Panning Back An Overview of Personality and Social Interaction

The most important message from this chapter is that personality does not reside passively within an individual, but rather reaches out and profoundly af fects each person's social environment. The three processes by which personality can influence a individual's social environment—selection, evocation, and manipulation—are highlighted in Table 15.6.

These fundamental mechanisms operate in the physical as well as the social environment. Let's consider selection first. In the physical domain, an introvert is mor likely to choose to live in a rural habitat, whereas an extravert is more likely to choose city living with all the opportunities for social interaction city life provides. In the social domain, an extravert is more likely to select a mate who is also extraverted, whereas an introvert is more likely to choose an introverted mate so that they can read books quietly side by side.

For the process of evocation, a loud, heavy person who treads heavily is more likely to evoke an avalanche while climbing a snowy mountain. In the social domain, narcissistic people evoke admiration from their followers and contempt from those who dislike their unbridled self-centeredness. For the process of manipulation,

Table 15.6 Causal Mechanisms That Create Links between Personality and Environment: Examples from the Physical and Social Domains


Physical Environment

Social Environment


Introvert selects rural habitat

Extravert chooses extraverted mate

Avoidance of cold climates

Emotionally stable person chooses stable roommate


Person who treads heavily elicits an avalanche

Disagreeable people evoke relationship conflict

Clumsy person creates, elicits more noise and clatter

Narcissistic people evoke admiration from followers


Conscientious person creates clean, neat, uncluttered room

Disagreeable person uses "the silent treatment"

Person high on openness creates stylish, colorful room with varied collection of books and CDs

Narcissists transfer blame to others

fascinating recent research has shown that personality af fects how people mold and modify the rooms in which they live (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002). Conscientious individuals, for example, keep their rooms tidy , neat, and free of clutter . Those low on conscientiousness have more dirt, clutter , and mess in their rooms. Those high in openness decorate their rooms with stylish and unconventional objects and have many books and CDs that are highly varied in genre. Those low on openness have fewer and more conventional decorations, a narrower range of books, and a more delimited collection of CDs. In the social domain, disagreeable individuals are more likely than stable individuals to use "the silent treatment" as a tactic of manipulation. Those high in intellect-openness tend to use reason and rationality to get their way. And narcissists try to transfer blame for their failures onto others.

Personality, in short, af fects the mates and friends a person chooses as well as the environments a person decides to enter or avoid (selection); the reactions elicited from others and from the physical environment (evocation); and the ways in which one's physical and social environments are altered once inhabited (manipulation). These three processes are shown in Figure 15.1.

Figure 15.1

Personality and social interaction.

Figure 15.1

Personality and social interaction.

Further research is needed to determine whether the causal arrows run in both directions. Does the choice of a mate who is similar in personality , for example, create a social environment that reinforces that personality and makes it more stable over time? Does the conflict evoked by disagreeable people create a social environment i which they receive a lot of negative feedback, hence maintaining their disagreeable personality? Does the wide variety of manipulative tactics used by emotionally unstable individuals—from hardball to threats to sulking, whining, and pouting—create a social environment that is indeed rocked with greater turmoil, thus maintaining the personality disposition of neuroticism? Research within the next decade will undoubtedly answer these questions.

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