Cognitive topics in personality psychology are a broad class of subject matter . People differ from each other in many ways, in how they think as well as in how they perceive, interpret, remember , want, and anticipate the events in their lives. In this chapter, we organized the coverage into four broad categories: perception, interpretation, goals, and intelligence.
We began by examining some ways in which personality is related to perceptual differences between people. Field independence-dependence concerns the ability to see the trees despite the forest. This individual dif ference in perceptual style has to do with the ability to focus on the details, despite the clutter of background information. This style of perceiving may have important implications for learning styles and career choices.
The second perceptual difference we discussed was sensory reducing-augmenting. This dimension originally referred to the tendency to reduce or augment painful stimuli and was first related to individual di ferences in pain tolerance. It is now more generally used to refer to individual dif ferences in sensitivity to sensory stimulation, with some individuals (augmenters) being more sensitive than others (reducers). This individual difference may have important implications for the development of problem behaviors associated with seeking stimulation, such as smoking or other forms of drug abuse.
Another aspect of cognition is how people interpret events in their lives. This approach to personality has its roots in the work of Geor ge Kelly. His personal construct theory emphasizes how people construct their experiences by using their constructs to make sense out of the world. Another general difference between people is in locus of control, the tendency to interpret events either as under one' s control or as not under one' s control. Many researchers now apply the locus of control concept in particular life domains, such as health locus of control or relationship locus of control.
Learned helplessness is the feeling engendered when a person experiences an inescapable aversive situation. The feeling of helplessness may also generalize to new situations, so that the person continues to act helplessly and fails to seek solutions to his or her problems. The theory of learned helplessness was reformulated to incorporate how people think about events in their lives, particularly unpleasant events. Psychologists have focused on specific dimensions of people s explanations, such as whether the cause is internal or external to the person, whether it is stable or unstable, and whether it is global or specific. A pessimistic explanatory style is internal, stable, and global.
Personality can also be revealed by how people select projects and tasks to pursue in life. If you know what a person really wants out of life, then you probably know that person fairly well. Our goals define us, and the strategies with which we pursue those desires illustrate the active aspects of personality in our daily lives.
Cognitive social learning theory was introduced and several specific example of this approach were described. All of the example theories incorporate the concept of goals and related cognitive activities, such as expectancies, strategies, and beliefs about one's abilities. These theories are important new additions to the psychology of personality because they emphasize how the psychological situation is a function of characteristics of the person, e.g., their self-ef ficacy beliefs, etc
Intelligence was also discussed in this chapter , along with dif ferent views on intelligence (as academic achievement versus an aptitude for learning). We reviewed the historical development of intelligence as starting with the view of this as a single and general trait up to today' s trend toward a multiple intelligences view . We also noted that culture influences which skills and achievements contribute toward intelli gence and presented some results on a biological interpretation of intelligence. In addition, we noted the important and controversial debates currently center stage in the area of intelligence.
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