Debates in Current Personality (PSYL10120)

Home / Psychology 4 / Debates in Current Personality (PSYL10120)

Debates in Current Personality (PSYL10120)

In personality psychology, as elsewhere, many fundamental questions appear to be open for debate. This course will offer advanced students an interactive forum for learning about some of these questions along with some possible contradicting answers to them.

The first week's session will be a lecture introducing four topics to be covered and debated in the following sessions (see below). The following four sessions will comprise debates on these four topics. Students will be randomly assigned into eight groups such that each week two groups will have to debate on one of the topics, defending contradicting views. During the last third of each of these four sessions, each student will write a 100-150 word summary defending either of the positions held by the debaters of the week, which is to consolidate the learned material. Each summary will then be assessed by one or two other students at the end of the session, which is to further consolidate the material (the peer-assessments will not be used for the course marks, but will be returned to students for feedback).


The course offers advanced psychology students an opportunity to read about, present and discuss outstanding issues in current personality psychology. The experience of formally debating should provide basis for building an important transferable skill.

Introduction to the four topics to be covered and debated
S.1, 7 George Square
15/01/2019 - 11:10am to 1:00pm
Topic 1: Are global traits the best way to conceptualise human personality differences? That is, do the strengths and achievements of the trait approach outweigh its limitations?
S.1, 7 George Square
22/01/2019 - 11:10am to 1:00pm
Topic 2: Has personality measurement and modelling been making strides over the decades? Or are we still stuck with major flaws not (yet) fixed?
S.1, 7 George Square
29/01/2019 - 11:10am to 1:00pm
Topic 3: Is there robust evidence for environmental factors that influence personality (traits) and their development?
S.1, 7 George Square
05/02/2019 - 11:10am to 1:00pm
Topic 4: Do individual differences in the Big Five traits matter enough for everyday life to merit attention?
S.1, 7 George Square
12/02/2019 - 11:10am to 1:00pm
Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students should:

  • Understand that some of the fundamental questions of personality psychology are still open for debate
  • Know some of the opposing views on the covered outstanding topics of personality psychology
  • Be more skilled in argumentation in both written and verbal manner

Indicative but not exhaustive bibliography


Deary, I. J. (2009). The trait approach to personality. In P. J. Corr & G. Matthews (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of personality psychology. (pp. 89 - 109). New York, NY US: Cambridge University Press

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2008). Empirical and theoretical status of the five-factor model of personality traits. In B. Boyle, G. Matthews, & D. Saklofske (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment: Volume 1 - Personality theories and models (pp. 273 - 295). London: SAGE

Cervone, D. (2004). The Architecture of Personality. Psychological Review, 111, 183 - 204. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.111.1.183

Cramer, A. O. J., van der Sluis, S., Noordhof, A., Wichers, M., Geschwind, N., Aggen, S. H.,  Borsboom, D. (2012). Dimensions of Normal Personality as Networks in Search of Equilibrium: You Can’t Like Parties if You Don’t Like People. European Journal of Personality, 26, 414 - 431. doi:10.1002/per.1866

Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1998). Reconciling processing dynamics and personality dispositions. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 229 - 258. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.49.1.229

Roberts, B. W., Wood, D., & Smith, J. L. (2005). Evaluating Five Factor Theory and social investment perspectives on personality trait development. Journal of Research in Personality, 39, 166 -184. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2004.08.002

Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martínez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 401 - 421.


Roberts, B. W., Kuncel, N. R., Shiner, R., Caspi, A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2007). The power of personality: The comparative validity of personality traits, socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability for predicting important life outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 313 - 345. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00047.x

Additional Information: 


20% participation (4% for each lecture).

40% debate participation, engagement and argumentation. Each student will participate in one debate; the dates will be randomly assigned in the first lecture. Assessment will be carried out by the course organiser on a scale from 0 to 40.

40% critical essay (maximum length 1500 words) at the end of the course on one of the debated topics (excluding the topic on which the student debated), weighing evidence for both sides of the debate. Submission deadline Thursday 21st February, mark and feedback return week beginning Monday 11th March.

An electronic copy must be submitted through an own work declaration confirmation form and Turnitin link in Learn by the deadline. The electronic submission allows us to check for plagiarism and word count.

The submission deadline must be observed. Failure to comply with the deadline without good reason will incur mark penalties as follows:

  • Up to 7 calender days, 5 marks per calender day will be deducted
  • More than 7 calender days late a mark of zero will be given