Volume 1, Issue 4
4th Quarter, 2006

Strategies for Personality Transfer

William Sims Bainbridge

page 11 of 15

In designing an optimal system for personality capture, we may be guided by the following eight principles.

1. Simplify the task by finding commonalities among superficially different aspects of personality. Some of the same measures may be used for traits that have been conceptualized differently. For example, a common way of locating an individual along the “Big 5” personality dimensions is to give him or her a questionnaire to rate himself or herself. Arguably, this is more properly a way of rating the person’s self-image or individual identity. In contrast, one might get a more objective “Big 5” personality analysis by having people who know the individual well rate him or her on the questionnaire items. Both the Self and Self II questionnaire software modules are designed to measure both a person’s self-image and values, because the individual rates each of a long list of personal descriptors twice, first in terms of how bad or good it is (values), and second in terms of how little or much it describes the person (self-image). The categories and sub-categories in the McCrae and Costa system outlined in Figure 1 are really different approaches social and behavioral scientists have taken in thinking about human character, and there is every reason to believe that many of them overlap or can be translated into each other, thus greatly simplifying the challenge.

2. Distinguish core features of personality from peripheral ones. McCrae and Costa believe they did this by naming their first major category basic tendencies, although they recognize that some psychologists would place personality traits like the “Big 5” under characteristic adaptations, which presumably is the second-most-fundamental category. One should avoid the “lowest common denominator fallacy,” which is focusing on characteristics shared by all humanity. To do this misses characteristics that define a person’s unique individuality. For example, the methods used to develop the “Big 5” specifically focus on major dimensions of variation that cut across all groups of humans, such as the criterion in some versions of it that explicitly exclude gender differences. Of course, the “Big 5” should be measured, but the core of a particular individual will also require measurement of central attitudes and beliefs, distinctive skills and strategies of adaptation not already reflected in the other measures.

3. Begin with a low-fidelity record of a personality, then gradually increase fidelity as technology and other resources permit. This strategy gives us optimism that we may begin to archive personalities immediately, especially of elderly people or others whose long-term survival is in doubt. A young and healthy person might want to make a special effort now to archive as much of his or her personality can be reliably captured using present techniques. Then, occasionally throughout life add new kinds of data as the technology to do so improves. Even given constant technology, archiving all that may be an impractically big task. Incremental fidelity increase is a very practical model, that can be integrated with the core model described above. An individual might attend a retreat for a few days to record “the core of the core,” including Self II (the first 500 stimuli) and The Year 2100 (all 2,000), plus physical observations such as digital video of speech and movement coupled with physiological measurements of reactions to emotion-eliciting situations. Then the individual could gradually archive further aspects of self at home, including additional questionnaires plus writing autobiographical memories.

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