Later on (p. 223), Allport goes on to say “in maturity, a sensitive and intricate balance is attained, peculiar to each life, between caring and not caring, between valuing and recognizing the vanity of value”. Allport’s main idea is that you can’t be a fully mature person unless you can laugh at the values you place on life and recognize that they are just one way of seeing life.
Intuitively, this idea feels right because we can think of examples and counter-examples: this scene
in Home Alone where Old Man Marley seemingly laughs at himself after Kevin helps him realize his familial folly, the bulletproof CEO who can never laugh at themselves, the fragile teen you would never mock in case they melted away.
I like Allport’s idea but, as ever, I wondered if it ever bore fruit in research. In looking at this via PSYCinfo and other sources, I came up with the following:
- There are four broad styles of humor1 (self-enhancing, affiliative, aggressive, self-defeating) and the closest one to Allport’s view is probably self-defeating humor.
- There’s no single facet of the Big Five that seems to tap self-insight very well.
- Johnson & McCord (2010) studied humor and personality but had a small sample size (N=31!). They didn’t find much. Continue reading
Scientific research is cumulative; many elements of a typical research project would not and could not exist but for the efforts of many previous researchers. This goes not only for knowledge, but also for measurement. In much of the clinical world–and also in many areas of “basic” social and life science research–people routinely save themselves inordinate amounts of work by using behavioral or self-report measures developed and validated by other researchers.
Among many researchers who work in fields heavily dependent on self-report instruments (e.g., personality psychology), there appears to be a tacit belief that, once a measure is publicly available–either because it’s reported in full in a journal article, or because all of the items and instructions be found on the web–it’s fair game for use in subsequent research. There’s a time-honored ttradition of asking one’s colleagues if they happen to “have a copy” of the NEO-PI-3, or the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, or the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The fact that many such measures are technically published under restrictive copyright licenses, and are often listed for sale at rather exorbitant prices (e.g., you can buy 25 paper copies of the NEO-PI-3 from the publisher for $363 US
), does not seem to deter researchers much. The general understanding seems to be that if a measure is publicly available, it’s okay to use it for research purposes. I don’t think most researchers have a well-thought out, internally consistent justification for this behavior; it seems to almost invariably be an article of tacit belief that nothing bad can or should happen to someone who uses a commercially available instrument for a purpose as noble as scientific research.
The trouble with tacit beliefs is that, like all beliefs, they can sometimes be wrong–only, because they’re tacit, they’re often not evaluated openly until things go horribly wrong. Continue reading
If personality is a perspective on the world, a window on one part of reality, then it becomes easy to see Jung’s point: symbiosis is sometimes the art of having productive long-term relationships with people with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye.
However, it’s very hard to find any direct evidence for Jung’s idea because the idea is so conditional, so “sometimes”. Jung made the case only for when partners have different personalities (e.g. his case of introverts and extroverts).
Jung was not suggesting that people who are similar will not get along, we know that similarity between partners helps relationships1
. We also know that perceived accuracy (not actual accuracy) helps relationships2
. As Julie Fitness put it when I emailed her about this “as a couple’s illusion that they are simpatico gets stronger, the happier they are, I guess!”
Jung’s statement is that, when
people are different, they can have better relationships if they accept their differences. However, I haven’t heard of any direct test of this in the relationship literature, and I can’t find one in the personality literature.
There is, however, is some suggestive evidence. Continue reading
What evidence can help you to decide whether personality exists? For example, how would I know if it’s possible to say that I could actually be a shy (or not shy) person? Or is shyness completely made up?
You may have read
that personality does not exist. While the counter-arguments are many
, in my experience there are only two pieces of evidence necessary to convince people that personality exists.
The first is David Funder’s analysis of the person-situation debate in Chapter 4 of “The Personality Puzzle”. Read it!
The second one is more forgotten, that some people are better than others at judging personality, whether that be from first impressions or after long acquaintances (click here
for more details on the research).
The existence of individual differences in the ability to judge personality is important. Do we ask about the existence of fine food by sampling every home cook in America? No, we look for people who are good at cooking: chefs. Continue reading
How did you pick where to eat the last time you had a craving for tacos? In the popular Netflix series Master of None, Dev Shah, a 30-year-old actor living in New York City, models one extreme approach: After deciding to get tacos with his friend Arnold, who opts for an “I’m good with whatever” approach, Dev spends 45 minutes frantically and meticulously searching the Internet for the best taco spot in New York. Dev finally selects a particular taco truck as the best option; upon arriving there, he grills the server about the most superior taco offered, only to discover that the taco truck is all out of tortillas. “What am I supposed to do now—go and eat the second-best taco?” Dev fumes.