187 all acquired and specific skills such as the

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187). All acquired and specific skills, such as the English language or statistics, are characteristic adaptations. How quickly we learn (talent, intelligence, aptitude) is a basic tendency; what we learn is a characteristic adaptation. Moreover, our dispositions and tendencies are the direct influence on our characteristic adaptations. Characteristic responses are shaped and molded by basic tendencies . What makes them characteristic is their consistency and uniqueness; hence, they reflect the operation of enduring personality traits. Echoing Allport , they are adaptations because they are shaped as a response to what the environment has to offer us at any given moment. They allow us to fit into or adapt to our environment on an ongoing basis. Understanding how characteristic adaptations and basic tendencies interact is absolutely central to the FFT . Basic tendencies are stable and enduring whereas characteristic adaptations fluctuate, making them subject to change over a person’s lifetime. Characteristic adaptations differ from culture to culture . For instance, the expression of anger in the presence of a superior is much more taboo in Japan than it is in the United States. Distinguishing between stable tendencies and changing adaptations is important because this distinction can explain both the stability of personality and the plasticity of personality. Thus, McCrae and Costa have provided a solution to the problem of stability versus change in personality structure. Basic tendencies are stable, while characteristic adaptations fluctuate. 3. Self-Concept McCrae and Costa (2003) explain that self-concept is actually a characteristic adaptation (see Figure 13.3), but it gets its own box because it is such an important adaptation. McCrae and Costa (1996) wrote that it “consists of knowledge, views, and evaluations of the self, ranging from miscellaneous facts of personal history to the identity that gives a sense of purpose and coherence to life” (p. 70). The beliefs, attitudes, and feelings one has toward oneself are characteristic adaptations in that they influence how one behaves in a given circumstance. For example, believing that one is an intelligent person makes one more willing to put oneself into situations that are intellectually challenging. Does self-concept need to be accurate? Learning theorists such as Albert Bandura (Chapter 17) and humanistic theorists such as Carl Rogers (Chapter 10) or Gordon Allport (Chapter 12) believe that the conscious views people have of themselves are relatively accurate, with some distortion perhaps. In contrast, psychodynamic theorists would argue that most of the conscious thoughts and feelings people have of themselves are inherently distorted and the true nature of the self (ego) is largely unconscious.

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