The “consistency” controversy and the accuracy of personality judgments


  • I am grateful for the useful comments of David Buss, Douglas Kenrick, and Stephen West.

Requests for reprints should be sent to David C. Funder, Department of Psychology and Social Relations, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.


Areas of clear and acknowledged disagreement in the personality literature's “consistency controversy” are surprisingly difficult to pin down. The present essay suggests that one basic and real disagreement nowadays is the admissability of subjective judgments of personality as data: Personologists are willing to use them, and situationists are not. Situationists generally regard judgments as so influenced by error as to be essentially unusable, and instead prefer direct measurements of specific behaviors. The relative uses and limitations of global judgments and specific measures are considered. It is concluded that any position that judgments reflect “nothing but” error is untenable. It is further concluded that each sort of data has distinct uses and limitations, provides a check on the other, and is indispensable.