René Mõttus

The Personality Machine

The co-variation of certain behaviors, thoughts and feelings is often taken as evidence for there being unobserved attributes of human mind (latent traits) that are the common causes of these variables and, thereby, the source of their covariance. Recently, an alternative explanation was offered: the co-variations may result from direct (causal) relations between what are usually seen as mere indicators of common-cause latent traits. In this view, some behaviors, thoughts and feelings co-exist because they belong to the same causal network of intra-individual processes. In a study, currently under review, we offer one possible framework for thinking of and parameterizing the emergence and stabilizing of such networks. The framework is based on three principles: people strive for fluctuating equilibria between their characteristics and environments, this is achieved via different person-environment transactions, and there are both reinforcing and inhibiting connections between the network elements. Simulations show that such networks are capable of explaining several key findings, including (1) the five factor model of inter-individual differences, which emerges from a less differentiated model and is replicable across independent samples, (2) correlations between trait scores based on different samples of trait indicators (convergent validity), (3) high rank-order stability on the background of some intra-individual variability, and (4) environment-triggered personality change. Moreover, the poorly fitting measurement models often observed in personality data are shown to possibly result from subgroups of people having different network architectures. 

I think that this is pretty exciting way to think of and model human personality. Additionally, it opens a way for bridging the cap between trait psychology, which is concerned with individual differences and areas of psychology that are interested in processes within people.

An example of how inter-individual processes can emerge as traits, see this a bit cryptic movie (done with qgraph and ffmpeg).