Early Recollections and Personality Traits

Research on the association between early recollections and present personality traits (style of life) typically uses one of two instruments—the Manaster-Perryman Manifest Content Early Recollection Scoring Manual (Manaster & Perryman, 1974, 1979) or the Comprehensive Early Memory Scoring System (Last, 1983; Last & Bruhn, 1983).

The Manaster-Perryman Manifest Content Early Recollection Scoring Manual, constructed by Guy Manaster and Thomas Perryman, calls for judges to score early recollections in seven broad categories: (!) Characters, or people involved in the memory; (2) Themes, or topics of the ER; (3) Concern with Detail—visual, auditory, and motor; (4) Setting, or location of the ER; (5) Active-Passive; that is, the degree to which the person initiated action as opposed to being acted upon; (6) Internal-External Control, or a person s acceptance of responsibility for what happened in the early recollection; and (7) Affect, or overall feeling of the memory. In-terrater reliability of the Manaster-Perryman is generally quite high (Buchanan, Kern, & Bell-Dumas, 1991).

Research has shown a consistent relationship between early recollections (as measured by the Manaster-Perryman scoring system) and various personality traits. In a study of Pakistani college students, Arif Manzoor and Ghazala Rehman (2003) looked at the relationship between early recollections and traits of the Five-Factor Model—which we discuss in Chapter 14. The five factors are typically called neu-roticism, extraversión, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness; but other names are also used.

In the Pakistani study, Manzoor and Reliman asked 40 male and 40 female college students to write about two early recollections. Next, they rated these ERs on the Manaster-Perryman scoring system and then compared these ratings to scores on the five-factor model of personality. Manzoor and Rehman found that students who scored high on extraversión tended to have early recollections that mentioned people, siblings, and mother. They also saw themselves as active and fun-loving. Participants high on agreeableness had early recollections that reflected high social interest and warm interpersonal relations. They frequently mentioned other people hi their ERs, especially mother and other family members.

Students high on conscientiousness mentioned early recollections that suggested organization, self-discipline, persistence, and reliability. High emotional stability (low neuroticism) scores related to composure, calmness, and self-satisfaction. Participants who scored high on intellect (openness to experience) tended to have early recollections that were high in diversity, creativity, originality, and imagination.

In another study from Pakistan, Rehman and Manzoor (2003) compared early recollections of young males hi prison for murder with ERs of male college students of about the same age. Again, these researchers used the Manaster-Perryman scoring technique to assess early recollections of both groups. Rehman and Manzoor found significant differences between the early recollections of the two groups. Compared with college students, young violent criminals were less likely to mention "mother" in their earliest recollection and more likely to have included experiences with injury, illness, fear, and anxiety. In addition, the violent criminals demonstrated

92 Part II Psychodynamic Theories lower levels of social interest and used fewer words to express their early recollections.

A second early recollection scoring system—the Comprehensive Early Memory Scoring System (CEMSS)—was developed by Jeffrey Last and Arnold. R. Bruhn (1983). The CEMSS is a multidimensional scoring system that assesses pathological and adaptive early recollection characteristics in eight separate categories: (I) Characters, (2) Settmgs, (3) Sensory-Motor Aspect, (4) Relation to Reality, (5) Object Relations, (6) Themes, (7) Affect, and (8) Damage Aspect. Some research has suggested that the CEMSS may be useful in differentiating personality traits.

Using the CEMSS to score early recollections, Candis Nichols and Jess Feist (1994) hypothesized that optimists would report early recollections that were basically different from those of pessimists. They divided college students mto two groups—those with an optimistic explanatory style and those with a pesshnistic explanatory style—and found several important differences between the ERs of optimists and pessimists.

First, optimists were likely to include other people in then early recollections, whereas pessimists either made no mention of other people or recalled others only as an afterthought. Second participants with an optimistic explanatory style tended to see themselves as active; that is, they either initiated activities or were actively involved with others in play. In contrast, pessimists more often presented themselves as followers, observers, or victhns. Third optimists typically recalled events clearly and distinctively and used more adjectives than did pesshnists. Also, optimists were able to identify their own motives as well as the motives of others, whereas pesshnists were more vague and less likely to attribute specific motives to their own actions or the actions of others.

Fourth, opthnists frequently reported sustamed interpersonal interactions in then early recollections, whereas pesshnists recalled ERs hi which their interactions with others were only sporadic, or they remembered other people interacting with one another while they were merely onlookers. Fifth, opthnists recalled scenes in which they gained competence or mastery of an event, whereas pessimists often recalled scenes in which they failed to gam competence or mastery. Sixth, optimists recalled mostly pleasant early recollections in contrast to pessimists who were likely to recall unpleasant experiences.

This and other studies tend to lend validity to Adler's notion that there are no chance memories and that people remember things from childhood that match their adult style of life. However, research that merely demonstrates a relationship between early recollections and present personality traits does not prove Adler's hypothesis that present style of life shapes a person's recall of early childhood experiences. The opposite explanation is possible; that is, early childhood experiences may cause present style of life.

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