The realistic accuracy model (RAM) by Funder (1995) begins with the premise that personality traits are real and observable. As a consequence, the RAM assumes that informants reach consensus not because they share similar meaning systems or because of overlap, but rather because their judgments about a target's personality are at least partly accurate. According to the RAM, the path between a target's personality and the accurate informant judgment can be described in four steps, each associated with diverse moderators that may influence the achievement of accuracy (see Figure 4.3). These four steps include the relevance and availability of cues from the target person and the detection and utilization of these cues by the informant. To achieve accuracy within informant ratings, each step must be successfully completed. First, the target must display behavioral cues relevant to the underlying trait (e.g., extraversión). Second, the cues must be presented in a way that makes it available to the informant (e.g., either visibly or audibly). Third, the informant must detect the relevant cues (e.g., discern or register them). Finally, the informant must accurately use the previously detected, available, and relevant information. The central assumptions of the RAM can be represented by a formula, where its four elements are linked in a multiplicative manner implying that if any term in such a formula is zero, there will be no accuracy of informant ratings. Another implication of the model is that accuracy remains a probabilistic matter: Only if all four links in the process of judgment are strong will the resulting level of informant accuracy be substantial and meaningful. Moreover, the RAM suggests that accuracy is achieved via multiple cues and multiple traits because there never seems to be just one cue for one trait, and research has only recently begun to address the interactions among the cues that may be diagnostic for the same or different traits (e.g., Borkenau & Liebler, 1992, 1993; Funder & Sneed, 1993; Gifford, 1994; Gosling et al., 2002).
The RAM has several implications for informant assessment. First, it provides a relatively simple process model that organizes the different variables that affect accurate person perception. Second, a suggestion can be derived from the RAM for the improvement of informant assessment by interventions that affect one or more of the four steps of person perception. Third, the RAM implies that informant accuracy is influenced by characteristics of the target (i.e., through the display of relevant and available cues) and by characteristics of the perceiver (i.e., through his or her detecting and utilizing cues), with both implications pointing toward a set of important moderator variables of informant accuracy. Finally, the RAM suggests that self-other agreement is best measured when the self and informants are asked to describe what the target is really like. When researchers are interested in the convergent validity of different ratings of a target, this strategy seems most reasonable instead of asking informants about the target's self-perception or asking targets about the other informants' perception, which merely constructs a matter of metaper-ception (Funder, 1999; Funder & Colvin, 1988; Funder & Dobroth, 1987; Park & Judd, 1989).
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