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Observer Bias: An Interaction of Temperament Traits With Biases in the Semantic Perception of Lexical Material

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Observer Bias: An Interaction of Temperament Traits With Biases in the Semantic Perception of Lexical Material

Ira Trofimova. PLoS One.

Abstract

The lexical approach is a method in differential psychology that uses people's estimations of verbal descriptors of human behavior in order to derive the structure of human individuality. The validity of the assumptions of this method about the objectivity of people's estimations is rarely questioned. Meanwhile the social nature of language and the presence of emotionality biases in cognition are well-recognized in psychology. A question remains, however, as to whether such an emotionality-capacities bias is strong enough to affect semantic perception of verbal material. For the lexical approach to be valid as a method of scientific investigations, such biases should not exist in semantic perception of the verbal material that is used by this approach. This article reports on two studies investigating differences between groups contrasted by 12 temperament traits (i.e. by energetic and other capacities, as well as emotionality) in the semantic perception of very general verbal material. Both studies contrasted the groups by a variety of capacities: endurance, lability and emotionality separately in physical, social-verbal and mental aspects of activities. Hypotheses of "background emotionality" and a "projection through capacities" were supported. Non-evaluative criteria for categorization (related to complexity, organization, stability and probability of occurrence of objects) followed the polarity of evaluative criteria, and did not show independence from this polarity. Participants with stronger physical or social endurance gave significantly more positive ratings to a variety of concepts, and participants with faster physical tempo gave more positive ratings to timing-related concepts. The results suggest that people's estimations of lexical material related to human behavior have emotionality, language- and dynamical capacities-related biases and therefore are unreliable. This questions the validity of the lexical approach as a method for the objective study of stable individual differences.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: This author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. The number of statistically significant differences in estimations of contrast temperament groups, Study 1.
Axis Y: the total number of significant differences; the sign indicates the pole of the scales chosen by the group with the higher scores on a given temperament trait. The colours represent the spectrum of these differences along seven factors to which the scales are associated. Axis X: groups of concepts (see text for details).
Figure 2
Figure 2. The number of statistically significant differences in estimations of contrast temperament groups, Study 2.
Axis Y: the total number of significant differences; the sign indicates the pole of the scales chosen by the group with the higher scores on a given temperament trait. The colours represent the spectrum of these differences along seven factors to which the scales are associated. Axis X: groups of concepts (see text for details).

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This author has no support or funding to report.
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