Chris Brand

PERSONALITY, BIOLOGY & SOCIETY

A Resource Manual of Quotations about the Psychology of Individual and Group Differences.

Part of Chris Brand's New Homepage


This anthology of quotations is designed to illustrate claims and findings in differential psychology - the study of individual and group differences in psychology. It has thirty sections (plus an Introduction and an Appendix) which should all to be available on the Net soon. Beginning with coverage of General Questions (e.g. mind-body problem, nature/nurture questions), the quotes cover Intelligence, Personality, Psychopathology, Group Differences (in age, sex, class and race), Politics and Personality Testing. In each of the thirty sections, the quotes are arranged to exemplify the main ongoing academic and political controversies. A dispute within quite a few of the fields covered is that between 'realistic' ('essentialist', 'hereditarian') approaches and those approaches that are more 'idealistic' ('constructivist' or just 'social-environmentalist'). The Introduction overviews the whole of differential psychology and its history and the realist-idealist line of tension. The Appendix explains the statistical method of factor analysis that has proved so important to differential psychology (and especially to the 'London School' intellectual heirs of Sir Francis Galton). A large section on 'Psychosocial Engineering' covers putatively improving schemes of therapy, training, education, eugenics and individualization of micro-environments. The sections on Politics consider the contributions that psychology can make towards the achievement of such popular goals as liberty, equality, fraternity and justice.


Test Your Personality!

The 'Comprehensive Six' Personality Dimensions


Quotes

i Introduction
I Situational versus Personological Approaches to human behaviour and experience
Do people differ in their current behaviour and experience merely because they find themselves in different 'situations'? - Or because they have different 'personalities'? - And thus 'interact' differently with 'situations'? And perhaps because, as the individuals they already are, they select and create their own 'situations' (or micro-environments, or milieux)?
II Objective and Essentialist versus Subjective and Relativist Epistemologies in the study of personality
How can we have knowledge of people? Is each person absolutely unique? Or is there regular covariation amongst aspects of personality, allowing people to be 'measured' as relatively high or low in various broad personality traits - rather as people differ detectably in physical strength, attractiveness and handedness?
III Dimensions of Personality
How many measurable dimensions of personality can be reliably identified at present? Is there really a 'converging consensus' amongst psychometrician-psychologists? [For particular dimensions of human psychological variation, see under Intelligence and Propensities.]
IV Human Psychological 'Infrastructure' and 'Superstructure'
Should major personality differences be envisaged as having material bases in our physiological make-up (e.g. in brain growth or neurotransmitter availability)? Or is personality primarily 'social', ideational and intentionally self-constructed? [For what is known or hypothesized of the role of the cerebral hemispheres, see XIX.] V Nature vs Nurture? - Or Nature via Nurture? Do personality differences develop primarily from genetic or primarily from environmental differences between people? And what is the role of 'interaction' in shaping personality development and individual differences? [For the developmental origins of intellectual differences see X and XII; and for the origins of other personality differences, see under Propensities.]
V Nature, Nuture and Nature via Nurture
VI Consciousness, Personality and the Self
Is it adequate for an intended description of personality merely to summarize our observable 'operating characteristics'? Or is some reference to what we perceive, think, feel, intend and dis-attend essential to any true personality description? How important is consciousness to an understanding of personality? How are conscious, preconscious, subconscious, unconscious and 'dynamically' unconscious processes to be distinguished? Do we each possess just one personality? Or is it more helpful to think of most people as having several distinct personalities and strands of consciousness? How is the self integrated?
VII The Folk Psychology of Personality
How do modern writers describe personality? Do they make reference to personality traits and dimensions that are at all similar to those recovered by psychometrician-psychologists? In the 'folk psychology' of everyday speech, people are generally credited with possessing hearts, minds, souls and spirits. Similarly, a person may be said to have 'a strong will', 'a demanding conscience', 'a good memory' or 'a vivid imagination'. How do such folk components of personality relate to the dimensions and structures envisaged by differential psychologists (as indicated in Quotes III)?
VIII The Measurement of Intelligence
Do human intellectual differences lend themselves to reliable, predictive and impartial measurement? Is there, in particular, one central dimension of general intelligence (g) that affects most (or even all) mental abilities? Or is it better to recognize many independent, 'specific' psychometric abilities? [For questions about group differences in intelligence, see Sections XXI - XXIV).]
IX The Bases of Intelligence
Do individual differences in measured intelligence have bases in mechanisms and processes that psychologists and physiologists can identify? In particular, can intellectual differences be said to derive from underlying differences in 'speed of information-processing' or neural transmission efficiency? Does nutrition influence intelligence - and how? [For ideas from 'cognitive psychology', see also XIII.]
X The Developmental Origins of Differences in Intelligence
Do our more general intellectual differences arise from nature, from nurture, or from identifiable processes of 'interaction'? What is known about how intelligence levels can change? [For the influence of ageing in adulthood, or 'lifespan development', see XXI.]
XI The Importance of Intelligence
What are the functions-both biological and social-of human differences in intelligence? How important is intelligence to educational attainment, to occupational success, and to moral development? How important is intelligence to the rest of 'personality' - e.g. in 'harnessing the passions'? [For crime and creativity, see XVI and XVII.]
XII Piaget's Account of Intelligence
Did Piaget and his followers revolutionize our understanding of intelligence? -Of individual differences in intelligence? Or did they trade on confusions about what may be meant by 'genetic-environmental interaction' and about what is actually involved in genetic-environmental covariation?
XIII Cognitive Psychology, Cognitivism, and Artificial Intelligence
What is 'cognitive science'? Is there anything very 'cognitive' about it? What, if anything, does cognitivism explain? Will cognitive science eventually revolutionize our understanding of intelligence?
XIV Neuroticism, Neurosis and Moods
Can individual propensity to neurosis be measured and explained? Does neuroticism (n) involve greater sentience? Do higher-n people enjoy better recall of past experience?
XV Psychoticism, Psychosis and Psychopathy
Can individual propensity to psychotic illness be measured and explained? Does schizophrenia, in particular, involve unusual patterns of attention? Is there a link to psychopathy?
XVI Crime and Criminality
Can individual propensity to criminal behaviour be measured and explained? What is the involvement-if any-of identifiable personality traits, genetic factors, poverty and drink?
XVII Genius, Talent and Creativity
Can individual propensity to imagination, originality and discovery and creativity be measured and explained? Are geniuses 'mad', highly sexed, 'neurotic' or just highly intelligent?
XVIII Depth Psychology
What contribution has psychoanalysis made to understanding human personality differences and personality structure? Should sex and aggression be admitted to be basic human instincts? Do our personalities derive primarily from unconscious conflicts concerning (infantile) sex and aggression? Can a proto-Freudian structure of the mind (or personality) be reconciled with mainstream differential psychology?
XIX The Modern Phrenology of the Cerebral Hemispheres
Has the late-twentieth-century study of brain's two cerebral hemispheres made a decisive contribution to the understanding of personality? Do particular types of people-artists, architects, accountants etc.-have distinctive patterns of cerebral dominance or cerebral integration?
XX Psychosocial Engineering
What improving proposals have emanated from psychology? What has been learned from the attempts of therapists, educators and social reformers to change us for the better? Have would-be improvers taken human differences sufficiently into account?
XXI Ageing
What are the major psychological changes that occur with ageing? And why? Is intellectual decline the crucial variable? Should 'ageism' be prevented or encouraged?
XXII Sex Differences
What are the major sex differences in behaviour and experience? And why? Are the observable differences traceable to particular personality dimensions? Are the differences 'real' or just matters of stereotype? Are there bound to be psychological sex differences? Must patriarchy exist?
XXIII Social Class
What are the major socio-economic differences that might have a personological base? Is social class vanishing as an important variable in Western societies?
XXIV Racial, Ethnic, National and Regional Differences
What are the major known and/or envisaged differences in psychological function between human groups that differ in race and/or culture? Do such psychological differences serve to explain differences in conspicuous achievement between nations?
XXV Politics, Social Attitudes and Political Extremism
What are the main party-political differences-today and in the past? Can political differences between people be understood as personological? Is there a psychological explanation for 'extremism' and totalitarian political aims?
XXVI The Politics of Psychologists and Allied Co-Workers
What are the political views of psychologists? Are trait-psychologists distinguishable?
XXVII Equality and Community
What psychological reflections impinge on the pursuit of 'utopian', or welfare-increasing social objectives? Does research into individual differences suggest notable constraints on the human pursuit of equality and fraternity?
XXVIII Freedom, Responsibility, Libery and Justice
What psychological reflections impinge on moral and religious concerns for 'legitimist', or rights-affirming social arrangements? Does research into individual differences suggest notable constraints on the human pursuit of liberty and justice?
XXIX Carry on Differentiating ?!
Should psychologists continue to search for individual differences and for dimensions of personality? What is the alternative?
XXX Carry on Psychotesting ?!
Is there a future for psychometric testing that is compatible with human rights and reforming ambitions? What is the alternative?
Appendix-I Factor Analysis
Appendix-II The 'Comprehensive Six' Personality Dimensions


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