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

Yes, your research is very noble. No, that’s not a reason to flout copyright law. – Tal Yarkoni ([citation needed])

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

Guest Post by Shira Gabriel: Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls – Simine Vazire (sometimes i'm wrong)

 [DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in my posts, and guest posts, are personal opinions, and they do not reflect the editorial policy of Social Psychological and Personality Science or its sponsoring associations, which are responsible for setting editorial policy for the journal.]

Guest post by Shira Gabriel

Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to. I haven’t always been the most enthusiastic respondent to all the changes in the field around scientific methods.  Even changes that I know are for the better, like attending to power and thus running fewer studies with more participants, I have gone along with grudgingly.  It is the same attitude I have towards eating more vegetables and less sugar.  I miss cake and I am tired of carrots, but I know that it is best in the long run. I miss running dozens of studies in a semester, but I know that it is best in the long run. It is not like I never knew about power, but I never focused on it, like many other people in the field.  I had vague ideas of how big my cell sizes should be (ideas that were totally wrong, I have learned since) and I would run studies using those vague ideas.  If I got support for my hypotheses-- great! Continue reading

results blind vs. results bling* – Simine Vazire (sometimes i'm wrong)


[DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in my posts are personal opinions, and they do not reflect the editorial policy of Social Psychological and Personality Science or its sponsoring associations, which are responsible for setting editorial policy for the journal.]

Octopus24 show-off

in many areas of science, our results sections are kind of like instagram posts.  beautiful, clear, but not necessarily accurate. researchers can cherry-pick the best angle, filter out the splotches, and make an ordinary hot dog look scrumptious (or make a lemon look like spiffy car).**  but what's even more fascinating to me is that our reaction to other people's results are often like our reactions to other people's instagram posts: "wow! that's aMAZing! how did she get that!" i've fallen prey to this myself.  i used to teach bem's chapter on "writing the empirical journal article," that tells researchers to think of their dataset as a jewel, and "to cut and polish it, to select the facets to highlight, and to craft the best setting for it."  i taught this to graduate students, and then i would literally turn around, read a published paper, and think "what a beautiful jewel!"*** 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