Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are our personalities really set for life by first grade?

What was Roman Polanski like when he was around first grade age?

Via yahoo's main page there is a story on LiveScience with what seemed to me a startling headline,
Personality Set for Life By 1st Grade, Study Suggests
I find that startling because, do you remember what you were like in first grade? I do kind of. I was a rotten little brat. I was stupid. I liked stupid things. I was weird.

I don't want to be anything like that little turd.

But, as is so often the case with these stories, the backpedaling from the headline begins with the very first paragraph:
Our personalities stay pretty much the same throughout our lives, from our early childhood years to after we're over the hill, according to a new study.
Emphasis added by yours truly. (I wouldn't have added that emphasis when I was in first grade.)

We've gone from "personality set for life" to "personalities stay pretty much the same" in two sentences.

But it gets worse for this story. Next paragraph:
The results show personality traits observed in children as young as first graders are a strong predictor of adult behavior.
Now it's "personality traits" in "children as young as first graders," and "strong predictor of adult behavior."

That is a seriously jumbled up sentence. I mean, I thought this study said that personalities are set for life by first grade. Now, two paragraphs in, it's been switched so that personality traits that were observed are strong predictors of behavior (not "personality").

In other words, the headline was nothing but a lie.

But let's go on. Who did this observing of personality traits in children?
Using data from a 1960s study of approximately 2,400 ethnically diverse schoolchildren (grades 1 - 6) in Hawaii, researchers compared teacher personality ratings of the students with videotaped interviews of 144 of those individuals 40 years later.
Are you effing kidding me? Teacher personality ratings? What the hell are those? Who are these teachers? What level of sophisticated observation was brought to bear on these kids?

And for crying out loud-- 144 out of 2,400? We're told the original 2,400 were "ethnically diverse" -- were the 144 they chose?

And so what if they're "ethnically diverse"? They're all from the same state!

And what happened to these people between first grade and "40 years later"? Doesn't that have some bearing on their personalities?
Previous research has suggested that while our personalities can change, it's not an easy undertaking.

Personality is "a part of us, a part of our biology," [University of California, Riverside doctoral candidate Christopher] Nave said. "Life events still influence our behaviors, yet we must acknowledge the power of personality in understanding future behavior as well."
Not based on this study, my friend. I'm no "doctoral candidate" or nothing like that, but I got me some smarts.

You're making a sweeping generalization about human beings based on a sample of 144 people from a single state, based on interviews (how many?, by the way) with those people conducted 40 years after some teachers wrote "plays well with others" on their report cards (to be fair, I don't know if that's how the teacher evaluations went but I'm venting -- and no, I didn't used to vent in first grade). And the last 40 years have been unprecedented in human history.

We in America have seen our standard of living rise to preposterous levels. We all have cell phones now. iPods. Everyone has a tv and most of us have cable and a lot of us have DVRs. The cost of food has gone down -- barely any of us in America go to bed hungry anymore.

To the authors of the study: When you were in first grade, were you a lazy jackass with a desire to self-promote?

To the authors of the story: When you were in first grade, were you a lazy jackass who just accepted everything you were told by manipulative "researchers" trying to get their names in the paper?

No?

What do you think Megan Fox was like in first grade?

Megan Fox pic source.
Roman Polanski pic source.

1 comment:

shampoo said...

my evaluations used to always say "talks too much. likes to read." some old biddy game me a d- in deportment once! i never hopped up and slapped a beesh, i just talked too much and liked to read.