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That people differ from each other is obvious. How and why they differ is less clear and is the subject of the study of Individual differences (IDs). Although to study individual differences seems to be to study variance, how are people different, it is also to study central tendency, how well can a person be described in terms of an overall within-person average. Indeed, perhaps the most important question of individual differences is whether people are more similar to themselves over time and across situations than they are to others, and whether the variation within a single person across time and situation is less than the variation between people. A related question is that of similarity, for people differ in their similarities to each other. Questions of whether particular groups (e.g., groupings by sex, culture, age, or ethnicity) are more similar within than between groups are also questions of individual differences. Personality psychology addresses the questions of shared human nature, dimensions of individual differences and unique patterns of individuals. Research in IDs ranges from analyses of genetic codes to the study of sexual, social, ethnic, and cultural differences and includes research on cognitive abilities, interpersonal styles, and emotional reactivity. Methods range from laboratory experiments to longitudinal field studies and include data reduction techniques such as Factor Analysis and Principal Components Analysis, as well as Structural Modeling and Multi-Level Modeling procedures. Measurement issues of most importance are those of reliability and stability of Individual Differences. Research in Individual Differences addresses three broad questions: 1) developing an adequate descriptive taxonomy of how people differ; 2) applying differences in one situation to predict differences in other situations; and 3) testing theoretical explanations of the structure and dynamics of individual differences. Taxonomies of individual differences: Taxonomic work has focused on categorizing the infinite ways in which individuals differ in terms of a limited number of latent or unobservable constructs. This is a multi-step, cyclical process of intuition, observation, deduction, induction, and verification that has gradually converged on a consensual descriptive organization of broad classes of variables as well as on methods for analyzing them. Most of the measurement and taxonomic techniques used throughout the field have been developed in response to the demand for selection for schooling, training, and business applications.
000) possible response patterns that could be found by quizzing people on each of the more than 500.g.. Estimates of ability based upon Item Response Theory (IRT) take into account parameters of the words themselves (i. the more than 2^(500.. .000 words in English introduces more complexity rather than less. across alternate forms. memory retrieval. are concerned with the precision of measurement for a particular person in terms of a metric defined by item difficulty. vocabulary and arithmetic performance) will yield different estimates of performance. auditory. That is.g. The test theory developed to account for sampling differences within domains can be generalized to account for differences between domains. forms.g.Test Theory Consider the case of differences in vocabulary in a particular language (e. linguistic. perceptual speed.. within domain covariance. Words are seen as random replicates of each other and thus individual differences in total vocabulary size are estimated from observed differences on these smaller samples.g.. visual). Using multivariate procedures such as Principal Components Analysis or Factor Analysis.. on the other hand.g. it is possible to decompose the total variation into between domain covariance. spatial). Although CTT and IRT estimates are highly correlated. the difficulty and discriminability of each word) and estimate a single ability parameter for each individual. One of the most replicable observations in the study of individual differences is that almost all tests thought to assess cognitive ability have a general factor (g) that is shared with other tests of ability. the correlation of the individual differences within each sample and with those in the total domain increases accordingly. and across different forms of assessment as well as over time (stability). IRT estimates. or occasions. Just as different samples of words will yield somewhat different estimates of vocabulary. Classical Test Theory (CTT) ignores individual response patterns and estimates an individual's total vocabulary size by measuring performance on small samples of words. and within domain variance. memory storage. form of administration (e. although each test has specific variance associated with content (e. CTT estimates of reliability of ability measures are assessed across similar items (internal consistency). Although it is logically possible to organize people in terms of the specific words they know in English. The Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (r) compares the degree of covariance between these samples with the variance within samples. As the number of words sampled increases. Tests are reliable to the extent that differences within individuals are small compared to those between individuals when generalizing across items. CTT reliability thus requires between subject variability. different cognitive tasks (e. English). CTT statistics are based on decomposing the sources of variance within and between individuals while IRT statistics focus on the precision of an individual estimate without requiring differences between individuals..e. or operations involved (e.
These domains can be seen as asking the questions that one wants to know about a stranger or a potential mate: are they energetic and dominant (extraverted). Dimensional analyses of tests developed based on lexical. conscientiousness and intellectual openness or culture close behind. trustworthy (conscientious). and interesting (intelligent and open). following the basic assumption that words in the natural language describe all important individual differences. emotionally stable (low neurotic).g. talkative. do you like to go to lively parties. Ability is construed as the best one can do on a particular measure in a limited time (speed test) or with unlimited time (power test). Measures of ability and personality reflect observations aggregated across time and occasion and require inferences about stable latent traits thought to account for the variety of observed behaviors. lively. The same procedures used to clarify the structure of cognitive abilities have been applied to the question of identifying the domains of personality. rational. Tests of ability are viewed as maximal performance measures. This shifts the taxonomic question from how are individuals similar and different from each other to how are the words used to describe individuals (e. some of this agreement could be due to conceptually overlapping item pools. typical usage divides the field into studies of ability and personality. Personality measures are estimates of average performance and typically include reports of preferences and estimates of what one normally does and how one perceives oneself and is perceived by others. there is general variance that is common to all tests of cognitive ability. Personality and Ability Although to some the term personality refers to all aspects of a person's individuality.. Many of the early and current personality inventories use self-descriptive questions (e. The broadest domains are those of introversion-extraversion and emotional stability-neuroticism. Other researchers have advocated a lexical approach to the taxonomic problem. or theoretical bases suggest that a limited number (between three and seven) of higher order trait domains adequately organize the thousands of words that describe individual differences and the logically infinite way that these words can be combined into self or peer report items. loveable (agreeable).. However there are other individual differences that are readily apparent to outside observers and require little or no inference about latent . nervous.g.abstract reasoning). Although there is substantial consistency across inventories developed this way. anxious) similar and different from each other. with the domains of agreeableness. are you sometimes nervous) that are rationally or theoretically relevant to some domain of interest for a particular investigator.
such as likelihood of completing college. when added to g substantially increases the predictability of job performance. conscientiousness measured in adolescence predicts premature mortality over the next fifty years. By applying structural modeling techniques to the variances and covariances associated with various family constellations it is . 124.g. height. But this categorization is descriptive rather than causal and is analogous to grouping rocks in terms of density and hardness rather than atomic or molecular structure. 262-274) show how differences in cognitive ability predict differences in job performance with correlations averaging about . Extraversion is highly correlated with total sales in dollars among salespeople. These correlations are moderated by job complexity and are much higher for professional-managerial positions than they are for completely unskilled jobs. Does knowing that people differ on a trait X help in predicting the likelihood of their doing behavior Y? For many important outcome variables the answer is a resounding yes. age. These relationships diminish as a function of years of experience and degree of training. impulsivity can be used to predict traffic violations. sex differences in neuroticism. The non-cognitive measures of individual differences also predict important real life criteria.50 for mid complexity jobs. feelings. Descriptive taxonomies are used to organize the results of studies that examine genetic bases of individual differences. Sources of individual differences The taxonomic and predictive studies of individual differences are descriptive organizations of thoughts. and weight. Conscientiousness. In terms of applications to personnel psychology. mathematics ability. Differences that require some knowledge and inference are differences in ethnicity and social economic status. The most obvious of such variables include sex. or income). and behaviors that go together and how they relate to other outcomes. Although the size of the correlation is much lower. 1998. General mental ability (g) also has substantial predictive powers in predicting non-job related outcomes. Frank Schmidt and John Hunter (Psychological Bulletin. a superior manager (one standard deviation above the mean ability for managers) produces almost 50% more than an average manager.traits. In their review of 85 years of selection in personnel psychology. These obvious group differences are sometimes analyzed in terms of the more subtle measures of personality and ability or of real life outcomes (e. risk for divorce and even risk for criminality. Causal theories of individual differences are being developed but are in a much earlier stage than are the descriptive taxonomies. Predictive Validity Individual differences are important only to the extent that they make a difference. Similarly.
Conclusions from behavioral genetics for most personality traits tend to be similar: Across different designs. Additional designs include twins reared together or apart. this should not be taken to mean that people do not change as they mature but rather that the paths one takes through life are similar to those taken by genetically similar individuals. feelings or behavior but rather code for proteins that regulate and modulate biological systems. roughly 40-60% of the phenotypic variance seems to be under genetic control with only a very small part of the remaining environmental variance associated with shared family environmental effects. and biological versus adoptive parents. atttended to. With time we can expect to increase our taxonomic and predictive power by using these causal bio-social theories of individual differences. with different samples from different countries. children and siblings. . Genes do not code for thoughts. Reports relating specific alleles to specific personality traits emphasize that the broad personality traits are most likely under polygenic influence and are moderated by environmental experience. Specific neurotransmitters and brain structures can be associated with a broad class of approach behaviors and positive affects while other neurotransmitters and structures can be associated with a similarly broad class of avoidance behaviors and negative affects. Additional results suggest that genetic sources of individual differences remain important across the lifespan.possible to decompose phenotypic trait variance into separate sources of genetic and environmental variance. Current work on the bases of individual differences is concerned with understanding this delicate interplay of biological propensities with environmental opportunities and constraints as they are ultimately represented in an individual's information processing system. Subtle differences in neurotransmitter availability and re-uptake vary the sensitivity of individuals to cues about their environment that predict future resource availability and external rewards and punishments. The most common family configurations that are used are comparisons of identical (monozygotic) with fraternal (dizygotic) twins. However. stored. It is the way these cues are detected. and integrated with previous experiences that makes each individual unique. Although promising work has been done searching for the biological bases of individual differences it is possible to sketch out these bases only in the broadest of terms.
We can . We gather in families. as much as crocodiles. For further readings. although humans are animals. we also have something that no other animal has: the most complex social structure on Earth. This chapter examines human biological evolution over the last several millions years. and how that evolution has influenced how human respond to stimuli today. I suggest going to the Media and Communications Studies website. of course. tribes. It is a reference to the fact that humans are biological creatures. cougars.Taking ADvantage The Biological Basis of Human Behavior by Richard F.speech. This is not a reference to our behavior (although. We are the product of millions of years of evolution. Taflinger This page has been accessed since 28 May 1996. some people do act like animals). our physical make-up changing to make us fitter to survive and reproduce. nations. and capybara. However. We have an incredibly sophisticated method of interacting -. Basic Biological Influences on Human Behavior: Self-Preservation o Survival Through Evolution o Survival Through Strategy o Self-Preservation and Humans Sex Greed Chapter Three Biological Evolution Human beings are animals. clans.
But in fact we filter everything through both to determine how we react to stimuli. Neither biology nor society stands without the other. and the doe escapes back into the herd. This included . works through the tall grass toward the herd of wildebeest. and the pride feasts. However. separates slightly from the herd. and second. The startled doe bounds away. this is a contradiction -. Trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The following is a discussion of the two sides of human nature: first. stealthily. either physically or psychologically. the biological basis of our responses to the world around us.communicate over time and distance through printing and broadcasting. unable to keep up the pace. I will discuss each in turn. I will discuss that in the next chapter. greed. gives up. our interactions the most intricate. based on thousands of generations of ancestors surviving because of their responses. A zebra is not so lucky. and 3) a method to enhance self-preservation and reproduction. 2) the reason for self-preservation. THE BIOLOGICAL BASIS OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR The three main elements biology contributes to human behavior are: 1) selfpreservation. the social factors that affect those responses and make us human. the lioness bursts into a run to take down the doe. our perception of the world simultaneously the broadest and most detailed. The Donner Party was a group of settlers trekking to California in 1846. Our social structures dictate restrictions on and alterations in how we carry out our biological responses. (Since human beings are very social creatures. unaware of the danger lurking in the grass. Biology guides our responses to stimuli. SELF-PRESERVATION Self-preservation is keeping yourself alive. Our memories are the longest. The combination of biology and society is what makes us what we are and do what we do. we may also apply self-preservation to other people. The latter includes mentally or economically healthy. For some people.either nature (biology) controls people. A doe. With a rush.) BIOLOGICAL BASIS OF SELF-PRESERVATION A lioness slowly. or nurture (society) does. such as our families. trying to escape. The lioness. they survived as best they could. running and swerving. reproduction.
oxygen. the members of that species must have a desire to survive long enough to pass on their genes to offspring. dehydration. from the tiniest . eating the bodies of those who had died. The reason for that is explained under REPRODUCTION. from none (the Arctic and Antarctic) to abundant (rainforests). A niche is a position within an environment that calls for certain attributes to exploit that environment. The desire to stay alive is also a selfish instinct. a human will resort to cannibalism. and periods of rest to allow the body to repair any wear and tear on the tissues. A species with a death-wish dies out rather quickly. a human will obey a killer or withstand torture. The organism will seek those elements of its environment that will enhance its chances for survival. Those species that don't die out have members that have devoted some attention to staying alive long enough to have young. sex." actually means survival of the fit. Such dangers include predators. and situations that can cause damage to the body. Survival Through Evolution A phrase that has often been misquoted. type of land. water. gnus will migrate hundreds of miles to find new pastures. These include food. An environment can contain any of a variety of elements: amount of water. drink. These seek or avoid drives influence the behavior of organisms: iron seeking bacteria will move toward magnetism. It can also contain animal life. Alternately. amount of vegetation. The desire to stay alive is an instinctive one. rest. asphyxiation. # To be successful as a species. The better it is at doing this. built into the psyche of the organism. it will avoid or evade those elements that might reduce its chances for survival.resorting to cannibalism when they ran out of food. It is from those individuals and therefore species that all living things are descended. "Survival of the Fittest. the more fit it is. from ocean to desert. By fit. an antelope will run from a lion. oxygen. At this point I should discuss the niche. from marsh mud to solid rock. an amoeba will flow away from an electric current. I mean an organism has those attributes that allow it to get the most out of its environment: gather food. since it is personal survival that the organism is seeking. starvation.
On the other hand. creating areas of land where oceans once rolled. to match the new conditions. they wouldn't fit in such a niche. "The bark is getting dark--I'd better change color.insects to blue whales and everything in between. the environmental conditions under which the life in those niches live. Thus. the wildcat will either die or have to move to another niche in which it will be the better predator. it dies. . However. if there are no small animals but many big animals. Continental drift can push seabeds to the tops of mountains. too. water and air. Humans can chop down forests and build cities. through cunning or speed or some other attribute. like foxes. climatic and. in the present day. Niches alter through geologic. However. Some of those variations are detrimental: the dark moth variations were easy prey when the tree bark was light. If the fox is better at catching mice (that is. An example is a moth in England. Say there are many small animals. it would fit into this niche and thrive. neither a fox nor a wildcat would have much success preying on them. A small carnivore like a wildcat could find a lot of food. in an area. let's look at just one of these elements. the wildcat can find less food. some of the moths were darker and thus less noticeable. and the moth. It was originally a mottled white. This lessens the amount of food available for the competition. A volcano can create a new island. Thus. large carnivores such as lions would. more fit) than the wildcat. If it doesn't. in the 19th century factories in this area began to belch out soot from their chimneys that settled on the trees. the standard color changed to mottled black. changing the tree bark from mottled white to mottled black. survives. when the number of mice decreases. like mice. As an example. Note that such changes are not conscious decisions made by the organism: the moth did not say to itself. Of course. nothing stays the same forever. man-made changes in land. However. However. If the wildcat has competition from other small carnivores. It is the combination and degree of each of these elements that create niches. the one that is particularly good as a predator. Of course." It is simply that there are variations between individuals in any species (an advantage of sexual reproduction and its combining of genes). this means the life has to change as well. The moth could no longer blend in and thus was easy prey to birds. will catch more food. and thus drives the competition out. An ice age can lock up huge quantities of water in ice caps and glaciers. like antelope. All these changes alter the niches. After a few generations of these darker moths surviving and passing on their genes. now blending into the dark bark. and has a lesser chance of survival. which allowed it to blend into the light bark of the trees in its area.
those same variations can become advantageous. or exhaustion. accidental. fear. Others are instinctive. that improve the organism's chances for survival. but responses to stimuli such as hunger. In general.(1) the species can die out. hardwired genetically into the animal's brain. must learn the techniques of stealth. however. and otherwise decrease its metabolism. the young learn them from older animals that learned them from their ancestors. with a relatively simple nervous system. the fawn's freeze response to fear would be deadly if there was no cover to hide in while frozen. for the human survival strategy of group hunting with weapons). Lions. For example. The musk . Such strategies as hibernation. as the conditions in a niche change. stalk. However. Marmots have developed a social structure that provides lookouts who watch for predators and sound a warning when one appears. Such changes in an organism's physical characteristics are. For example. rather than physical changes. the strategies are not conscious decisions. enhancing rather than weakening chances for survival. hunt by instinct and need no instruction on how to go about it. some animals have perfected the technique of hibernating during periods when the food supply is low. of course. These survival strategies are adaptations to niche conditions. the dogs can leave through another. If conditions change so the instinctive strategy is dangerous rather than beneficial. asphyxiation. That is. The musk ox strategy is to form a stationary circle with the young in the center and the older members facing outward. rather than running away. such as a fawn's curling up and freezing when predators are about. of course. with a complex system. but unlike physical changes are not necessarily genetic changes. and attack. the more likely strategies are learned rather than instinctive. For example. Sharks. but deadly when faced with spears and guns (perfect. require genes that alter the animal's physiology to slow heartbeat. lower body temperature. Again. Survival Through Strategy Other changes in an organism can develop over time. thirst. the animal can die. some survival strategies are learned behaviors. If no variations exist in a species that contribute to survival when conditions change. This is excellent against wolves. Prairie dogs dig their burrows with multiple entrances and exits so if a predator comes in one door. in most animals.However. it appears the higher the complexity of the nervous system of the animal. or if conditions change too quickly for advantageous variations to be passed on to enough descendants. These are survival strategies. most predators teach their young the techniques of successful hunting.
It can learn a survival strategy -. drink when thirsty. and people avoid the stimuli that cause them.the shocks. depending on the complexity of the animal's nervous system. including an injection of adrenalin and diversion away from the organs to the muscles.ox cannot consciously decide that this strategy isn't working and that they must try another. Thus you eat when hungry. The reason we do is why our approach to self-preservation is different from all other creatures. sleep. a lessening in sensitivity to pain. an animal undergoes several physiological changes that have become genetically hardwired into the animal's body. however. and exhaustion are physical sensations that cause instinctive physical reactions. fit into niches. fear. For example. We change our eye color with contact . take actions to reduce them. Humans are subject to the same stimuli and reactions as any other animal. learned responses can mitigate the instinctive. That complexity increases an animal's options in reacting to stimuli. fight for air. asphyxiation. Most of these reactions are unpleasant. if they're unavoidable. we do have control over our eye color. However. In any case. We have a brain that is capable of perceiving and solving problems. These physiological changes prepare the animal to either fight for survival or run away from danger. will run across an electrified grid that gives it painful shocks if there is food on the other side. the reactions are good in that they tell you you're in a situation that could result in injury or death. and we have no more control over them than we do over our eye color. The changes include an increased rate of respiration to provide more oxygen to the muscles. Hunger. sex. SELF-PRESERVATION AND HUMANS All the above applies to humans as much as any other animal: humans desire personal survival. an accelerated heart beat to speed up the blood flow. aren't going to kill it. Actually. drink. or. For example. seek food. When threatened. thirst. rest. and changes in the blood stream. # The combination of genetic and learned responses to stimuli creates an animal's reaction to stimuli. A starving rat.an instinctive reaction unmitigated by a survival strategy. run from dangerous situations. the genetically dictated instinctive reaction to a threat to self-preservation is the "fight or flight" syndrome. Starvation will. though causing the instinctive fight-or-flight physiological changes. must adapt to changing conditions. These responses are instinctive. an amoeba will avoid an electric field automatically .
unlike any other animal (as far as we know). while the mind is required to remain under stimuli that no other creature would willing accept. science and medicine have greatly increased human lifespan and the quality of that life. the building of dwellings enhanced shelter from the elements.(2) However. nod their heads. Even more. I will discuss these social factors in human self-preservation in the next chapter. humans live in an extremely complex society. where people deliberately subject themselves to stimuli that any other creature on earth would go to great lengths to avoid. Even avoiding dangerous situations (such as car crashes) is difficult because of human technology. the connections between unrelated people is often based on distribution of resources (related people connect more through personal attachment). nervous breakdowns. Human ingenuity has altered every aspect of the world to enhance the human life. listen. Humans. the physical manifestations of the stress of the workplace. shelter for rest and recuperation is more than finding a convenient cave or nest. We react to a threatening situation through applying our brains to the problem and finding a solution to it. human society has become. and thus control the terror such a thing would cause in any other creature. The invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals improved the food supply. it would cringe in bottom of the car until it probably had a heart attack. Imagine. The difference between humans and other animals is that. Things can happen so quickly danger isn't apparent until it's too late to do anything about it. For example. humans can alter rather than merely adapt to the environments in which we find ourselves to enhance our chances for survival. an economic one.lenses. is often considered a result of the fight or flight syndrome at work on the body. avoiding predators is difficult because it is often hard if not impossible to tell what is a predator (the only real predators on humans are other humans). The greatest example lies in the existence of amusement parks. stand. in another animal. such as ulcers. I understand" and go back to work (probably muttering uncomplimentary comments about the boss under their breath). . our minds accepting that the ride is safe. we can and do consciously respond or alter our response to a stimulus. cause a fight or the chastised to run. self-preservation is a much more complicated proposition than among other animals. say "yes. To deal with the complexity. if you can. If it didn't leap out at the first movement. headaches. humans go on such rides for fun. though. to a large extent. Eating to satisfy hunger is more than just finding proper vegetation or hunting. Yet. Indeed. the reaction of a dog to a roller coaster. being bawled out by your boss would. Thus. That is.
Again. It conjures up images of Ebenezer Scrooge and Shylock. When it was spoken in the movie. You may ask. however. When presented with resources. However. it should do everything it can to avoid dying through a lack of resources. Greed is one organism getting a larger piece of the pie. the organism dies. the instinct is to grab them. sunlight. the losers die through lack of sunlight. more water. wants more food. This isn't a conscious decision. This requires not only producing the young. once it reaches self-sufficiency the parent's genes will. . The credo. the more the better. water. (Attenborough. The resources may be food. that's what it does if it can. Keeping the offspring alive. take advantage of them. For example. most likely. though they're starving themselves? Remember that the second purpose of life is to reproduce. An animal. Since the two most basic purposes of life are to live and to reproduce. in the Amazonian rain forest. greed is an instinctive reaction. what about those animals who feed their offspring. then all the time. use them. minerals. than other organisms. If it means taking it from another animal. starring Michael Douglas. for any organism that is successful greed is good. more of the necessary resources. Without these things. shelter.GREED "Greed is good." Wall Street The above quote is from the popular movie. Greed has an extremely negative connotation for most people. an occasional tree dies and falls. This leaves an opening to the sun in the continuous canopy of foliage. Plants and trees race each other to grow into that opening. vitamins. If it dies. even at the expense of the parent dying. effort and energy to produce it must be repeated to produce another one. Once it's born it must be kept alive until it's self-sufficient. WALL STREET. 1990) The greed for sunlight means life. is merely a statement of biological necessity. when thirsty. However. chortling over their gold and ignoring the plights and miseries of others. The winners in the race fill the hole. it is actually the gathering of resources. Any form of life must gather resources that allow it to survive and reproduce. as for self-preservation and sex. but ultimately it was his downfall. be passed on to another generation. when starving. it was used as an ironic counterpoint: the character who said it was very successful following the credo. is of paramount importance. The audience may have though it was poetic justice. Biologically.
apparently most of the species fell prey to a disease that only a few survived because of a genetic immunity. is threatened. that the gene pool for a species must be large enough (that is. and all other life on earth. NOTES 1There is a theory of critical mass. . something to be ashamed of. which is need to support them. Those few represented a gene pool too small to provide much in the way of variation. the African cheetah population appears to be descended from only a few individuals.Thus. the breeding population must be large enough) to provide enough variations to counter adverse conditions or events. In fact. it's an act of genetic selfishness. will kill off the remaining cheetahs. Once again. For example. perhaps another disease to which the current population has no genetic immunity. a parent caring for its young at its own expense is not an act of selflessness. The human ability to alter the environment to help people survive has allowed so many people to survive that the Earth itself.we have a conscious mind that influences their biological instincts. Return 2 Of course. it's because humans are unique -. many not survive. as for selfpreservation and reproduction. You may also point out that humans avoid being greedy. being greedy is something that is scorned. and there is a fear that something. we can also argue that this same ingenuity has enhanced human life to the point that human life. How that works is the topic of the next chapter.
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