Person Situation Interaction

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We first looked at the topic of person-situation interaction in Chapter 1. In this sec tion, we will examine this topic in a bit more detail, focusing on interactionism as a response to Mischel' s challenge to trait consistency . As Mischel' s debate with trait psychologists made clear , there are two possible explanations for behavior , or why people do what they do in any given situation:

1. Behavior is a function of personality traits, B = fP).

2. Behavior is a function of situational forces, B = f(S).

Clearly, there is some truth in both of these statements. For example, people behave differently at funerals than they do at sporting events, illustrating that situational forces direct behavior in certain ways, as Mischel emphasized. Some people, however, are consistently quiet, even at sporting events, whereas other people are talkative and sociable, even at funerals. These examples lend support to the traditional trait position, which stresses that personality determines why people do what they do.

The obvious way to integrate these two points of view is to declare that both personality and situations interact to produce behavior , or

This formula suggests that behavior is a function of the interaction between personality traits and situational forces. Consider, for example, the trait of having a hot temper, a tendency to respond aggressively to minor frustrations. Acquaintances of a person high on this trait might be unaware of it as long as they did not encounter the person attempting to deal with a frustrating situation. The trait of having a short temper might be expressed only under the right situational conditions, such as in frustrating situations. If a person is frustrated by a situation (e.g., a vending machine takes the person' s money but does not give him or her the product) and the person happens to have a quick temper (personality forces), then he or she will become upset and perhaps strike out at the source of the frustration (e.g., kick the vending machine repeatedly while cursing loudly). Any explanation of why such people get so upset would have to take into account both particular situations (e.g., frustration) and personality traits (e.g., hot temper). This point of view is called person-situation interaction, and it has become a fairly standard view in modern trait theory . Another way to view this is in the form of "If . . . . , if . . . . , then . . . . " statements (Shoda, Mischel, & Wright, 1994)—for example, "If the situation is frustrating, and if the person has a hot temper , then aggression will be the result."

In the interactional view , differences between people are understood to make a difference only under the right circumstances. Some traits are specific to certai situations. Consider the trait of test anxiety . A young man might be generally easygoing and confident. Howeve , under a set of very specifi situational conditions, such as when he has to take an important exam, he becomes very anxious. In these particular circumstances, someone who is otherwise easygoing might become distressed, anxious, and quite upset. This example illustrates how certain very specific situation can provoke behavior that is otherwise out of character for the individual. This is referred to as situational specificity in which a person acts in a specific way unde particular circumstances.

Some trait-situation interactions are rare because the kinds of situations that elicit behavior related to those traits are themselves rare. For example, you would fin it difficult to identify which of your classmates were high in courageousness. It woul take a certain kind of situation, such as a hostage situation at your school, for you to find out just who is courageous and who is not

The point is that personality traits interact with situational forces to produce behavior. Personality psychologists have given up the hope of predicting "all of the people all of the time" and have settled on the idea that they can predict "some of the people some of the time." For example, given the trait of anxiety , we might be able to predict who is likely to be anxious in some situations (e.g., evaluation situations, such as tests), but not anxious in other situations (e.g., when relaxed at home with family).

An interesting example of person X situation interaction is provided in a study by Debbie Moskowitz (1993). It has long been thought that the personality traits of dominance (the disposition to try to influence others) and friendliness (the degree t which a person is cordial and congenial) show lar ge gender dif ferences, with men being more dominant than women, and women being more friendly than men (Eagly , 1987). However, the study by Moskowitz showed that these traits interact with situation variables. Specificall , a person's level of dominance or friendliness may depend on who they are interacting with at the time, for example, whether they are interacting with a same-sex or opposite sex person, and whether that person is someone they know or a stranger . Moskowitz's (1993) study showed that women are more friendly than men, but only when they are interacting with other women; when interacting with opposite sex strangers, women were not more friendly than men. As for dominance, the men were more dominant than women, but only when interacting with a same-sex friend; when interacting with strangers, the men were not more dominant than women. This study shows that who a person is interacting with will influence the expressio of the personality traits of dominance and friendliness, and that this expression may or may not dif fer for men and women depending on the social setting.

Some situations are so strong, however, that nearly everyone reacts in the same way. For example, in a study of emotional reactions to life events, Larsen, Diener , and Emmons (1986) were interested in finding out who tended to overreact emotion ally to everyday events. Participants in this study kept a daily diary of life events every day for two months. They also rated their emotions each day . Based on a trait measure of emotional reactivity , these researchers were able to predict who would overreact to a minor or moderately stressful event, such as getting a flat tire, bein stood up for a date, or having an outdoor event get rained out. When really bad things happened, such as the death of a pet, virtually everyone reacted with strong emotion. Researchers have coined the term strong situation to refer to situations in which nearly all people react in similar ways.

Certain strong situations, such as funerals, religious services, and crowded elevators, seem to pull for uniformity of behavior . By contrast, when situations are weak or ambiguous, personality has its strongest influence on behavio . The Rorschach inkblot cards are a classic example of a weak or ambiguous situation. A person being asked to interpret these inkblots is, in ef fect, being asked to provide structure by describing what he or she sees in the inkblot. Many situations in real life are also somewhat ambiguous. When a stranger smiles at you, is it a friendly smile or is there a bit of a sneer in the smile? When a stranger looks you right in the eye and holds the stare for a bit too long, what does it mean? Many social situations, like these two, require us to interpret the actions, motives, and intentions of others. As with interpretations of inkblots, how we interpret social situations may reveal our personalities. For example, people with a Machiavellian character (e.g., the tendency to use others, to be manipulative and cold), often think others are out to get them (Golding, 1978). Especially in ambiguous social interactions, Machiavellian persons are likely to see others as threatening.

Situational Selection

There are three other ways in which personality traits interact with situations. We will discuss each of these in general terms here. The first form of interactionism is situ-ational selection, the tendency to choose the situations in which one finds onesel (Ickes, Snyder, & Garcia, 1997; Snyder & Gangestad, 1982). In other words, people typically do not find themselves in random situations. Instead, they select the situation

Personality Sport Persons

Personality plays a role in determining which situations a person chooses to enter. For example, whether one chooses team activities for recreation, such as basketball, or individual activities, such as longdistance running, is a function of one's level of extraversion. Studies show that extraverts prefer team activities and introverts prefer solitary activities for recreation.

Personality plays a role in determining which situations a person chooses to enter. For example, whether one chooses team activities for recreation, such as basketball, or individual activities, such as longdistance running, is a function of one's level of extraversion. Studies show that extraverts prefer team activities and introverts prefer solitary activities for recreation.

in which they will spend their time. Snyder (1983) states this idea concisely: "Quite possibly, one's choice of the settings in which to live one' s life may reflec features of one's personality; an individual may choose to live his or her life in serious, reserved, and intellectual situations precisely because he or she is a serious, reserved, and thoughtful individual" (p. 510).

Researchers have examined whether specific personality traits predict how ofte people enter into specific situations (Diene , Larsen, & Emmons, 1984). These researchers had participants wear pagers, so that the participants could be signaled electronically throughout the day . The participants wore the pagers every day for six weeks as they went about their normal routines. They were paged twice each day , resulting in a sample of 84 occasions for each participant. Each time the pager went off, the participants had to complete a brief questionnaire. One question inquired about the kind of situation each participant was in when the pager went of f. Over the 84 times when the participants were "caught," the researchers predicted that certain personality traits would predict how many times they were caught in certain situations. For example, the researchers found that the trait of need for achievement correlated with spending more time in work situations, the need for order with spending time in more familiar situations, and extraversion with choosing social forms of recreation (e.g., team sports, such as baseball or volleyball, rather than solitary sports, such as long-distance running or swimming).

The idea that personality influences the kinds of situations in which peopl spend their time suggests that we can investigate personality by studying the choices people make in life. When given a choice, people typically choose situations that fi their personalities (Snyder & Gangestad, 1982). The personality effect does not have to be large to result in substantial life-outcome dif ferences. For example, choosing to enter into work situations just 10 percent more of the time (e.g., studying 10 percent longer, or working 10 percent more hours) may result in very lar ge differences in reallife outcomes, such as achieving a degree or a higher salary. Think, for example, about how you choose to spend your free time and about whether your choices reflect you own personality, to a degree.

The relationship between persons and situations goes in both directions. So far, we have been emphasizing how personality af fects situational selection. However, once in the situation, that situation can af fect the person's personality. A fascinating study illustrating this notion was done by Bolger and Schilling (1991) on neuroticism and stressful life events. People high on the trait of neuroticism report higher levels of distress in their lives than people low on neuroticism. Bolger and Shilling hypothesized that this increased level of distress could come about because high neuroticism subjects get themselves more frequently into stressful situations, or because high neuroticism subjects respond to ordinary stressful situations with greater reactivity . To test these two hypotheses, they followed 339 people every day for 42 consecutive days, having the subjects keep detailed daily records of their life events and their self-reported levels of distress. They discovered that both hypotheses were true: high neuroticism subjects did indeed have more frequent stressful life events (e.g., ar guments, tension with others) than low neuroticism subjects, and they reacted to such stressful life events with more subjective distress than low neuroticism subjects. In this case, the trait of neuroti-cism related to more frequent stressful life events, and greater reactivity to stressful life events.

A recent study by psychologist Will Fleeson and colleagues (Fleeson, Malanos, & Achille, 2002) also illustrates how situations can influence personal ity. It has long been known that the trait of extraversion is related to positive emotions. We will discuss this more in the chapter on emotion, but for now it is important simply to know that a strong correlation exists between extraversion and feeling high levels of positive emotions. In their study , Fleeson and colleagues had subjects come to the lab in groups of three to participate in a group discussion. They were randomly assigned to an "introverted" or an "extraverted" condition. Instructions for the extraverted condition emphasized that they should behave in a talkative, bold, and ener getic manner for the group discussion. Instructions for the introverted condition emphasized that they should behave in a reserved, compliant, and unadventurous manner for the group discussion. They were then asked to have a discussion of either the 10 most important items needed after an airplane crash or to come up with 10 possible solutions to the parking problem on their campus.

During the discussion, observers rated how positive each participant appeared. Also, following the discussion, each participant self-reported how positive they felt during the discussion. For both of these variables—observed positivity and self-reported positive feelings—the subjects in the extraverted condition were substantially higher than persons in the introverted condition. Moreover , this effect did not depend on the person's actual levels of trait extraversion. This study shows that being in an extraverted situation (being with a group of ener getic, talkative people) can raise a person's level of positive af fect. The study clearly illustrates that, when it comes to person X situation interactions, situations can influence persons just as much as per sons can influence situations


Another form of person-situation interaction discussed by Buss (1987) is evocation, the idea that certain personality traits may evoke specific responses from the environment. For example, people who are disagreeable and manipulative may evoke certain reactions in others, such as hostility and avoidance. In other words, people may create their own environments by eliciting certain responses from others. Consider the case of a male patient who had trouble sustaining relationships with women, such that he was divorced three times (W achtel, 1973). He complained to his therapist that every woman with whom he became involved turned out to be bad-tempered, vicious, and spiteful. He complained that his relationships started out satisfying but always ended with the women becoming angry and leaving him. Wachtel (1973) speculated that the man must have been doing something to evoke this response from the women in his life.

The idea of evocation is similar to the idea of transference, discussed in Chapter 9 on psychoanalysis. Transference occurs when a patient in psychoanalysis re-creates, with the analyst, the interpersonal problems he or she is having with significant others. In doing so, the patient may evoke in the therapist the reactions and feelings that he or she typically evokes in other persons. Malcomb (1988) reported on a male psychoanalyst who found one female patient to be particularly boring. The analyst could hardly stay awake during the therapy sessions because the patient and her problems seemed so dull and trivial to him. After experiencing this reaction for a few weeks, however , the analyst realized that the patient was making him feel bored, just as she made other men in her life feel bored. She made herself dull, he concluded, in order to avoid the attentions of men and drive them away . However, she was in therapy , in part, because she complained of being lonely . This case illustrates how people can evoke reactions in others—creating and re-creating certain kinds of social situations in their everyday lives.


A third form of person-situation interaction is manipulation, which can be define as the various means by which people influence the behavior of others. Manipula tion is the intentional use of certain tactics to coerce, influence, or change others Manipulation changes the social situation. Manipulation dif fers from selection in that selection involves choosing existing environments, whereas manipulation entails altering those environments already inhabited. Individuals dif fer in the tactics of manipulation they use. Researchers have found, for example, that some individuals use a charm tactic—complimenting others, acting warm and caring, and doing favors for others in order to influence them. Other people use a manipulatio tactic sometimes referred to as the silent treatment, ignoring or failing to respond to the other person. A third tactic is coercion, which consists of making demands, yelling, criticizing, cursing, and threatening the other to get what one wants (Buss et al., 1987).

Interestingly, these forms of manipulation are linked with personality traits. Extraverts, for example, tend to deploy the charm tactic more than introverts do. Those high on neuroticism tend to use the silent treatment to get their way . And those high on quarrelsomeness tend to use the coercion tactic to get their way . In summary, the enduring personality traits of individuals are linked in interesting ways with the tactics they use to manipulate their social environment.

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  • ville
    Which is an example of a personsituation interaction?
    4 years ago
  • mitzi
    How to interactions between situation and person influence behaviour interact?
    4 years ago
  • margaret
    How a person choose a situation/psychology?
    3 years ago
  • Kris Crawford
    How to start an interaction with a highly distinguish personality?
    3 years ago
  • mehari
    What are situational variables?
    3 years ago
  • Dalene Lucus
    How person's personality depends on situation?
    3 years ago
  • hana
    How To Interact With Personalality?
    2 years ago
  • alfredo
    What is person situation interaction?
    2 years ago
  • silke
    What do you understand by person situation interaction?
    2 years ago
  • Brendan Bell
    What is persons situation interaction?
    2 years ago
    What is personal situation interaction?
    2 years ago
    What do you understand by persons interactions situation?
    2 years ago
  • Emma
    What is situational behavior interaction?
    2 years ago
  • june harris
    What involves a complex set of instructions between person and situation?
    2 years ago
  • proserpio zetticci
    Why do people react to a given situation?
    2 years ago
  • adaldrida
    How can you apply your personality theory in real life situation?
    2 years ago
  • Yusuf Walker
    Why two individuals have similar personality behave differently in given situation?
    2 years ago
    Is defined by the reaction of a person to a situation or command?
    2 years ago
  • Benilde
    What is personality psychology of situations?
    2 years ago
  • Belinda
    What doees i mean to asay the person and situation interract?
    2 years ago
  • marie wechsler
    How can personality interact with situations?
    2 years ago
  • Lisa
    Does personality depend on the interaction between a person's thoughts and specific social situation?
    1 year ago
  • kenneth
    What does situation chosses the person mean in social psychology?
    1 year ago
  • Chelsea
    What is the personsituation interaction phenomenon?
    1 year ago
  • Aatifa
    What is meant by interactionism in personality psychology?
    1 year ago
  • Tiia
    What is personsituation interactions that affect?
    1 year ago
  • Petros
    What is the meaning of person in situation?
    1 year ago
  • ilmari parnela
    How can an interaction between a doctor and someone under the influence be difficult?
    1 year ago
  • lillie tate
    Does situation determines personality?
    1 year ago
  • renate
    What is personsituation in personality?
    1 year ago
  • ester
    What is situational selection?
    12 months ago
    Who came up with trait situation interaciton?
    9 months ago
  • gorbulas
    How does personality influence behavior in person situation interaction?
    9 months ago
  • seija
    What type of situation (in a personality context) is the selection interview considered to be?
    9 months ago
  • otto
    How personality and situational strength interact to influence behaviour in the care system?
    8 months ago
  • stefanie
    Why is Behavior a function of the person and the situation?
    6 months ago
  • Tammy
    What is the meaning of One way Scoot could deal with the situation she is in is?
    6 months ago
  • ANNA
    What is a person issued situation?
    5 months ago
    What name is most closely associated with the concept of a traitsituation interaction?
    4 months ago
  • kaj
    What is the personsituation perspective of personality?
    4 months ago
  • Nuguse
    What is trait, situational and interactional personality?
    3 months ago
  • Jemima
    What is the situationist view of behavior?
    2 months ago
  • ted
    Which of the following does not describe a type of personsituation interaction?
    2 months ago

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