Exam

The exam will ask you to write about one of three questions chosen to cover the five major topics covered in the course.

So, potential topics to study include:

  1. Discussing the facets of a particular domain and how they inform us about personality.
  2. Discussing types of well-being: how they link to personality and how they appear to be distinct.
  3. Discussing the different personality traits (C, persistence, delay discounting, impulsivity) believed to underlie self-control and how they link to accomplishment.
  4. Use Openness as an example of translating from personality to outcomes like voting behavior, and how culture and personality might play into this behavior.

You probably should study two of these, as not all 4 will be in the exam.

A good answer is one which is well referenced and includes new studies you have found, beyond those given in the lecture.

I very much appreciate (demonstrated by including citations and information) if you have made the effort to discover and read additional important research papers outside the course.

Student questions from 2019

General questions

I've had a look at the past papers and it seems that three main questions come up. Would you advise learning one in detail?

* Certainly learn one in detail. And of course it's good to have a backup, as a particular week/topic is not guaranteed to appear.

The website gives four ‘potential’ exam questions, of which we should prepare two. Does ‘potential’ mean that the questions may be different, or that not all of them will be asked?

* The questions in the exam will differ from the specific wording given here. Only three will be asked: hence needing some thought for a backup response.

Do you have any advice on how to remember names and dates?

* For me, I just write the paper lead author and date along with the idea as I'm studying, and then make sure as I go over notes, or talk about it, or write to always say the idea with a reference, or the reference with the idea to associate the two. So "Weiss etal (2008) - the genetics of happiness is personal(ity)"

I found an interesting finding but it's not linked directly to a question.

* Great that you're reading around and interested in the topics; this will help you too! But we wary of shoe-horning in things that are unrelated to the question (i.e., don't).

For questions like 'discuss and evaluate evidence for a certain theory' should we just evaluate the quality of the evidence (methodology, measurement, sample size etc) or the idea?

* Use the quality of the evidence along with the effects/direction of effects to evaluate the theory.

Specific topics

Re: self-control/conscientiousness. Should we learn about self-control or how it is linked to other personality facets?

* As the course is about personality, one should definitely include personality. Essentially, I would say study the kinds of outcomes that are described as resulting from self-control (e.g. Roberts, Caspi papers etc. on health, crime, employment, education), which personality traits are predictive of these outcomes, focussing on conscientiousness. Work exerted by you finding additional references not mentioned in the course will be rewarded on this, and indeed on any question in the exam.

Is discussing C sufficient, or would it be better to also cover other personality traits (e.g. persistence, delay discounting, impulsivity)?

* There is a lot of research on conscientiousness, but those other traits will come up inevitably also, if only in relation to C (depending on the question)

Is it appropriate to mention interventions aimed at improving personality traits underlying self-control?

* Absolutely, but be appropriately critical of these - many fade with time, or fail entirely. Be sure to have good referencing.

Regarding self-control and attainment, is attainment in any realm of life, e.g., interpersonal relationships or health? Or just academic or worklife?

* All are important. Likewise overarching markers of success like Socioeconomic status and upward mobility.

Is it possible to write a great answer about happiness?

* This topic is very well summarised in several recent overview papers. This makes it a little easier to do OK, and, emphasises the need to do your own additional research to find additional new high quality empirical papers to include in your essay.

Regarding the lectures 'how do values affect behaviour', we predominantly focussed on openness and its relation to politics. Does this mean my revision should only focus on openness and politics or is it worth examining other personality traits and how they might affect behaviours?

* In principle, behaviors other than the example used in depth are likely to be OK. And certainly if you have researched on how other behaviors are influenced by personality, adding that couldn't hurt. So… I'd say for most people, the attempt to explain how personality translates into voting would be a solid basis. But other traits and behaviors could add too, replace that (depending on the wording of the exam question).

How facets inform us about personality: Is this more to generally describe trait theory (or other approaches?)

* Typically you would use one main example trait, to look at how facets differ, help us think about personality, might be related to other domains etc. This can be answered at different levels (psychometric, or more thinking about behavior, or what links facets together, etc.)

Student questions from 2018

Self-control

Can you clarify my thoughts on Sell' (2009) and the relation of anger to success/attainment. As the article states "anger functions to orchestrate behaviour incentivising the target to recalibrate upwards the weight they put on the welfare of the angry individual" and they found that strong men and attractive women were more anger prone. Does this mean that "successful people" (eg. strong and attractive people) engage in undesirable negative emotions more frequently, or that sucessful people that are often angry have conflicts resolved in their favour more frequently?

* The theory is that (for young people at least) when things that "should" go your way are not, the alternatives are accepting this or confronting it. If so, then only confronters can have the resolution go their way. And so people who are high status will get angry more often, AND be more successful. An ancillary idea (supported by a paper that replicated this aggression effect only in students, not adults) is that in young people (but not more mature people), confrontation involves offering to fight. Of course there might be other ways to achieve status recognition (coalition formation etc).

Is it the case that psychopathy is an "unsuccessful" trait? It is characterized by impulsive and unconcientious behaviour (which has previously been negatively associated with attainment/success).

* So, we don't assume things, we test them. But conscientious achievement theory predicts that you are right: The low C of psychopaths should see them with lower average earnings/status. That doesn't rule-out exceptions, which, given human belief formation, might dominate over the more common failed-psychopath in our minds.