Predicting behavior : an examination of the utilities of trait and interaction approaches to locus of control
Dr. Robert C. Carson, Chairman
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INTRODUCTION: Speculations about the nature of personality can be found throughout recorded time. There have been numerous and often contradictory attempts to describe man's personality, character, and temperament. The scientific study of personality has only slowly emerged from these purely speculative roots.. Part of this lag can be attributed to the extreme subjectivity inherent in man's analysis of self. William James noted that "the history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash of human temperaments" (James, 1907, p.6). This observation seems especially relevant to personology in light of the multitude of personality theories expounded. The term 'personality' comes from the Latin word “persona”. The Romans used persona to refer to the masks worn in the theatre. Later the term came to include the wearers of the mask as well. The wearers of a given mask were expected to exhibit a consistent pattern of behaviors and attitudes. Beginning in Roman times, the term has taken on diverse meanings, both denotative and connotative (Burnham, 1968). The scientific study of man was last to emerge in the history of science. "The heavenly bodies, the objects remotest from man, were the first objects of scientific interest. Speculation advanced slowly through the realm of the inorganic until in the 9th century detailed observations about animals paved the way for detailed and systematic observations of men" (Peters, 1962, p.38). The scientific study of personality is thus a young science, still struggling to extricate itself from its speculative roots. The trend in personological works has been towards greater complexity, a gradual movement away from varying common sense notions and sophistic speculations to more parsimonious, observationally-related hypotheses. The modern study of personality clearly reflects Peter's view of scientific progress in general. "We tend to think of science as a ' body of knowledge ' which began to be accumulated when man hit upon 'scientific method. ' This is a superstition. It is more in keeping with the history of thought to describe science as the myths about the world which have not yet been found to be wrong . . . Science consists in conscious attempts to refute other people ' s stories and in the production of better stories to supplant them. The history of science is the history of stories which have been shown to be false or only partially correct" (Peters, 1962, p. 37). Some of the earlier myths about the nature of personality have endured into the present. Later myths, the myth of the "purity" of the experimental 4 method and the myth of the "purity" of the correlational approach, have led to a paradigm crisis (Cronbach, 1957) which is still unresolved. However, from this crisis, a new perspective, an interactionist one, is emerging which promises to significantly alter our conceptualizations of personality. The present paper is a review of its antecedents, an examination of this new approach, and an experimental analysis of its potential utility.
DescriptionThis thesis was digitized as part of a project begun in 2014 to increase the number of Duke psychology theses available online. The digitization project was spearheaded by Ciara Healy.
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