Shared Meaning and the Convergence among Observers' Personality Descriptions


  • The contribution of both authors to this article is equal, so the order of authorship is arbitrary. Portions of this research were presented at the 1990 Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology meeting in Newport, RI. We would like to thank Jenny Owens for her assistance in stimuli preparation in Study 2 and Jan Cheek and David Jewell for their work as experimenters in that study. We also express our thanks to J. S. Tanaka for valuable discussions about methodological issues and to Karina W. Davidson, David Funder, Bernadette Park, Stephen G. West, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

concerning this article can be sent to either William F. Chaplin, Department of Psychology, University of Alabama, Box 870348, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0348 or A. T. Panter, Department of Psychology, CB #3270, Davie Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270.


ABSTRACT “Shared meaning” is a parameter in Kenny's (1991) rater agreement model concerning the extent to which two raters agree about the trait-implicative meaning of the observations they have made of a target. In the first study, 201 individuals rated observations relevant to friendliness and organization on the meaning dimensions of typicality, difficulty level, and evaluation. They also rated 25 targets on the two constructs. We found strong support for a modest relation between the similarity of meaning ratings and the similarity of target ratings, especially for raw, as opposed to standard score, ratings. In Study 2 we considered shared meaning in a version of Kenny's model that included the consistency and communication parameters. Judge pairs (N= 110) evaluated two targets described by play and openness on several personality dimensions. Shared meaning significantly contributed to rating agreement for both targets, but consistency and communication, as manipulated in this study, did not. Implications of employing the broader consensus model in experimental studies are discussed. If I say “sorrow,” you'll know exactly what I mean only if you've experienced it in the same sense I have. -Joel Peterson, Ravenswood's Winemaker, in Darlington (1991)