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Behaving at the library [07/05/07 033]
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I am an avid personality researcher and most recently have posted a series on personality and emotion. I have also talked a bit about life-history theories and thus am aware of  the broad filed of behavioral ecology. A recent paper by Nettle and Penke brings the two fields of human personality psychology research (HPP) and behavioral ecology (BE) together.

They argue that there is much that the HPP researchers can learn from BE researchers especially where it comes to measuring behaviors and situations.

In this review they focus on 5 broad areas and approaches within the HPP and I was reminded of my ABCD model of psychology whereby A stands for Affective or evolutionarily guided explanations/ phenomenon; B stands for behavioral ot situational guided phenomenon; C  stands for Cognitive or information-processing phenomenon, while D stands for dynamics or motivational salient phenomenon.

The five areas they focus on is

1) Descriptive five factor or other trait based models : these focus on describing the enduring personality characteristics that are common across situations and are best though of as behavior reaction norms when one takes into account the BE literature too.  This is clearly related to the B in ABCD with the focus being on describing common behaviors that can be subsumed under traits.

2) Proximate mechanisms: here research is focused on identifying the underlying motivational/cognitive underpinnings of behavior and  is the ‘personality process’ paradigm within HPP. They point to recent research that has tried to relate the five factor model to underlying differences in cognition/motivation for ex Agreeableness as a result of differences in availability of theory-of mind ability.  thisis clearly C or D as per ABCD model.

3) Genetic and environmental etiology: Behavior genetic research trying to nail down genetic and environmental effects and failing to take into account Gene X environment interactions.  This clearly is developmentally oriented dynamics and falls under D of ABCD.

4) Fitness consequences: anew generation of personality psychologists have started focusing on evolutionary explanations and the ultimate explanations of why such and such traits exist. this research is in A part of ABCD  focusing on evolutionarily guided explanations/phenomenon.

5) Comparative personality research: Looking for continuity in personality traits and underlying mechanisms like genes, across species.

Nettle and Penke argue that there is much that BE can inform HPP with regards to definitions of traits, the factor analytic method based on ratings and the importance of traits for long term life outcomes. This is  a good paper worth reading for psychologists studying personality.

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Nettle, D., & Penke, L. (2010). Personality: bridging the literatures from human psychology and behavioural ecology Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365 (1560), 4043-4050 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0061

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