New place, new person?: is acclimatisation to university accompanied by change in scores on personality tests?

Nair, Vikas (2013) New place, new person?: is acclimatisation to university accompanied by change in scores on personality tests? DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Introduction: Personality Trait theories uncritically accept the lay perspective of personality as an internal phenomenon linked to individuality and agency. This view flies in the face of empirical evidence demonstrating environmental influences on behaviour (Bargh & Ferguson, 2000). The idea that agency resides within individuals, and that a separation exists between individuals and their environment, has long been contested by theorists and clinicians arguing for acknowledgement of contextual factors (Skinner, 1971; Smail, 1999).

Scores on personality measures based on the Five-Factor Approach (FFA; Costa & McCrae, 1985) have shown instability across the lifespan in relation to factors such as relationships (Neyer & Lehnart, 2007), and short-term changes in response to major adverse events (Lockenhoff, Terracciano, Patriciu, Eaton & Costa, 2009). That “personality” scores change in response to the environment highlights the weakness of the trait concept as a way of understanding behaviour.

The move to university represents a major change of social environment that is sudden but predictable, and persists for a long time. It is therefore a time at which we can expect to observe changes in behaviour. Previous research into university acclimatisation and “homesickness” has assumed personality scores to be a static variable (e.g. Fisher & Hood, 1987) that impacts upon the relocation without being affected by it.

This study sought to investigate the hypothesis that novel identity narratives would be evoked by a new environment and that this would impact upon acclimatisation. The study aimed to test this hypothesis by examining participant accounts.

Method: First-year students (N = 7) completed two questionnaires designed to assess personality and homesickness. These measures were re-administered after six and fourteen weeks. Participants were interviewed at all three time-points, describing their experiences of adjusting to life at university.

Interviews with participants were used as a basis for comparison with scores on psychometrics designed to measure personality and homesickness. These were analysed using a method that aimed at exploring narratives likely to impact on participants’ acclimatisation and presentation of themselves.

The extended paper details a quantitative analysis of psychometric scores amongst a larger sample of 1st year students (N = 58).

Results and Discussion: Participant accounts were analysed in terms of identity narratives to allow formulation of their experiences in relation to their psychometric scores. Participants described behaving differently at university and taking on new roles that impacted upon their acclimatisation. Despite reporting changes, participants expressed essentialist views about the self.

Results from the quantitative study were not supportive of the hypothesis that homesickness would be associated with change on FFA measures.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Gresswell, M.
Keywords: Mixed methods, Narrative, Identity, Personality, Homesickness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute of Work, Health and Organisations
UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 12968
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2013 12:50
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2016 08:12

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