Personality Assessment Lab
Intentionally or unintentionally, we frequently make
judgments about the stable characteristics of people in our social world. In natural settings, these judgments are
informal and if conscious, take the form of simple summative phrases about
people in our environment (e.g., Tom’s a friendly guy and George is an
unfriendly guy). In laboratory settings,
personality psychologists attempt to measure individual differences more
formally, through the use of validated personality tests of various sorts
(e.g., self- or peer-report inventories).
The Personality Assessment Laboratory’s general mission is
to investigate both formal and informal measurements of personality. Our projects range from more formal scale
constructions to broad-based examinations of the naturalistic process of
judging personality in others. Recently,
the laboratory has focused on a few primary areas within the general topic, as described below.
Snap Judgments of
Despite social proscriptions against “judging a book by its
cover,” we frequently come to very quick conclusions about the general
tendencies of people we encounter. In
some domains, coming to such conclusions is fairly automatic, and in a precious
few instances, we can make reasonably accurate estimates of personality based
on very limited information or contact with the subject. We have been conducting a series of studies
examining the conditions under which we can make accurate judgments at what is
often termed “zero acquaintance.”
In contrast to our general difficulty in evaluating the
personalities of strangers, we are actually fairly adept at assessing
personality traits of those closest to us, such as friends, family, and
romantic partners. This difference is
commonly referred to as “the acquaintanceship effect,” and while it may seem
perfectly concordant with what common sense would indicate, the specific
mechanisms by which we come to know others are not entirely clear. Thus, we are also frequently engaged in
studies (largely experimental in nature) aimed at elucidating the basic process
of getting to know someone.
One concern across all areas in psychology lies in the idea
that some of our contrived laboratory situations do not reflect the natural
processes about which we seek knowledge. Thus, another common theme of late in the laboratory has been moving
things out of the laboratory. We have an ongoing study using naturalistic
observation methodology as well as a series of in-lab experiments in which we
attempt to more closely approximate the natural personality judgment process.
Want to Get Involved?
If you are interested in answering any of the following
questions, you might be interested in working with us:
- What can we tell about someone
upon first meeting them?
- How do we come to more completely
understand those around us?
- How do people behave and make
inferences about others’ behavior in the real world?
We are always looking for interested, motivated students to
join our efforts in the PAL. To apply
for a research assistantship with us, please contact Dr. Andrew Beer.
If you want more information about the laboratory or
opportunities to participate, please contact us.