PAL Masthead 2

PAL Projects

Right Now in the Lab  

Continuous Personality Judgment
A fair amount of extant research devoted to determining the origin of personality perceptions has established relations between various instances of verbal and nonverbal behavior and judgments made by perceivers. However, it remains unclear whether the perception of the related cues actually precedes the formation of the personality judgments. To do so, one must employ a methodology that allows for the examination of temporal relations between judgments and cues. In service to this venture, we created (with special help from Dr. Evan Krauter, Psychophysiologist Extraordinnaire) a machine that can assess momentary changes in estimates of a given variable (currently referred to as TraitBot 3000). Using this device, we hope to isolate cues that precede changes in personality judgments within and across perceivers and targets.

Digital Personality Assessment
Canisha Cantey, Jessica Hill, and Kayla Glover are working on a project that builds on previous work in choice task methodology (outlined below, in Personality Judgments from a Lineup). We plan to examine the efficiency of personality judgments at zero acquaintance through the use of a binary decision task. In addition, we plan to evaluate how individual differences in chronicity of trait concepts—the extent to which a trait concept is central or highly important to a perceiver—might relate to speed and accuracy of decision making in that domain versus others. We have collected data from 103 participants to date and plan to wrap data collection on Phase 1 by December 2011.

Escalated Exposure
Jonathan Marr and Dr. Andrew Beer have developed the next phase in a series of studies investigating the early mechanisms of acquaintanceship. In this study, we present personality-relevant information in different forms (e.g., personal statements, videotaped behavior) at escalating levels in within-subject design. The primary value of examining the effects of increasing quantity and/or quality of information in a within-subjects scenario lies in ecological validity: this laboratory simulation more closely approximates how the judgment process occurs in natural settings (one person assimilating information over time and across situations). We have collected data from 134 participants to date and plan to wrap data collection at some point in Spring 2012.

Current/Ongoing Projects

Dreams and Personality
We have an ongoing study of dream content and personality with Dr. Zlatan Krizan (Iowa State University), which began in 2007. We finished the first wave of data collection in 2008, gathering personality descriptions and two-week dream diaries from 114 participants. Just recently, we completed work on the second phase of the project, which involves a new set of participants reading through the dream diaries and trying to make personality judgments of the dreamers. To date, we have 11 independent dream raters. We are in the final phase of data analysis now, which involves coding the content of the dream diaries so that we can relate dream content to perceptions of the dreamer generated by our raters. We are about midway through this last process, and we hope to finish analysis by Spring 2012, with an eye toward completing a manuscript in Spring or Summer 2013.

Partner Perception
Drs. Jennifer Parker and Andrew Beer received a grant to study depression and interpersonal perception in marital dyads, beginning in the summer of 2008. This is an exciting project because of its engagement with the local community and its diverse population. The work examines novel questions in an understudied population, a good combination for psychological research. So far, we have collected data from 137 couples (274 participants) and expect to finish with a sample of 150 couples overall. The plan is to complete data collection by December 2011 and produce a manuscript shortly thereafter.

Personality and Leadership
The Personality Assessment Laboratory enjoys taking projects into the field as often as is possible, so the director’s involvement with a leadership camp offers a unique opportunity to see personality and perceptions of personality in natural interactions. Drs. Jennifer Parker and Andrew Beer developed a compact study that examined impressions of personality and leadership among the high school students participating in the camp. In doing so, we drew upon information provided by the campers themselves, as well as the perceptions of their parents, fellow campers, and camp counselors. We used this work as an instructional tool in the camp as well as an informative piece of research on the validity of personality perception. We have completed an initial draft of a manuscript from data collected in Summer 2009 and have just recently submitted it to the Journal of Research in Personality. We continue to collect data through the camp, investigating slightly different issues each year.

Personality and Everyday Life
In keeping with our desire to work outside the lab, we have a significant project underway that examines the manifestations of personality in daily behavior. Thanks to the psychology department, in Summer 2009 we were able to secure some devices that allow us to sample experiences in a novel way: recording the daily activities of research participants. The Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) is a device that can be worn over a period of a few days that is set to record at specified time intervals, providing a sampling of auditory records of behavior. Too many studies of personality rely on self or informant reports exclusively, and this methodology will allow us to examine actual real-world behavior and match it up with other sources of personality information. We have collected EAR data (along with several other types of data, ranging from self-and informant-reports of personality to videotaped laboratory behavior) from 114 participants over the past two years. Currently, lab members are coding the data so that we can conduct formal analyses relating daily behavior to other sources of personality information. In doing so, we may be able to answer some key questions about the validity of different types of personality measurements. In addition, the unique constitution of the participant pool—specifically the significant representation of minority populations—will allow us to explore some research questions that have heretofore gone unaddressed. Our goal is to finish coding the data by the close of 2011.

Completed Projects  

Weird Fact Study
An investigation into the trait relevance of personal disclosures became affectionately known in the lab as “The Weird Fact Study”. Recent research in social perception had demonstrated that there exists an asymmetry in terms of how we value personal information depending upon whether we are the discloser or the recipient of such information. In particular, disclosers tend to believe that the provision of value-related information (e.g., “I put family first”) is more personally revealing about them than do recipients of that information. In addition, disclosers believe that more mundane individuating facts (e.g., “I can juggle”) are less personally revealing about them than do recipients of that information. We replicated this general finding and then examined whether data support this lay theory. We found that there is no general advantage for one broad type of information versus another, but that each information type has differential effects on judgments across trait domains. In short, to learn about someone’s general level of responsibility, it is instructive to inquire about individuating facts, but if one wishes to learn about the emotional stability of another individual, he or she would be wise to discuss that individual’s core personal values. Cody Brooks presented these findings at the Upstate Research Symposium in 2010, and he and Dr. Andrew Beer published these findings in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Group Personality Judgments
Data support the idea that aggregating independent judgments increases accuracy in personality perception. However, our sense in the lab is that in the case of personality judgments, we often choose to come to a consensus through conversation. In other words, our group judgments are not necessarily independent of one another. To examine the effect of group discussion on personality judgment, we had groups of two, three, and four people make personality judgments about individuals with whom they had never been acquainted. We compared these to aggregated judgments made by two, three, or four independent raters. In total, 264 people participated in this work, which revealed a general upward trend for independent aggregation: as independent raters are added, accuracy increases (though with diminishing returns). When groups came to a consensus via discussion, we observed an increase in accuracy from 2-member to 3-member groups, followed by a decrease in accuracy in the 4-member groups. We will present these findings at the 2012 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and use the feedback from the event to determine the next phase of the project.

Personality Judgments from a Lineup
Typical research methods in personality perception involve using rating scales to judge others on a series of personality dimensions. Dr. Andrew Beer decided that a choice task might open up new avenues of inquiry in this area, so he set out in the summer of 2008 to create a lineup-style decision task for personality judgments involving choosing, say, the most extroverted person from a group of three photos. Choice tasks that do not rely on numerical options or rating scales can allow researchers to more easily examine things like mood effects and cognitive load on the process of personality perception. In addition, he would argue that decisions between individuals are more ecologically valid than exhaustive rating scales centered on one individual at a time. Early returns (N = 96) indicated that people do better than chance in selecting extreme members of a group across several trait dimensions, and a preliminary retest study (N = 68) results show that this ability seems to endure over time. A third study replicated the findings of the previous two while employing a more rigorous methodology. These findings were presented at the 2010 meeting of Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Contact Us

Dr. Andrew Beer
Director of the PAL
Associate Professor of Psychology
Phone: (864) 503-5762
Fax: (864) 503-5748
Office: CASB 132

University of South Carolina Upstate
800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303