Psychology 371: Personality Research


The basic theme of this course is that the proper study of human behavior should include an examination of individual differences in affect, behavior and cognition. This course will include an examination of the sources (both biological and environmental), the correlates, and the consequences of individual differences in at least four different dimensions of personality, intellect, and temperament. Roughly one-third of the course will be devoted to reviewing current theories of personality, another third to outlining the steps in the measurement of personality, and the final third to designing and conducting experiments to evaluate current theoretical controversies in the field. Much of the reading will be come from current journal articles and recent review papers. Prerequisites: Statistics (Psychology 201), Research Methods in Psychology (205) and Personality Theory (215). (The first two are required, the last is highly recommended.)

The first part of the course is meant to provide a rapid overview of current theories of personality, particularly as they apply to real world performance. Tests of these theories are possible research projects. During the second third of the course, while preparing to conduct the research projects, class lectures and assignments will discuss the fundamentals of psychometric theory. The third section of the course will be devoted to other current topics in the field of personality research.

Requirements and methods of evaluation:

  • A research proposal that reviews a relevant body of the personality literature, proposes a theoretical question, and suggests how to answer it. The review should be the equivalent of the introduction of a journal article, and the proposed method to test the theoretical question should demonstrate sophistication in research design. The paper should conclude with a summary of how the data will be analyzed and the pattern of expected results. To be written in APA style . (Due May 11). Final research projects will be selected from these proposals. (30%)
  • A midterm exam that will cover the various theories of personality and performance discussed in class and in the readings. Sample questions will be distributed before the exam. (April 27th ) (30%)
  • A final research project that will include a review of the relevant literature, an experimental test of an hypothesis, and a discussion of the experimental results. The data collection and some analysis will be performed as a group project, although the final paper must be an individual effort. To be written in APA style . (Due June 10th). (30%)
  • A final exam that will cover the basic concepts of the course. (June 10th). (This final exam is optional and will be weighted equally with the other exams and projects. That is, if taken, all projects have a 22% weight. If not taken, all projects have a 30% weight.
  • Class and discussion group participation. This is a class on research methods and theories. It is necessary for all members of the class to participate in proposing alternative models and evaluating the theories presented. This may be done in class discussion, as well as extraclass interaction. Computerized conferencing will be used as well. Email discussion with the instructor and teaching assistant is strongly encouraged. (10%)

Suggested (but certainly not required) Texts

John, O.P. and Naumann, L.P. and Soto, C.J. (2008) Handbook of personality: Theory and research. Guilford Press. N.Y.

Chamorro-Premuzic, T., Von Stumm, S., and Furnham, A. (2011). The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Individual Differences, volume 1. Wiley-Blackwell.

Robins, R.W., Fraley, R. C., Krueger, R.F., (2007) Handbook of research methods in personality psychologhy. New York, N.Y. Guilford.

Some of the material will be from chapters in John or from Robins et al. as well as reprints of relevant articles. These will be distributed in class (or listed on the web syllabus). Still more material will be made available on the web. In addition, students are expected to review one particular topic in detail and should consult current journals in personality.

For the second and third class, I will be out of town at an international conference. Thus, you will need to do some independent readings;

Course Outline

last updated March 30, 2014

371 Spring, 2014 Outline:
Week Date Substantive Content
lecture notes
for some journals, you need to be logged in at NU using a VPN
Part I: Current Theories of Personality
Week 1 April 1 Introduction to the course (very large pdf)
3 approaches to personality psychology
Revelle, Wilt and Condon (2011) Individual differences and differential psychology: A brief history and prospect

Mischel, Annual Review, 2004
Revelle and Oehlberg (2008) Integrating experimental and observational personality research
Take the
Big 5 inventory

your scores are anonymous
April 3 Descriptive Taxonomies
Behavioral Taxonomies
the "Personality Coefficient"
Pervin: Personality taxonomies
John: The Big 5
Critique of Big 5 inventory
Week 2 April 7 The ABCD's of Personality
Causal Theories of approach and avoidance
Revelle, 2007 Experimental Techniques in Personality Research
Revelle, Condon and Wilt (2011) Methodological advances in differential psychology
April 9 Approach: Introversion/extraversion and Impulsivity
theories based upon Eysenck and Gray
Wilt and Revelle Extraversion (2009)
Smillie, Pickering and Jackson (2006) The new Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory: Implications for personality measurement. (must be using a NU account)
Revelle, Amaral and Turiff (1976)
Revelle, Humphreys, Simon and Gilliland (1980)
(optional: see Eysenck web page)
Week 3 April 14 Alternative approaches to I/E
I/E, arousal and performance
I/E and positive affect
I/E and within and between variability
Revelle, 1997 (impulsivity)
Rogers and Revelle, 1998
Fleeson, 2001,
Fleeson, Malanos, Achille, 2002
Canli, et al., (2002)
Wilt, Funkhouser & Revelle (2011)
Smillie et al, (in press)) <-- NEW
April 16Approach: Achievement Motivation
classical theory of risk preference (html)
(class notes pdf)
hierarchical models
Elliot and Thrash (2002)
Week 4 April 21 Achievement motivation and efficient performance
Dynamic models of motivation
Revelle, 1986 Atkinson festschrift
Revelle, 2009 The Cues Tendency Action (CTA) model
Elliot and McGregor (1999)
April 23 Avoidance: Anxiety
Anxiety and performance (pdf)
Elliot and McGregor (1999)
Wilt, Oehlberg, and Revelle (2011). Anxiety in personality
Informal preliminary proposal
help in literature searches (select the articles tab)
A guide to literature searches and writing an APA style paper
Avoid common writing errors
Week 5 April 28 Approach and Avoidance:
Personality, Motivation, and Performance
a theoretical proposal (pdf)
Atheory of personality, motivation, and cognition: (Revelle (1992)
Personality and changes in affect over time Gilboa & Revelle
Personality and affective processing (Rogers and Revelle, 1998)
Proposal requirements and
a guide to searching the literature Using Endnote or BibDesk to search the literature
Using Latex for writing APA style papers.
April 30 Midterm Study questions Midterm
Part 2: The Measurement of Personality
Week 6 May 5 Basic issues in measurement
problems of measurement
Methodological advances in differential psychology (Revelle, Condon and Wilt, 2011).
review of variance/covariance
Review old statistics notes
May 7 Fundamentals of reliabilty reliability notes (pdf) Research Proposal due
Week 7 May 12 Types of reliability and validity Item construction
May 14 Scale Construction choose projects (in class)
Week 8 May 14 Factor analysis
scale construction
Design project
May 19 Validity and decision making
Pitfalls in Research
Pitfalls (class notes)prq analysis
Part 3: Experimental Studies of Personality
Week 9 May 26 validity
May 28 Evolutionary perspectives
Personality and behavior genetics
Behavior genetics, intelligence, life span studies
McGue and Bouchard, Annual Review of Neuroscience, 1998
Bouchard, 2004
discussion of projects
Week 10: June 2 Using R to analyze personality data
Using R to score scales
Data analysis (by appointment)
June 11- Papers due, (optional) Final Exam (June 11)
Course and Teacher Evaluation (CTEC)

  • Additional resources that provide useful background to the field include:
    • Brody, Nathan., (1983) Human motivation : commentary on goal-directed action New York : Academic Press,
    • Brody, N. (1988) Personality: in search of individuality. Academic Press, New York.
    • Corr, P. J. (2008) Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory. Cambridge
    • Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, M. W. (1985). Personality and individual differences: a natural science approach. New York: Plenum Press.
    • Furr, M., Bacharach, V. R. Psychometrics: an introduction. Sage.
    • Gray, Jeffrey A. (1987) The psychology of fear and stress McGraw-Hill
    • Haslam, N. Introduction of personality and intelligence. (2007). Sage.
    • Thayer, Robert. The biopsychology of mood and arousal. Oxford, Oxford University

    Web Resources

    Useful information for psychology majors may be found from The PSYCH WEB, a project of Russ Dewey at Georgia Southern University. This includes tip sheets on writing APA style papers as well as general information about careers in psychology. For more information about personality theory and research, consult The Personality Project
    Note that this syllabus is a dynamic document and that additional links will be added throughout the course. Check back to this overview and to the detailed syllabus frequently.
    To Course Outline

    Web Address for this syllabus:
    William Revelle
    Revised September 21, 2009.