Advanced

Resurrecting the explanatory status of traits: A non-reductive account of explanation in personality psychology

Nilsson, Artur LU (2015) The 15th Annual European Congress of Psychology
Abstract
Personality psychology has long been plagued by the apparent explanatory vacuity of trait constructs. The problem is that trait explanations are circular insofar as the traits are defined and measured in terms of the sort of behavioral regularities they are subsequently invoked to explain. To address this problem, researchers have typically either claimed that traits can be reduced to material causes of the behavioral regularities, which has proved to be extraordinarily problematic, or conceded that trait constructs serve no explanatory function. But this dichotomy is, I suggest, false, resting on the questionable presupposition that a psychological construct must, in order to have explanatory status, be reducible to material terms.... (More)
Personality psychology has long been plagued by the apparent explanatory vacuity of trait constructs. The problem is that trait explanations are circular insofar as the traits are defined and measured in terms of the sort of behavioral regularities they are subsequently invoked to explain. To address this problem, researchers have typically either claimed that traits can be reduced to material causes of the behavioral regularities, which has proved to be extraordinarily problematic, or conceded that trait constructs serve no explanatory function. But this dichotomy is, I suggest, false, resting on the questionable presupposition that a psychological construct must, in order to have explanatory status, be reducible to material terms. Although material forms of explanation can be applied to the causal formation of personality, they cannot explain behavior in terms of personality, because personality is not in itself explicable in material terms. Personality explanation is, I argue, a species of reason-based explanation. We explain a behavior by showing how it fits, in an empirically adequate way, into a coherent pattern that helps us to make sense of why a rational being would perform the behavior in question, drawing in part on previous knowledge about the capacities and rationales typically associated with the agent’s traits and worldview. The purpose of the current paper is to explicate and defend this non-reductive account of explanation in personality psychology. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
unpublished
subject
keywords
personality, explanation, traits, non-reductive
conference name
The 15th Annual European Congress of Psychology
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c461e4b2-e83f-4a55-b05d-ebe1f4558936 (old id 7695638)
date added to LUP
2015-08-12 11:57:33
date last changed
2016-04-16 12:16:09
@misc{c461e4b2-e83f-4a55-b05d-ebe1f4558936,
  abstract     = {Personality psychology has long been plagued by the apparent explanatory vacuity of trait constructs. The problem is that trait explanations are circular insofar as the traits are defined and measured in terms of the sort of behavioral regularities they are subsequently invoked to explain. To address this problem, researchers have typically either claimed that traits can be reduced to material causes of the behavioral regularities, which has proved to be extraordinarily problematic, or conceded that trait constructs serve no explanatory function. But this dichotomy is, I suggest, false, resting on the questionable presupposition that a psychological construct must, in order to have explanatory status, be reducible to material terms. Although material forms of explanation can be applied to the causal formation of personality, they cannot explain behavior in terms of personality, because personality is not in itself explicable in material terms. Personality explanation is, I argue, a species of reason-based explanation. We explain a behavior by showing how it fits, in an empirically adequate way, into a coherent pattern that helps us to make sense of why a rational being would perform the behavior in question, drawing in part on previous knowledge about the capacities and rationales typically associated with the agent’s traits and worldview. The purpose of the current paper is to explicate and defend this non-reductive account of explanation in personality psychology.},
  author       = {Nilsson, Artur},
  keyword      = {personality,explanation,traits,non-reductive},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Resurrecting the explanatory status of traits: A non-reductive account of explanation in personality psychology},
  year         = {2015},
}