PSY 313 – Psychology of Personality

Section 01 – ONLINE

SUNY New Paltz

Winter 2014

Professor:  Glenn Geher

• Office: JFT 314

• Office phone number: 257-3091

• Home phone number: 255-1992

• E-mail:

• Web address: Winter OFFICE HOURS found at

Required Reading Materials:

Larsen, R., & Buss, D. M. (2013). Personality Psychology. New York: McGraw Hill

Course Background and Student Learning Objectives:

In many ways, people differ from one another – we differ in terms of how outgoing we are – how much we like intellectual activities – how emotionally involved we get in situations – how we respond to stress. And more. Personality psychology as a field deals with such behavioral individual differences – from a psychological, social, developmental, and biological perspective.

In this class, students will be exposed to the primary theoretical frameworks that underlie personality psychology – including behaviorist, psychodynamic, evolutionist, and trait-based approaches.

Specific learning outcomes include:

* being able to articulate how evolutionary approaches to psychology relate to personalityh

* being able to describe the basic personality traits

* being able to describe how the basic personality traits were conceptualized statistically

* knowing the basic psychodevelopmental theories of personality

* knowing how personality psychology interfaces with issues of culture


1. INTRODUCTORY POSTING (3% of final grade). For this posting, you should post a few paragraphs in the appropriate BlackBoard discussion forum – addressing the following:

– Your general background (where you come from, academic major, interests and/or characteristics that define you)

– What you understand about the idea of “personality psychology” and what you expect to get out of the class

– Something fun you hope to do over the winter break!

GRADING: 3 points (100% of .03) toward final grade for doing this right!

2. BlackBoard postings (9*.03; each of the 9 modules counts for 3% of your final grade) – for 9 modules (mostly corresponding to a particular chapter), we will have specific discussion board – you will be responsible for providing two content-based comments (alluding to specific ideas from the relevant chapters) in the specified time period for each module (the calendar section of syllabus will include this information before the term’s start).

Each of these two (or more) content-based comments that you post may be either (a) an original thread or (b) a response to another post. Either is fine (and two of either, done well, will fill the requirement).

Example of a good posting (that will count toward this requirement):

Like Smitty, I too found Daly and Wilson’s ideas about male mortality in young adulthood interesting. This research suggests that males compete with other males for access to females – particularly during young adulthood. It’s so interesting to me to see this barbaric-seeming behavioral pattern as so relevant to homicide and mortality data in the modern Westernized world. It really makes you think about how our evolutionary past is not so remote.

Example of a bad posting (that will not count toward this requirement):

Good idea Smitty. You da bomb.

Grading here is as follows: for zero acceptable posts in the specified time, 0 points of 3; for one acceptable post in the specified time, 1.5 points of 3 (or 50% of 3); for two acceptable posts in specified time, 3 points of 3 (or 100% of 3).

Note that these postings are NOT supposed to be chapter summaries or anything of the sort. After you have read (thoroughly) the relevant chapter(s), you are think about a subset of the specific ideas/theories/research-findings that are included therein – and write about them. You also are ENCOURAGED (but not required) to respond to others’ posts – good comments that are in response to others’ posts that fit the criteria for posts (per the guidelines included herein) will count for credit – and will, also, make for a more interesting and dialectical discussions – so please note that I encourage your posts to be at least partly (and at least sometimes) responses to others’ posts (including my own).

3. Response paper to a major theoretical idea (3-5 pages; 30% of grade; GRADED (0-100 scale)). There are several major theoretical ideas in this course – including:

Psychodynamic theory

Jung’s theory of archetypes

The idea of the Big Five personality traits

Evolutionary Personality Psychology

and so forth.

For this assignment, you should choose one such “large” concept and write a three-five page paper that does the following:

* introduce/describe the basic concept

* provide examples of how this concept plays out in human personality

* provide at least one research finding speaking to the validity of the concept

* provide several paragraphs that summarize some response / reaction that you have to the concept – as long as it is well-reasoned, it will be acceptable.

Feel free to float ideas for this paper by me before it is due.

4. Final paper (40% of grade; GRADED (0-100 scale)) applying concepts from the course to a particular person.

For this 3-7 page assignment, you are to choose a particular person – it can be a famous person or a person in your life. You must keep the identity of the person anonymous.

Choose at least three different specific concepts to apply to this person (e.g., the idea of neuroticism as threat-detection; the idea of use of a defense mechanism such as repression, etc.) – specifically, choose ones that are relevant to who this person is and how he or she behaves.

In a final section, you need to evaluate the concepts that you have applied, to address how well you believe they helped you explain the person of interest.

GRADING – final grade =


BB module 1 * .03

BB module 2 * .03

BB module 3 * .03

BB module 4 * .03

BB module 5 * .03

BB module 6 * .03

BB module 7 * .03

BB module 8 * .03

BB module 9 * .03

Reaction Paper * .30


Your final grade will be on a scale from 0 to 100.  Final grades will be converted to letter grades using the following criteria:


94 – 100 = A

90 – 93  = A-

87 – 89  = B+

84 – 86  = B

80 – 83  = B-

77 – 79  = C+

74 – 76  = C

70 – 73  = C-

67 – 69  = D+

64 – 66  = D

60 – 63  = D-

Below 60 = F



12/26(F) – 12/28(SU) MODULE 1: Introducing Personality Psychology (Chs. 1-2) BB for MODULE 1 (due before Midnight of 12/28); INTRODUCTORY POST (due before Midnight of 12/28)
12/29(M) – 12/30 (T) MODULE 2: Trait Psychology (Ch. 3) BB for MODULE 2 (due before Midnight of 12/30)
12/31 (W) – 1/1 (Th) MODULE 3: Measuring Traits (Ch. 4) BB for MODULE 3 (due before Midnight of 1/1)
1/2(F) – 1/4 (SU) MODULE 4: Stability vs. Change (Ch. 5) BB for MODULE 4 (due before Midnight of 1/4)
1/5(M) – 1/6 (T) MODULE 5: Genes, Physiology, and Personality (Chs. 6-7) BB for MODULE 5 (due before Midnight of 1/6); REACTION PAPER DUE before Midnight of 1/6
1/7 (W) – 1/8 (Th) MODULE 6: Evolution and Personality (Ch. 8) BB for MODULE 6 (due before Midnight of 1/8)
1/9(F) – 1/11 (SU) MODULE 7: The Intrapsychic domain (Ch. 9) BB for MODULE 7 (due before Midnight of 1/11)
1/12(M) – 1/13 (T) MODULE 8: The Self (Ch. 14) BB for MODULE 8 (due before Midnight of 1/13); FINAL PAPER DUE before Midnight of 1/13
1/14 (W) – 1/15 (Th) MODULE 9: Chs. 16/17 – sex, culture, and personality BB for MODULE 9 (due before Midnight of 1/15)

Course policies:

1.  Handing assignments in is done via email (

PLEASE LABEL THE SUBJECT LINE OF EMAILS with submissions as using your last name and the assignment included. For instance, if your last name is Jones and you are submitting your reaction paper, you should label your subject line: Jones Reaction.

Only .doc files will be accepted as attachments.

2. Cheating. DO NOT CHEAT. Any student caught cheating will automatically fail that exam and, perhaps, the course. In addition, his or her name may be reported to appropriate authorities.

3. Plagiarism. Plagiarism occurs when material is taken from a source without proper citation. If you quote something directly (i.e., use the same exact words of someone else), you must use quotation marks. If you borrow an idea and reword it, you must report your source. Any student caught plagiarizing will automatically fail the assignment and, perhaps, the course. In addition, his or her name may be reported to the appropriate administrator on campus.  DO NOT PLAGIARIZE.

4. Late assignments. Given the logistics involved in organizing and managing an on-line course, no late assignments will be accepted; they will all be assigned grades of 0. Even a few late assignments would suddenly make this course unwieldy.  I do not expect to make any exceptions to this rule unless extreme extenuating circumstances are shown to exist – and even then, I am hard-pressed to make exceptions to this policy.  Honest.

5. Technical Difficulties Clause:

At times, students do not hand work in on time due to technical difficulties; often computer-related. Such difficulties fall under the categories of viruses, servers that are down, disks that lose data, broken printers, etc.

The primary method for avoiding problems associated with such difficulties is to complete work relatively early. Note that a “due date” is not a “do date.” In other words, if something is due on a particular day, you are in no way required to do the work on that same day. If an assignment is due Tuesday, you may do the work for the assignment on Monday (or even earlier). In fact, you are strongly encouraged (by me, GG), to do so! Such a strategy greatly decreases the likelihood that technical difficulties will impede you from handing work in on time.

There are certain conditions under which I will consider a “technical difficulties” appeal regarding late work. Note that given the recommendations (aforementioned) regarding doing your work early, I reserve the right to not accept late papers that are, indeed, late due to technical difficulties. However, if your appeal fits the following criteria, I may consider such an appeal:

A. You contact me at least one full hour before the assignment is due.

B. You can provide some documentation regarding the fact that technical difficulties indeed inhibited you from handing your work in on time.

As a teacher I feel that my role is to help you learn, not to grade you, so please feel free to come see me or call me throughout the term if you have any concerns or questions.  I mean it.  Have a great time in class!

 Writing tips.

 No papers with an abundance of the following errors will receive a grade of an ‘A.’

1.  USUALLY affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

e.g., This variable affects several things.

e.g., That other variable produced a very large effect.

2.  If the subject of your sentence is singular, the verb and subsequent pronouns referring to the subject must be also.

e.g., The participant then provided HIS OR HER (NOT “THEIR”) background


e.g.,  The point of these studies WAS (NOT “WERE”) blah, blah, blah … (point is singular).

3.  NEVER use the word “PROVE” in a psychology article.  While psychologists do many things, proving is virtually never one of them.

INCORRECT: These results prove that Schmedley’s hypothesis was correct.

BETTER: These results support Schmedley’s hypothesis.

BETTER STILL: These results support the hypothesis that Schmedley should change his name … just kidding.

4.  BE SUCCINCT.  Do not use a lot of words to make a point if you can make the same point with fewer words.  If two papers make the same points, the one with fewer words is, by my definition, better.

BAD:  Asch’s research on conformity is very interesting because it includes interesting research and has important ideas that are very meaningful.

BETTER: Asch’s research on conformity is interesting for several reasons.

5.  AVOID 1st person and, especially, opinions (unless they are asked for).

BAD: I am writing a paper on conformity.  In this paper, I will talk about how social psychologists have studied conformity and why I am so interested in this interesting topic.

BETTER: This paper will address conformity as it has been studied in social psychology.


BAD: Subjects were asked if they’d administer an electric shock.

BETTER:  Subjects were asked if they would administer an electric shock.

7.         It’s means it is (but you should not be using contractions anyway).

             Its is a possessive pronoun referring to a noun that possesses something.

e.g., The frog grabbed the fly with its tongue.   (here its means the frog’s)

8.  Punctuation marks go INSIDE quotation marks (when at the end of the sentence).

BAD:  Then the experimenter said, “Oh Boy”.

BETTER:  Then the experimenter said, “Oh Boy.”

BETTER STILL:  Then the experimenter said, “Golly!”

9.  Always follow the word “this” with a specific noun.  Otherwise, your writing will be unclear.

BAD: Changes will be made at all levels of management.  The impact of this will be enormous.

BETTER: Changes will be made at all levels of management.  The impact of this restructuring will be enormous.

10.  i.e., means “in other words.”  e.g., means “for example.”

e.g., These people are thought to be cerebral in nature (i.e., they tend to think a lot).

e.g., Their diet includes several kinds of flowers (e.g., roses).

11.  Here are some helpful word substitutions for you:


looked at                                to examined

got                                           to obtained

did                                           to conducted

12.  Only use the word “correlation” if you are referring to a specific relationship between two different variables.  Do not just throw this word around because it sounds good.

GOOD: A positive correlation was observed between number of hamburgers eaten and the size of one’s bellyache.

BAD: A correlation between these different ideas can be found.  (This sentence simply does not mean anything).



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