Conclusion

It is clear from our review that the field of personality psychology is intrinsically a multimethod field. Within and across each domain of personality, methods as diverse as self-reports, observer ratings, projective tests, test of maximal performance, and qualitative interpretations of narratives are brought to bear on understanding individual differences in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Consistent with our neosocioanalytic framework, many of the methods correlate quite strongly with content. Self-reports and observer ratings tend to be used more often in the assessment of personality traits, and the complement of hierarchically related constructs such as affect and behavior. The use of projective tests bridges domains, but is primarily located in the assessment of motives. Tests of maximal performance have the potential to bridge domains, but are similarly found almost entirely in the content domain of abilities. Finally, one's story is almost exclusively the domain of methods that focus on life data. Moreover, within each domain researchers are beginning to use multiple methods to assess the hierarchically related constructs within a content category, such as when broad trait measures are combined with the assessment of daily mood or behavior (e.g., Wirtz et al., 2003).

Despite the impressive methodological plurality across and within domains in personality psychology, there remains a tremendous unrealized potential to bring multiple methods to bear on relevant topics. For example, the use of test data in domains other than abilities remains untapped, despite provocative studies pointing to the potential to assess personality traits in ways other than asking someone to rate themselves on a personality inventory. Experimental tests, such as the "go, no-go" task in which people are told to inhibit a response to a cue when a stop signal tone is emitted have systematic relationships to personality traits such as impulse control (Logan, Schachar, & Tannock, 1997) and related forms of psychopathology, such as delinquency (Mezzacappa, Kindlon, & Earls, 2001). The interesting question that is as yet untested is whether tests like these can be aggregated into a reliable index of individual differences in personality traits, just as the elementary cognitive tasks have been aggregated to tap into cognitive ability.

Despite the examples cited earlier, it remains anomalous for researchers to use more than one method to investigate almost any phenomena in personality psychology. Too much time and effort have gone into reifying one or another technique as the gold standard method for assessing construct such as traits (e.g., Hofstee, 1994) or motives (McClelland et al., 1989). Also, there is a tendency to approach method variance as if it is uninteresting and an expectation that it should not play a role in the type of information gleaned from an assessment (cf. Ozer, 1986). This somewhat disrespectful approach to multiple methods quite possibly derives from the article that inspired this book (e.g., Cronbach & Gleser, 1953), in which the construct of interest is supposed to supersede the method and therefore converge in a robust fashion across diverse techniques of assessment. In contrast, more realistic appraisals of the information taken from multiple methods point to a more sobering conclusion that the information acquired from multiple methods may in fact be more independent than previously expected (Fiske, 1971; Meyer et al., 2001; Ozer, 1986). Therefore, different methods of assessment provide complementary information rather than perfectly overlapping information. This only reinforces the point that researchers should use multiple methods in personality psychology by default to arrive at a more complete understanding of their research interests, whether it is traits, motives, abilities, or life narratives.

Chapter 23

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