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Abstract

Yes We Can! A Plea for Direct Behavioural Observation in Personality Research

MITJA D. BACK and BORIS EGLOFF

Department of Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Furr's target paper (this issue) is thought to enhance the standing of personality psychology as a truly behavioural science. We wholeheartedly agree with this goal. In our comment we argue for more specific and ambitious requirements for behavioural personality research. Specifically, we show why behaviour should be observed directly. Moreover, we illustratively describe potentially interesting approaches in behavioural personality research: lens model analyses, the observation of multiple behaviours in diverse experimentally created situations and the observation of behaviour in real life. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The Categories of Behaviour Should be Clearly Defined

PETER BORKENAU

Department of Psychology, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

The target paper is helpful by clarifying the terminology as well as the strengths and weaknesses of several approaches to collect behavioural data. Insufficiently considered, however, is the clarity of the categories being used for the coding of behaviour. Evidence is reported showing that interjudge agreement for retrospective and even concurrent codings of behaviour does not execeed interjudge agreement for personality traits if the categories being used for the coding of behaviour are not clearly defined. By contrast, if the behaviour to be registered is unambiguously defined, interjudge agreement may be almost perfect. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Behaviour Functions in Personality Psychology

PHILIP J. CORR

Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Furr's target paper highlights the importance, yet under-representation, of behaviour in published articles in personality psychology. Whilst agreeing with most of his points, I remain unclear as to how behaviour (as specifically defined by Furr) relates to other forms of psychological data (e.g. cognitive task performance). In addition, it is not clear how the functions of behaviour are to be decided: different behaviours may serve the same function; and identical behaviours may serve different functions. To clarify these points, methodological and theoretical aspects of Furr's proposal would benefit from delineation. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

On the Difference Between Experience-Sampling Self-Reports and Other Self-Reports

WILLIAM FLEESON

Department of Psychology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Furr's fair but evaluative consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of behavioural assessment methods is a great service to the field. As part of his consideration, Furr makes a subtle and sophisticated distinction between different self-report methods. It is easy to dismiss all self-reports as poor measures, because some are poor. In contrast, Furr points out that the immediacy of the self-reports of behaviour in experience-sampling make experience-sampling one of the three strongest methods for assessing behaviour. This comment supports his conclusion, by arguing that ESM greatly diminishes one the three major problems afflicting self-reports—lack of knowledge—and because direct observations also suffer from the other two major problems afflicting self-reports. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

What and Where is ‘Behaviour’ in Personality Psychology?

LAURA A. KING and JASON TRENT

Department of Psychology, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

Furr is to be lauded for presenting a coherent and persuasive case for the lack of behavioural data in personality psychology. While agreeing wholeheartedly that personality psychology could benefit from greater inclusion of behavioural variables, here we question two aspects of Furr's analysis, first his definition of behaviour and second, his evidence that behaviour is under-appreciated in personality psychology. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Naturalistic Observation of Daily Behaviour in Personality Psychology

MATTHIAS R. MEHL

Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

This comment highlights naturalistic observation as a specific method within Furr's (this issue) cluster direct behavioural observation and discusses the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) as a naturalistic observation sampling method that can be used in relatively large, nomothetic studies. Naturalistic observation with a method such as the EAR can inform researchers' understanding of personality in its relationship to daily behaviour in two important ways. It can help calibrate personality effects against act-frequencies of real-world behaviour and provide ecological, behavioural personality criteria that are independent of self-report. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Measuring Behaviour

D. S. MOSKOWITZ and JENNIFER J. RUSSELL

Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Furr (this issue) provides an illuminating comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of various methods for assessing behaviour. In the selection of a method for assessing behaviour, there should be a careful analysis of the definition of the behaviour and the purpose of assessment. This commentary clarifies and expands upon some points concerning the suitability of experience sampling measures, referred to as Intensive Repeated Measurements in Naturalistic Settings (IRM-NS). IRM-NS measures are particularly useful for constructing measures of differing levels of specificity or generality, for providing individual difference measures which can be associated with multiple layers of contextual variables, and for providing measures capable of reflecting variability and distributional features of behaviour. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Behaviours, Non-Behaviours and Self-Reports

SAMPO V. PAUNONEN

Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada

Furr's (this issue) thoughtful analysis of the contemporary body of research in personality psychology has led him to two conclusions: our science does not do enough to study real, observable behaviours; and, when it does, too often it relies on ‘weak’ methods based on retrospective self-reports of behaviour. In reply, I note that many researchers are interested in going beyond the study of individual behaviours to the behaviour trends embodied in personality traits; and the self-report of behaviour, using well-validated personality questionnaires, is often the best measurement option. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

An Ethological Perspective on How to Define and Study Behaviour

LARS PENKE

Department of Psychology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

While Furr (this issue) makes many important contributions to the study of behaviour, his definition of behaviour is somewhat questionable and also lacks a broader theoretical frame. I provide some historical and theoretical background on the study of behaviour in psychology and biology, from which I conclude that a general definition of behaviour might be out of reach. However, psychological research can gain from adding a functional perspective on behaviour in the tradition of Tinbergens's four questions, which takes long-term outcomes and fitness consequences of behaviours into account. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

What is a Behaviour?

MARCO PERUGINI

Faculty of Psychology, University of Milan—Bicocca, Milan, Italy

The target paper proposes an interesting framework to classify behaviour as well as a convincing plea to use it more often in personality research. However, besides some potential issues in the definition of what is a behaviour, the application of the proposed definition to specific cases is at times inconsistent. I argue that this is because Furr attempts to provide a theory-free definition yet he implicitly uses theoretical considerations when applying the definition to specific cases. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Is Personality Really the Study of Behaviour?

MICHAEL D. ROBINSON

Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA

Furr (this issue) contends that behavioural studies of personality are particularly important, have been under-appreciated, and should be privileged in the future. The present commentary instead suggests that personality psychology has more value as an integrative science rather than one that narrowly pursues a behavioural agenda. Cognition, emotion, motivation, the self-concept and the structure of personality are important topics regardless of their possible links to behaviour. Indeed, the ultimate goal of personality psychology is to understanding individual difference functioning broadly considered rather than behaviour narrowly considered. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Linking Personality and Behaviour Based on Theory

MANFRED SCHMITT

Department of Psychology, University of Koblenz-Landau, Landau, Germany

My comments on Furr's (this issue) target paper ‘Personality as a Truly Behavioural Science’ are meant to complement his behavioural taxonomy and sharpen some of the presumptions and conclusions of his analysis. First, I argue that the relevance of behaviour for our field depends on how we define personality. Second, I propose that every taxonomy of behaviour should be grounded in theory. The quality of behavioural data does not only depend on the validity of the measures we use. It also depends on how well behavioural data reflect theoretical assumptions on the causal factors and mechanisms that shape behaviour. Third, I suggest that the quality of personality theories, personality research and behavioural data will profit from ideas about the psychological processes and mechanisms that link personality and behaviour. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The Apparent Objectivity of Behaviour is Illusory

RYNE A. SHERMAN, CHRISTOPHER S. NAVE and DAVID C. FUNDER

Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA

It is often presumed that objective measures of behaviour (e.g. counts of the number of smiles) are more scientific than more subjective measures of behaviour (e.g. ratings of the degree to which a person behaved in a cheerful manner). We contend that the apparent objectivity of any behavioural measure is illusory. First, the reliability of more subjective measures of behaviour is often strikingly similar to the reliabilities of so-called objective measures. Further, a growing body of literature suggests that subjective measures of behaviour provide more valid measures of psychological constructs of interest. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Personality and Behaviour: A Neglected Opportunity?

LIAD UZIEL and ROY F. BAUMEISTER

Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA

Personality psychology has neglected the study of behaviour. Furr's efforts to provide a stricter definition of behaviour will not solve the problem, although they may be helpful in other ways. His articulation of various research strategies for studying behaviour will be more helpful for enabling personality psychology to contribute important insights and principles about behaviour. The neglect of behaviour may have roots in how personality psychologists define the mission of their field, but expanding that mission to encompass behaviour would be a positive step. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.