The Consistency of Personality

This is actually something I wrote a very long time ago, (around 8 years ago I think!), when I was studying psychology.

I was recently going through my old Google Drive files and I saw this saved and I thought that the subject was pretty interesting…so why not publish it for the whole world to see!!!

It’s a research paper about how the mind can be pretty fluid and notes all of the different types of personalities there can be. It is in no way properly scientific, and should be taken as informational rather than educational.

So without further ado…


This report on the consistency of personality is based on Mischel and Peake (1982) experiment that hypothesized that behavior is more determined by the characteristics of a situation than our personality type.

This report is similar to their experiment as it is on the consistency of personality. The hypothesis of this report was that participants would be inconsistent when tested on the same personality traits in different situations. A questionnaire was constructed that included 25 questions.

There were 5 traits that were tested for and each trait had 5 questions dedicated to it, with each question relating to a slightly different situation. 20 participants were then asked to carry out the questionnaire.

The results were then collected and the mean worked out for each of the participants and an overall group mean also calculated. This group mean came 2.49 out of 5, conclusively showing that the answers people gave to the questions were in fact inconsistent, therefore showing that people’s personality is inconsistent within different situations.

Terms of Reference

This report is on the consistency of personality and is similar in content to Mischel and Peake (1982).

The aim was to find out whether personality is inconsistent within different situations; however, there were some variables that could have influenced the results somewhat, such as participant’s eagerness to quickly finish the questionnaire and/or incorrect results from participants not willing to share their true answers, despite anonymity.

This report had a time limit of 3 weeks and a deadline of 30/5/2008.


This report on the consistency of personality is based on Mischel and Peakes experiment conducted in 1982.

Mischel concluded that just because we know a persons behaviour in a certain situation, you can’t know what they might be like in another situation. For example, a person could be submissive in the workplace, but assertive when amongst friends or family.

Therefore, Mischel summarised that it is the situation someone is in that dictates behaviour. Mischel believed that too much emphasis was put on trait theory and the consistency that it brought with it.

Hans Eysenck was one of the most important personality theorists, and he used factor analysis to determine the groups of traits that describe a persons personality. As a result of his research, he theorised the idea of there being 2 personality dimensions each consisting of a variety of trait. These were Introversion- Extroversion (E) and Neuroticism- Stability (N).

He also came up with the Eysenck Personality Inventory which contains 57 questions which is designed to place people within a section.

Allport and Odbert (1936) came up with a theory that there were 18000 different traits that people could have in any number of combinations and the trait were words from the English dictionary.

From this work, Allport believed that personality traits could come as one of three types of traits that included:

  • Cardinal traits, which Allport believed were overriding traits that could dominate a persons personality.
  • Central traits that he saw to be the core traits of someone’s personality.
  • Secondary traits which are the less common characteristics that people have.

Raymond Cattell continued on Allport and Odberts 18000 trait theory which he firstly reduced to 171 different trait names by omitting synonyms and irrelevant words. He then used factor analysis, similar to Eysenck, to produce a list of just 16 personality factors, which this report is based on.

Cattell considered the 16 traits to be source traits that are the building blocks of everybody’s personality. These source traits are the basis for surface traits, which according to Cattell, are the behaviours that we can see in different people.

Materials/ apparatus

In order to conduct this experiment, certain materials were needed.

These included:

  • Informed consent form which was individual to this report. It was used to give each participant a summary of what the report was about, and also told them that the data collected from their results was to be kept anonymous. If the participant was happy with what they were supposed to do, they signed the form. A copy of this form, (unsigned by participant) is included in the appendix.
  • Questionnaire that contained 25 questions (5 questions for each 5 traits), which the participants answered by either circling the answer, like me or unlike me.  A copy of the questionnaire is included in the appendix.
  • Debriefing sheet that was given to the participant once the questionnaire was completed. It describes the experiment in more detail, and also outlines the hypothesis and structure of the questionnaire. 

Controls/ Methodology

As this report is on the consistency of personality, based on Mischel and Peakes (1982) experiment, Raymond Cattell’s 16 personality factors were used. However, only 5 different traits were picked.

This was because of the fact that to get accurate results, 5 questions were used for each trait that related to a different situation, therefore if all 16 traits were used, 80 questions would needed to have been constructed, deeming it unfeasible.

In order to gain results quickly and with a good degree of accuracy, a questionnaire was used, with each of the 25 questions relating to a different situation.

The traits chosen to be included in the questionnaire were:

  • Reserved- Warm hearted
  • Affected by feelings- Emotionally stable
  • Practical- Imaginative
  • Submissive- Assertive
  • Relaxed- Tense

These traits were chosen because of there relative difference to each other, as a result achieving an accurate picture of how people react in different situations.

The 5 traits were mixed up and put into a random order, in order to ensure accurate results.

This method of mixing them up also guaranteed unbiased results as the participants did not know what traits they were being asked about, but could only see the different situations which they then based their answer on.

To further gain accurate results, completely random people were chosen to participate. This involved walking around the campus of West Lothian College and asking random people if they were prepared to participate.

The participants were given a summary of what the questionnaire was about, but did not know what traits they were 1) being questioned about, and 2) which traits were where in the questionnaire.

Results/ Analysis

This report is about the consistency of personality, based on Mischel and Peake (1982).

The aim was to determine the extent to which various personality traits can be said to be consistent across different situations. The hypothesis devised was that participants would be inconsistent when tested on the same personality traits in different situations.

In order to carry out this hypothesis, a relevant means in which to collect the data was needed.

A questionnaire was decided upon because of quickness and relative accuracy. The informed consent, questionnaire and debriefing sheet were devised from a group effort including Harry (myself), Andrew, Lynne and Thomas.

I wrote up the informed consent form, which roughly outlined what the experiment was about and also explained to the participant that their results would be kept completely anonymous.

The anonymity of the results is important for the participants to know as the questions are somewhat personal so it ensures they give accurate answers to the questions without anyone knowing who answered them.

In order for the participant to continue onto the questionnaire, they had to sign the form which indicated their permission for the results to be used.

Thomas created the debriefing form which was given to the participants after they had successfully completed the questionnaire. This form goes into more detail about the experiment and how the results from them would be used to prove the hypothesis and the hypothesis was also outlined in the debriefing form.

As with the informed consent form, all of the experimenters signed the forms.

The plan of the experiment was created by Lynne. A plan was needed in order to gain the results effectively, and to also outline what each of the group members had to do. This was useful as the report had to be handed in on the deadline, and the plan helped to ensure efficiency.

The questionnaire was devised by Andrew.

It was based on the questions asked in different forms of psychometric testing that were researched through the internet and textbooks. 5 different traits were chosen to be included in the questionnaire that were:

  • Reserved- Warm hearted
  • Affected by feelings- Emotionally stable
  • Practical- Imaginative
  • Submissive- Assertive
  • Relaxed- Tense

For each of these traits, 5 questions were constructed that were relevant to the trait but they were each about different situations. For example, for the trait ‘reserved or warm hearted’, the question was ‘I am quiet among people I have not met before’, with another question for that trait being, ‘I enjoy a lot of time to myself’.

The questions were to be answered by the participant circling either LIKE ME or NOT LIKE ME. The questions were set out so if the participant answered LIKE ME, then that would relate to the first half of the trait, so for example, for the reserved- warm hearted trait, the answer LIKE ME would equate to that person being reserved, and submissive- assertive LIKE ME would be submissive etc.

Once all the LIKE ME results were collected for each of the traits, they were added up to give a figure out of 25 (the number of questions).

This figure was then divided by 5 (the number of traits), to give a mean score for one participant.

The mean scores were then collected for each of the 20 participants and then displayed graphically.

A score of either 0 or 5 for a participant would have proven the null hypothesis of personality being consistent, correct. However, as the results ranged from 1.4 to 3.2, the original hypothesis of participants having inconsistent personalities in different situations was proven correct.


The mean score for the group of 20 participants, came 2.49.

This proves the hypothesis of personality being inconsistent within different situations. 

There was some discrepancy with the results because of certain variables that arose with the questionnaire. These included a risk of inaccurate results from participants rushing it.

This is a possibility because all participants were chosen completely at random and picked from anyone at (redacted) campus so there was the possibility that some participants didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the questionnaire.

Also, as a result of the questions having to be relatively vague due to the nature of the study; some of the participants didn’t fully understand some of the questions and had to ask one of the researchers for verification of the question. 


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