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 Home » Tutorials » Psychology » Variations in Psychological Attributes

Variations in Psychological Attributes



A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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VARIATIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTRIBUTES



INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN HUMAN FUNCTIONING


Individual variations are common within and across all species. Variations add colour and beauty to nature. For a moment, think of a world around you where each and every object is of the same colour, say red or blue or green. How would the world appear to you? Certainly not a beautiful one! Would you prefer to live in such a world? In all likelihood, your answer will be ‘no’. Like objects, people too possess different combinations of traits.

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T


Variability is a fact of nature, and individuals are no exception to this. They vary in terms of physical characteristics, such as height, weight, strength, hair colour, and so on. They also vary along psychological dimensions. They may be intelligent or dull, dominant or submissive, creative or not so creative, outgoing or withdrawn, etc. The list of variations can be endless. Different traits can exist in varying degrees in an individual. In this sense, each one of us is unique as s/he exemplifies a typical combination of various traits. The question which you may like to pose is how and why people differ. This, in fact, is the subject matter of the study of individual differences. For psychologists, individual differences refer to distinctiveness and variations among people’s characteristics and behaviour patterns.

While many psychologists believe that our behaviours are influenced by our personal traits, some others hold the view that our behaviours are influenced more by situational factors. This latter view is known as situationism, which states that situations and circumstances in which one is placed influence one’s behaviour. A person, who is generally aggressive, may behave in a submissive manner in the presence of her/his top boss. Sometimes, the situational influences are so powerful that individuals with differing personality traits respond to them in almost the same ways. The situationist perspective views human behaviour as resulting from interaction of external and internal factors.

ASSESSMENT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTRIBUTES


Psychological attributes are involved in very simple phenomena like in time taken to react to a stimulus, i.e. reaction time, and also in highly global concepts like happiness. It is difficult to count and specify the number of psychological attributes that can be assessed. Assessment is the first step in understanding a psychological attribute. Assessment refers to the measurement of psychological attributes of individuals and their evaluation, often using multiple methods in terms of certain standards of comparison. Any attribute will be said to exist in a person only if it can be measured by using scientific procedures. For example, when we say, “Harish is dominant”, we are referring to the degree of ‘dominance’ in Harish. This statement is based on our own assessment of ‘dominance’ in him. Our assessment may be informal or formal. Formal assessment is objective, standardised, and organised. On the other hand, informal assessment varies from case to case and from one assessor to another and, therefore, is open to subjective interpretations. Psychologists are trained in making formal assessment of psychological attributes. Once assessment is done, we can use this information to predict how Harish will probably behave in future. We may predict that Harish, if given a chance to lead a team, will most likely be an authoritarian leader. If the predicted consequence is not what we want, we may want to intervene to effect a change in Harish’s behaviour. The attribute chosen for assessment depends upon our purpose. In order to help a weak student perform well in examinations, we may assess her/his intellectual strengths and weaknesses. If a person fails to adjust with members of her/ his family and neighbourhood, we may consider assessing her/his personality characteristics. For a poorly motivated person, we may assess her/his interests and preferences. Psychological assessment uses systematic testing procedures to evaluate abilities, behaviours, and personal qualities of individuals.

Some Domains of Psychological Attributes


Psychological attributes are not linear or unidimensional. They are complex and expressed in terms of dimensions. A line is a mere aggregate of many points. A point occupies no space. But think of a box. It occupies space. It can be described only in terms of its three dimensions, i.e. length, width, and height. Similar is the case with psychological attributes. They are usually multi-dimensional. If you want to have a complete assessment of a person, you will need to assess how s/he functions in various domains or areas, such as cognitive, emotional, social, etc. We will discuss in this chapter some important attributes that are of interest to psychologists. These attributes are categorised on the basis of varieties of tests used in psychological literature.

1. Intelligence

is the global capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use available resources effectively when faced with challenges. Intelligence tests provide a global measure of a person’s general cognitive competence including the ability to profit from schooling. Generally, students having low intelligence are not likely to do so well in school-related examinations, but their success in life is not associated only with their intelligence test scores.

2. Aptitude

refers to an individual’s underlying potential for acquiring skills. Aptitude tests are used to predict what an individual will be able to do if given proper environment and training. A person with high mechanical aptitude can profit from appropriate training and can do well as an engineer. Similarly, a person having high language aptitude can be trained to be a good writer.





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