Impact of College Personality Course on Personality Understanding

Summary: Students who participate in psychology classes focused on personality traits show improvements in dispositional intelligence, allowing them to better understand how the behaviors of others relate to their personalities.

Source: Tulane University

For college students studying psychology, taking an introduction to personality course can go a long way in their understanding of another person’s behaviors and traits.

That was the finding of a Tulane University study that looked at the connection between the introductory personality course and a student’s dispositional intelligence.

The study, published in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, showed that students who took the class showed marked increases in dispositional intelligence from the beginning of the class to the end.

James Moran, a Ph.D. candidate in the Tulane Department of Psychology, said dispositional intelligence is basically an understanding of another person’s personality traits. Analyzing how well students acquire dispositional intelligence poses important implications for students in a variety of academic, social and professional settings, he said.

“Our findings suggest that taking an introduction to personality course significantly increases the students understanding of others’ personalities,” Moran said. “So, they are able to understand others’ behaviors as they relate to their personality.”

Moran served as the principal investigator on the research team, which also included Michael Hoerger and Damien Murray, both associate professors in the Department of Psychology and Ph.D. graduate Laura Perry.

Researchers surveyed 19 Tulane undergraduates who had completed Introduction to Psychology as a prerequisite.

The students were assessed on their knowledge of personality psychology on the first day of class and the last day of class in the 2019 fall semester, using a trait induction subcomponent of dispositional intelligence.

Students’ scores of dispositional intelligence significantly increased from the first day of class to the last day of class.

Results were separated further by individual personality factors and revealed that students significantly increased their understanding of openness and agreeableness.

“Education in personality psychology equips students to scientifically understand traits and behaviors among different personalities,” Hoerger said.

Moran said the findings demonstrate that students gain knowledge in their understanding of core personality dispositions that vary across people, including behavioral indicators of traits, how different traits interact and how personality traits are expressed in behavior and interaction.

This cartoon shows a person walking up a staircase to a head with birds flying out of it
Based on the findings of this study, the authors suggest that students’ personality education is vital for their academic journey and professional career. Image is in the public domain

“Dispositional intelligence helps us understand people better and has been associated with academic and professional success among students. This knowledge for students will benefit them in their interpersonal and professional relationships,” Moran said.

Based on the findings of this study, the authors suggest that students’ personality education is vital for their academic journey and professional career. In addition, the authors said, understanding personalities will increase individual interactions with classmates and coworkers over time, which could minimize conflict in work settings and help students to be more adaptable and versatile in their careers.

About this personality research news

Author: Press Office
Source: Tulane University
Contact: Press Office – Tulane University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Dispositional intelligence of the Five-Factor Model as a learning outcome in an undergraduate personality course” by James B. Moran et al. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology


Dispositional intelligence of the Five-Factor Model as a learning outcome in an undergraduate personality course

This pedagogical prime aimed to examine whether undergraduate education in personality psychology was associated with increases in dispositional intelligence, a key variable underlying social skills.

The sample consisted of students enrolled in a small Introduction to Personality college course who completed a summative performance-based assessment of their conceptual reasoning that required a complex application of their understanding of personality.

On the first day of class, the students completed a dispositional intelligence scale, demonstrating their precourse understanding of how personal adjectives (e.g., insecure) correspond to particular personality dispositions (e.g., neuroticism).

They took the same scale again on the last day of class to assess if learning about the Five-Factor Model (FFM) during the class was associated with increased dispositional intelligence scores.

Results from this longitudinal study revealed that participants had an increase in dispositional intelligence from the first to last day of class (d = 0.89, p = .001), especially when perceiving the dispositions of openness (d = .59, p = .04) and agreeableness (d = .69, p = .019).

In conclusion, a college personality course emphasizing the FFM was associated with increases in a measure of personality understanding. 

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.