In a recent article in Biological Psychiatry regarding the role of genetic variations underlying human personality, the study found “no genetic variants that significantly contribute to personality variation were identified, while our sample provides over 90% power to detect variants that explain only 1% of the trait variance” (Lehrer, Wired (A), 2010)This research suggests that genetics do not play a significant role in contributing to personality paradox. One could argue the accuracy of this research. Kendler and Baker (2006) “suggests that genetic influences on measures of the environment are pervasive in extent and modest to moderate in impact. Every aspect of the environment that we were able to examine was significantly influenced by genetic factors” (p. 620). Many factors influence an individual’s personality development. Plomin, DeFries, Knopik, and Neiderheiser (2013) “personality is a good candidate to explain … how people select, modify, construct and perceive their environments”. Factors that can influence an individual’s personality include, but are not limited to: “genetics, cultural influences, environment, development process, as well as biological factors” (Morf,2006, p. 1533 ).
The human brain is the most complex organ in the human body. One may argue based on that premise that human beings are not always one thing. For example someone is driving erratically. One might assume that the individual has not regard for the law or the safety of others. If you follow the driver to they may be rushing to an accident involving their wife and/or children. If human beings assign a personality trait to another solely attributing the behavior to the individuals’ personality we have committed what is known as a fundamental attribution error. In the example the individual was labeled as reckless or inconsiderate in one situation, but may be a defensive driver in his/her everyday commute. This paradox in personality may lead some to believe that this is the personality of the person, rather than the persons’ situations or interactions with a stimulus from the environment being the cause of the individuals’ behavior. One of the metaphors used by Mischel as an example for interactions of individuals is as follows:
A car making a screeching noise. How does a mechanic solve the problem? He begins by trying to identify the specific conditions that trigger the noise. Is there a screech when the car is accelerating, or when it’s shifting gears, or turning at slow speeds? Unless the mechanic can give the screech a context, he’ll never find the broken part. Mischel wanted psychologists to think like mechanics, and look at people’s responses under particular conditions (Lehrer, Science Blogs, 2010B).
A majority of human beings find it difficult to focus on the things we can control and tend to focus on the outcomes. It is paramount to understand that there are many situations one encounters that they cannot control. Prior to assigning a label or a characteristic to that individual one should seek to objective review the situation from the individuals’ perspective before attributing their actions as part of their personality. One way to better interpret this information is by developing and understanding of Cognitive Affective Processing.
Cognitive Affective Processing to explain Personality Paradox
“According to the cognitive-affective processing system (CAPS) model, behavior is a function of how the distinctive cognitive affective system of the individual responds to one’s subjective experience of the situation encountered” (Shoda, Wilson, Chen, Gilmore, & Smith, 2013). The CAPS model is used to develop an understanding of the causes and coping mechanisms that are brought specific situations experienced by the individual. As touched on before many factors influence persons’ behavior in a given situation. For example of an individual that has experienced a traumatic event, such as physical abuse from a parent may react in one of the following ways. The person may become sensory seeking and over indulge in eating, exercise and/or sexual activity. The other possible reaction is to withdraw completely from the situation so they do not have to experience those feelings associated with that stimulus. The CAPS model encompasses regulation of two areas of the self; motivation and competencies. “Regulatory motivation is the outcome of how the individual construes/encodes the situation as well as the values, beliefs, standards, goals, and emotional states that become activated by it. Regulatory competencies, we mean the cognitive and attentional mechanisms that help execute goal-directed behavior” (Mischel & Ayduck, 2013,p. 114).
Individual are unique they have different life experiences, belief systems, and standards. The way an individual construes a stimulus may vary based on the factors listed above, as well as other factors. Human beings process situations and interaction differently based on a number of factors. “Fundamentally different, conception of personality invariance has construed personality as a system of mediating processes, conscious and unconscious, whose interactions are manifested in predictable patterns of situation-behavior relations” (Mischel et al, 1995,p. 247) . Self-awareness in recognizing patterns that influence behavior will be paramount to mitigating situations that might create an observable personality paradox.