haidt.graham.in-press.above-and-below-left-right.pub070-as-Word.doc

Three levels of personality and ideology its hard to

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Three Levels of Personality and Ideology It's hard to argue with success, and the trait approach to personality has been extraordinarily successful, especially after having earlier been marginalized by the critiques of Walter Mischel (1968) and the "situationist" program (e.g. Ross & Nisbett, 1991). Today, the "Big Five" taxonomy is widely accepted as a valuable high-order model of personality, and there is evidence for a degree of heritability for most traits, including many related to political ideology (Bouchard, 2004; McCrae, 1996). Correlational analyses show that people's ratings on a simple left/right or liberal/conservative scale predict an extraordinary variety of other traits, behaviors, preferences, and interactional styles, most of which are related in some way to the tendency for liberals to score higher on measures of the Big Five dimension of Openness to Experience (Carney, Jost, Gosling, & Kiederhoffer, in press; Jost et al., 2003; McCrae, 1996). Rather than arguing with success, an alternative response is to ask: "is that all there is?" As McAdams (1995) writes, "Reliable and valid trait ratings provide an excellent 'first read' on a person by offering estimates of a person's relative standing on a delimited series of general and linear dimensions of proven social significance" (p. 374). But the very generality of traits is, as McAdams also notes, also their greatest limitation in providing an understanding of individuals; they can only provide "a psychology of the stranger." McAdams (1995) argues that there are, in fact, three qualitatively distinct "levels" of personality description. Level 1, the lowest level, is "dispositional traits" – global, decontextualized traits such as the Big Five or disgust sensitivity that can be measured with little regard for what else is going on in a person's life. Level 2 refers to "characteristic adaptations" which are, in contrast to Level 1 traits,
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Ideology and moral foundations -- 3 contextualized and conditional. They include values, goals, attachment styles, defense mechanisms, personal and moral strivings (such as a desire to save the whales or serve Jesus), conditional patterns, and domain-specific skills and talents. These constructs are often empirically related to Level 1 traits – for example, religious strivings for spiritual purity might be stronger in a man who has a high score on disgust sensitivity than in his brother, raised in the same household, who is less sensitive to feelings of disgust. However, Level 2 adaptations are much more variable than Level 1 traits across life stages and contexts, and because they respond to experimental manipulations they are used as both independent and dependent variables in research. Finally, the third and highest level comprises what McAdams calls "integrative life stories." These are even more personal, idiosyncratic, and difficult to quantify. Level 3 centrally concerns identity, and more specifically identity as experienced in a narrative mode. At this level, we would examine the stories people tell themselves and others about how they came to hold the moral and political beliefs they currently hold. We would not expect these stories to be literally true as
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