Dimensions of Normal Personality as Networks in Search of Equilibrium: You Can't Like Parties if You Don't Like People

Authors

  • Angélique O. J. Cramer,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Sophie van der Sluis,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    2. Complex Trait Genetics, Department of Functional Genomics and Department Clinical Genetics, Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), FALW-VUA, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, VU University Medical Center (VUmc), The Netherlands
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  • Arjen Noordhof,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • Marieke Wichers,

    1. European Graduate School for Neuroscience, SEARCH, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands
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  • Nicole Geschwind,

    1. European Graduate School for Neuroscience, SEARCH, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands
    2. Research Group on Health Psychology, Centre for the Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Leuven, Belgium
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  • Steven H. Aggen,

    1. Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
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  • Kenneth S. Kendler,

    1. Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
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  • Denny Borsboom

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Angélique O. J. Cramer, Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Weesperplein 4, 1018 XA Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

E-mail: angecramer@gmail.com, website: www.aojcramer.com

Abstract

In one currently dominant view on personality, personality dimensions (e.g. extraversion) are causes of human behaviour, and personality inventory items (e.g. ‘I like to go to parties’ and ‘I like people’) are measurements of these dimensions. In this view, responses to extraversion items correlate because they measure the same latent dimension. In this paper, we challenge this way of thinking and offer an alternative perspective on personality as a system of connected affective, cognitive and behavioural components. We hypothesize that these components do not hang together because they measure the same underlying dimension; they do so because they depend on one another directly for causal, homeostatic or logical reasons (e.g. if one does not like people and it is harder to enjoy parties). From this ‘network perspective’, personality dimensions emerge out of the connectivity structure that exists between the various components of personality. After outlining the network theory, we illustrate how it applies to personality research in four domains: (i) the overall organization of personality components; (ii) the distinction between state and trait; (iii) the genetic architecture of personality; and (iv) the relation between personality and psychopathology. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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