Volume 1, Issue 4
4th Quarter, 2006

Strategies for Personality Transfer

William Sims Bainbridge

page 5 of 15

There is a very long tradition of measuring personality traits rigorously through self-report questionnaires, or by asking people familiar with the person in question to rate him or her on the Bainbridgebasis of their close knowledge[1]. In a sense, the research in this tradition has systematized the folk psychology of human personality enshrined in language, through the use of statistical procedures to identify consistent connections between concepts like the distinction between warm people and cold people, or trustworthy and untrustworthy. A near-consensus has been achieved within psychology that something like five separate factors describe personality dispositions, the so-called “Big 5”.[2] Here is one set of commonly-used labels: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and Intellect. An equivalent set is memorable because it spells OCEAN: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Characteristic Adaptations
McCrae and Costa begin their list of adaptations with acquired competencies, but I think it is difficult to distinguish competency from style. For example, when evaluating a person’s language usage, we can focus either on an abstract measure like the size of his or her vocabulary, or we can focus on the actual way the person speaks, including the distinctive qualities of voice and the nuances of intonation that linguists call prosody. Thus, remaining within the sphere of language, one would want not only to give the person English achievement tests, but also to record extensive samples of speech and writing. Speech samples are primarily of two kinds, free speech such as might be elicited during an interview and rote speech such as when a person reads a passage of literature to train up a computer voice recognition system.  Computer methods for capturing dynamic facial expressions are already well advanced.[3]

Image 3: McCrae and Costa's Personality Characteristics

Style highlights the fact that it can be difficult to distinguish skills from intentions, especially in the social area. It is said, "A gentleman does not offend unintentionally." Thus, one needs to know the circumstances and the individual’s intentions to know whether an offensive man might be a gentleman. In determining a person’s etiquette skills, tests must be used that compensate for variations in what a person seeks to accomplish or in fundamental sociability traits such as extraversion.

Technical skills are an interesting area, in part because their patterning across individuals is so different from that of personality traits like the "Big 5." It makes perfect sense to give everybody a test to measure their location along the "Big 5" dimensions, but it does not make sense to give everybody a test to see how well they tune a piano. A vanishingly small fraction of the population knows how to tune a piano, but for those like myself who hold certificates as professional piano tuners, this skill reveals something important, including a special way of hearing, manual dexterity, and a system for working one’s way through the more than 200 strings on one of these musical instruments. Thus, a brief inventory of a person’s unique skills can serve as a prelude to more precise examination of each one in depth. Methodologies associated with computerized expert systems will be helpful here.[4] One labor-intensive approach to development of an expert system (often called a decision support system today), is for a knowledge engineer to interview a subject matter expert intensively on ever detail of his or her craft, but for efficient skill measurement a more automated approach is required.

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1. Allport, Floyd H., and Gordon W. Allport. 1921. “Personality Traits: Their Classification and Measurement,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 16: 6-40. (back to top)

2. Wiggins, Jerry S. (Ed.). 1996. The Five-Factor Model of Personality. New York: Guilford. (back to top)

3. Thalmann, Nadia Magnenat, Prem Kalra, and Marc Escher. 1998. “Face to Virtual Face,” Proceedings of the IEEE, 86(5): 870-883. (back to top)

4. Benfer, Robert A., Edward E. Brent, and Louanna Furbee. 1991. Expert Systems. Newbury Park, California: Sage. (back to top)

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