The three peripheral components are (T) biological bases, (2) objective biography, and (3) external influences.
Biological Bases The Five-Factor Theory rests on a single causal influence on personality traits, namely biology. The principal biological mechanisms that influence basic tendencies are genes, hormones, and brahi structures. McCrae and Costa have not yet provided specific details about which genes, hormones, and brahi structures play what role in their influence on personality. Advances hi behavioral genetics and brahi imaging have begun and will continue to fill in the details. This positioning of biological bases eliminates any role that the environment may play in the formation of basic tendencies. This should not suggest that the environment has no part hi personality formation—merely that it has no direct influence on basic tendencies (see Figure 14.8). The environment does influence some components of personality. This underscores the need to distinguish the main two components of the model—basic tendencies and characteristic adaptations (McCrae & Costa, 1996, p. 187).
Objective Biography The second peripheral component is objective biography, defined as "everything the person does, thinks, or feels across the whole lifespan" (McCrae & Costa, 2003, p. 187). Objective biography emphasizes what has happened hi people s lives (objective) rather than their view or perceptions of then experiences (subjective). Every behavior or response becomes part of the cumulative record. Whereas theorists such as Alfred Adler (style of life) or Dan McAdams (personal narrative) emphasize the subjective interpretations of ones life-story, McCrae and Costa focus on the objective experiences—the events and experiences one has had over ones lifethne.
External Influences People constantly find themselves hi a particular physical or social situation that has some influence on the personality system. The question of how we respond to the opportunities and demands of the context is what external influences is all about. Accordhig to McCrae and (Costa 1999, 2003), these responses are a function of two things: (1) characteristic adaptations and (2) their interaction with external influences (note the two arrows gohig hito the objective biography ellipse in Figure 14.8).
McCrae and Costa assume that behavior is a function of the interaction between characteristic adaptations and external influences. As an example, they cite the case of Joan, who is offered tickets to see the opera La Traviata (an external influence). But Joan has a long personal history of detesthig opera (a characteristic adaptation) and therefore refuses the offer (an objective biography). To elaborate, Joan may well have a basic tendency toward being closed (rather than open) to new experiences, and she was never around opera as a child or may have simply formed a negative opinion about it based on reputation. Whatever the case, she is more at home with familiar events and with down-to-earth experiences. This background predicts that Joan is likely to respond the way she did to an offer to attend an opera. These decisions to stay away from such experiences reinforce themselves as her distaste for opera grows. This is reflected hi the arrow circling back on itself hi Figure 14.8.
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