Category Archives: The personality sentences

Can we tell where leeway becomes freeway? – J. P. Gerber – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

What does it mean to say ‘nobody’s perfect’? Partly, it means that, for non-criminal behaviors, we don’t judge things by one failure, we give leeway. We think about people based on average behavior, not simply by their worst day, as we hope they would do for us. However, at some point, that leeway can become freeway, where someone’s average behavior doesn’t really match where they say it is. Is there a way to test this? I think there is. Consider the following things someone might say to you: a) I usually take 5 minutes in the shower b) I obey Gottman’s rule of saying 5 positive things for every one negative thing to my employees. c) My friend is always about 15 minutes late for parties One thing all these have in common is that they list a specific, self-defined numerical standard (e.g. 5 minutes, 5 positive things to 1 negative, 15 minutes). That person’s standard can be easily tested by: 1. Collecting a little bit of data. Continue reading

“Creativity is talking listening to a cat” – Nancy Martin (1985) cited by E. Paul Torrance (1988) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

Possibly the most incredible scene in Runway Project, Season 16 is the one in which Kentaro plays Tim Gunn a piano piece. Afterwards, they have the following conversation… Tim Gunn : What gave you this idea? Kentaro: Well, so I find a dead cat on the street and after I bury the cat I put my ear to the ground and this is the kind of sound I heard. On the face of it, most of us might think that Kentaro’s approach is slightly oddball so I was surprised, when reading a chapter by Torrance on creativity to find that one artistic definition of creativity is “talking listening to a cat…crossing out mistakes”. But how is that a test of creativity? Torrance had two major approaches to understanding creativity. The first was an individual differences approach (seen best in his test of creative thought). For example, people were asked to think of all the uses of a tin can and then their answers were scored for flexibility (number of different approaches/methods), fluency (total number of ideas), originality and elaboration, all of which come from Guilford’s (1956) ideas on creativity. However, both Guilford and Torrance were aware that this approach to creativity was incomplete. Thinking about uses for a tin can doesn’t address larger parts of creativity such as redefining situations and being sensitive to problems in the world. Continue reading

“The most striking correlate of insight is the sense of humor” Allport (1937, p. 222) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

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:
      1. 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.
      2. There’s no single facet of the Big Five that seems to tap self-insight very well.
      3. Johnson & McCord (2010) studied humor and personality but had a small sample size (N=31!). They didn’t find much. Continue reading

Marriages are very valuable as psychological symbioses so long as the partners do not attempt a mutual “psychological” understanding. Jung (1923) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

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

The difference in ability to “size up” individuals … is very striking. – Allport (1937, p. 508) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

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 or heard 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