AP Psychology
Unit 9: Personality
Contemporary Approaches, Culture, & Personality Assessment

Notes Outline

Contemporary Empirical Approaches

Culture & Personality

Personality Assessment

  • Self-Report
  • MMPI\16 PF
  • NEO Personality Inventory
  • Projective Tests
  • Hindsight Bias in testing

Contemporary Empirical Approaches

Older theorists attempted to find the grand unified personality theory --> Modern theorists usually attempt to explain ONE aspect of personality.

Narcissism - personality trait marked by an inflated sense of importance, need for attention and admiration, a sense of entitlement, and a tendency to exploit others. Was included in DSM in 1980 as a formal disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), only effects a very small portion of the population (3-5%).

  • Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)  --> Rising trend of narcissism?

Terror Management Theory - Emerged in the 1990's, focuses on human's awareness of their own mortality and the resultant existential crisis. This theory claims that CULTURE and SELF-ESTEEM act as buffers from the constant terrifying knowledge that we will all die.

  • Mortality Salience is the degree to which your own imminent death is prominent on your mind.
  • Higher Mortality Salience can lead you to favor harsher punishments for moral transgressors, respond critically to those who criticize your country, and show increased respect to cultural icons, even to the point of possible aggression and prejudice.

This person might just barely be managing their existential terror caused by their high mortality salience.

Culture & Personality

Culture theorists attempt to determine if the Western assessment of personality is relevant in other cultures.

Things that do line up:

  1. Trait structure - personality, no matter the culture that created it, falls in line with the Big Five factor analysis
  2. National Character is a real thing. Or at least we perceive it to be. When asked to describe what an average person from their county is like people from that country come up with an consistent description.....that in no way actually lines up with actual personality assessment of people from that country.

The problems:

  1. The American view of an INDEPENDENT SELF (independent, self-contained, autonomous, competitive, stand-up-for-yourself) has tainted the majority of research, and is not representative of worldviews in other countries
  2. Asian cultures in particular have a more INTERDEPENDENT VIEW OF SELF (connectedness, reliance on family and friends, modesty, part of a larger picture).
  3. Individualism vs. Collectivism in personality development

Personality Assessment


  • Subject to distortion
  • Results are often misunderstood


  • Personality assessment is done daily consciously or unconsciously and so formalizing it helps us understand the assessments people make
  • helps with clinical diagnoses
  • helps with vocational counseling (what job you would be good for)
  • helps with hiring
  • helps with research

Self-Report Assessments

Ask people to answer a series of questions.

  • These are positive because the detailed nature of the questions can more accurately assess personality and can compare it to a large selection of data to make accurate comparative assessments.
  • Negatives include deception, social desirability bias, and people's response sets


  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - measures 10 personality traits that are thought to be symptoms of psychological disorders when seen in extreme degrees. Looks for certain SCORE PROFILES of various personality traits.

16 PF  

  • Created by Raymond Cattell,  measures basic dimensions of normal personality. 4504 terms --> 171 traits --> factor analysis to identify clustered traits --> SIXTEEN SOURCE TRAITS ASSESSED BY A 187 QUESTION SCALE

NEO Inventory (Big Five)

  • Created by McCrae and Costa, this measures just FIVE traits: Neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Projective Assessments

Ask people to respond to vague, ambiguous stimuli in ways that may reveal subject's needs, feelings, or personality traits

The Projective Hypothesis - Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

  • Shown a card with a picture and you tell a story. Assessed in terms of heroes, needs, themes, and outcomes.

Rorschach (Inkblot) Tests

  • You are shown an abstract picture and you have to describe it. There are many different ways to assess, and it is a controversial test due to the difficulty scoring.