built.
Now, when one looks at the most famous of the projective tests-- that's the Rorschach inkblot test. And this was developed by an artist Hermann Rorschach. And this was a game.

Rorschach was trained as artist as a young man, a painter. And one of the popular games at this time in Switzerland-- he's a Swiss theorist-- was called klecksography or Blotto. And it's a child's game, where they gave their impressions of ink blots.

Well, Rorschach realized after having become physician and a psychoanalyst, he realized that this children's game, this klecksography, could be used to access the unconscious attitudes of individuals. They would look at this random, symmetrical blot of ink and give their emotional reactions to this.
And Rorschach found that looking for themes, one was projecting their inner attitudes onto these ink blots. Now, this is very difficult to get. But maybe an example would helpful.

In training to administer and interpret ink blots, Rorschach inkblots, one notices immediately that they're characteristic responses to each of the different ink blots that are presented. So in looking at the ink blots, some individuals will respond by explaining in great detail intricate aspects of the inkblot. Another individual might just give a general impression, such as big, scary.

Now, each of those responses in themselves tells a great deal about the person's personality. We would not be surprised to find out that the individual who goes into great detail in describing the aspects of the inkblot might be in the profession of the sciences or an accountant or someone who tends to great detail. Whereas the individual who responds in general terms such as big, scary, or oh, my goodness, in a very emotional or affected response might be in a profession such as acting or something of this nature.

There are aspects of not only what the person answers but how the person answers to the Rorschach. An individual who looks at these 10 ink blots and gives common responses will often have typical characteristic responses in other aspects of their life. So what we see with the projective inkblots, the projective tests in general, is that an individual's projecting their inner unconscious self onto the inkblot, not only in what they're describing, but in how they're describing.

Now, each of the 10 inkblot cards do have a standard responses. And these have been cataloged. And when one studies administration and interpretation of Rorschach responses, one will find that there are certain commonalities that exist, say, between individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia tend to answer in certain ways that are common. Individuals who tend to go into different professions or different political attitudes tend to answer in characteristic ways.
So this is one way that we can see standardization and reliability. But there was a further attempt to make these more objective in the 1960s. And it's called the Exner system.

And this is where the attempt has been made to actually give numerical scores to how someone answers in an effort to make it more of a quantitative approach. However, most psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theorists use a more interpretive or theoretical-- looking for themes and responses, rather than numbered research. This was something that folks did for a while in an attempt to you to use these cards in a more quantifiable way, to make it more appealing for research funding, et cetera. But largely today they are used more as in a therapeutic and a research method, but looking for themes and not so much in quantitative scoring.

Today, all 10 of the original Rorschachs have been replicated. And the plates have been presented with all of their common assessment tools on Wikipedia. And this was very controversial when it occurred back in 2009. And so today-- the copyright had run out-- and so you can look at these Rorschachs and see all of the assessment-- learn the assessment tools to studying them.
That was controversial that it appeared online on Wikipedia. However, the books were always available in the library. So the accessibility may have increased. But the information was always available to anyone who wanted to go to library to learn about this. So the real issue here is ease of access rather than access itself.

Now many psychologists of psychodynamic orientation realize that the inkblot had a certain intimidation to analysands or patients or research subjects. And people would often become very guarded in answering what they saw in an inkblot. The inkblot itself could induce a paranoia.
So Henry Murray developed something called the TAT, the thematic apperception test, based on, in fact, Wilhelm Wundt's concept of apperception, how the mind voluntarily appercepts or organizes information into meaningful wholes. Wundt, incidentally, called this volunteerism and developed the term apperception.

So the TAT test, the thematic apperception test is a series of 20 ambiguous scenes. So these are cards that have ambiguous images. And the individual is asked to construct a story about what's going on in the pictures.

So a TAT card it's presented to the individual. And the person is asked to construct a story about the people and the objects in the picture, describing what led up to the situation, and describing the people in this situation, and what they're thinking and feeling, and what the outcome is likely to be. And again, the analysand or the researcher or the therapist is looking to construct themes. They're looking for themes that keep recurring in different cards.

Now, out of these 20 cards, 19 of them are images or scenes. One is a boy sitting with a violin. Another is an older woman and a younger woman standing one in front of the other. One of the cards is a completely blank card.

So the ideology here is, again, projection. The individual projects they're inner unconscious attitudes, feelings, and thoughts onto the image itself. This Murray and his associate at Christiana Morgan developed this test in 1935.

It might be interesting to note that this projection, the concept of projection as developed by Sigmund Freud as we'll learn, is one that is often used in film theory and also in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic media criticism, media studies, media psychology. Looking at a film, watching a movie, a television commercial, reading the book, visiting a website, interacting with an online video game, these are all projective tests. When we go to a gallery or a museum and we look at a piece of art, we are, in fact, projecting ourselves onto that work. And our response is not unlike responding to a Rorschach inkblot test or a thematic apperception test.

So when we describe or we discuss our attitudes about things, we are projecting and talking more about ourselves than about the thing that we think we're talking about. So this is a summary of the quantitative and qualitative, major qualitative and quantitative methods of personality research. And what we are going to turn to in the next portion of this lecture is looking towards experimental methods of research and the clinical research and also a correlational studies in research. And that'll be in part 4 of lecture 1.