UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Personality traits, motivation, and the making of modern identity Dunlop, William Lewis


What is the nature of personhood? How is identity best understood? In this dissertation, these questions are explored. Drawing upon a conception of personality in which behavioral traits, goal motivation, and identities are recognized as equal and complementary partners, two proposals are considered. First, it is argued that insights into many psychological phenomena can be enhanced through tandem consideration of the aforementioned personological elements. Second, it is argued that personal identity is manifest within both narrative and non-narrative (i.e., paradigmatic) forms. Support for the first proposal is garnered over the course of three empirical studies. In each of these studies—which consider context variability in the manifestation of personality attributes (i.e., self-concept differentiation), the interplay between the meta-concepts of agency and communion in moral motivation, and the relation between personality and culture, respectively—the predictive ability of traits, goals, and identities is examined. Considerable gains in predictive power are made through consideration of these elements of personality. Support for the second proposal is garnered through the undertaking of the third study, wherein a method for assessing personal identity in its narrative and paradigmatic forms is adopted and applied to a cross-cultural examination of personality. The current endeavor thus aims to apply a necessary corrective to the field of personality psychology (wherein personality and personality traits are often equated) and developmental psychology (wherein identity has increasingly come to be construed solely in narrative terms).

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