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Personality and Fictional Characters: Idiographic and Nomothetic Descriptions

Unlike most of your other essay assignments, this assignment doesn’t require anysearching for scientific articles or books. Instead, it involves only your own study of anovel, play, movie, or television series—one that you will find on your own. In fact, forthis assignment you are actually not permitted to do any searching for other people’sanalyses of the personality of your fictional character. Your analysis should be entirelyyour own.Note: In the instructions below, “book” or “novel” can refer to whichever work youare using, whether a novel, a play, a movie, or a television series. Non-traditionalforms of writing can be used only if the volume is at least equivalent to a short novel.Sections of the Assignment1. Title page (see comments in “Details…” section below)2. Start your essay with a statement indicating the name of the fictional character you’llbe studying, along with the title of the book in which this character appears. Indicate thatyou will provide idiographic and nomothetic personality descriptions of this character.(To remind yourself about idiographic and nomothetic personality descriptions, see yourlecture notes from the first lecture and see pp. xxi-xxiii of the Introduction chapter of thetextbook.)Note: Do not give any background information about the book, any summary of thebook’s plot, or any list of its various characters. (The assignment isn’t a book report.)3. Idiographic Description of the CharacterIn this section, describe what you consider to be a few (two to four) of the mostnoteworthy features of this fictional character’s personality. Each feature should have itsown paragraph.Justify your choices with reference to the character’s thoughts, feelings, words, oractions. In giving these examples, you should be concise, giving only the basic contextneeded for your reader to understand what is happening. The examples should be in yourown words, not direct quotations from the book (except in cases of quoting what acharacter was saying or thinking). Give page numbers for these examples. (In thecase of a movie, you must give the time of the relevant scene; in the case of atelevision series, you must give the season number, episode number, and time of therelevant scene.)In your idiographic description of this character, do not use any special terms frompersonality psychology; just describe him or her as an insightful reader who had neverstudied personality psychology would do.4. Nomothetic Description of the CharacterIn this section, describe this same fictional character in terms of the HEXACOpersonality factors. Each factor should have its own paragraph.For each factor, estimate the character’s “level” of that factor, and explain your estimatebased on the character’s thoughts, feelings, words, or actions. You can use as levels therough categories of “very high”, “somewhat high”, “average”, “somewhat low”, and“very low”.Justify your estimates with concise examples from the book (much as in the abovesection). Make sure that the evidence you give as indicating a character’s level of afactor really is relevant to that factor; that is, be sure that you understand the content ofthe factors. The content of the HEXACO factors is described in detail in the file“hexaco factor descriptions for essay assignment”, which is posted on the courseIsaak/Sakai site. (Note: Don’t insert these definitions into your essay.) See also Tables3.5 and 3.6 of the textbook.You can also mention your level of confidence in your estimate. For your character,there may be strong evidence indicating his or her level of a given factor, but hardly anyevidence (or even conflicting evidence) indicating his or her level of another factor. Inthe case of conflicting evidence, you can do your best to weigh it and come up with anaccurate estimate.5. Comparison of DescriptionsNow consider your responses to the two parts above for each of your fictional character,and address each of the questions listed below:Do you think that the idiographic summary provides much information that is notgiven by the nomothetic summary? Explain.Also, do you think that the nomothetic summary provides much information thatis not given by the idiographic summary? Explain.Overall, which description do you find to be more useful for this character?Which description would be more useful if you had to compare this character withanother character? (You don’t have to do this comparison, but imagine that youdid have to.)6. References (see comments in “Details…” section below)Details about the AssignmentYou must submit your assignment as a Word file (.docx or .doc), NOT as a PDF file.Include a title page with the following information, centred and double spaced: a title,your name, the course number (PSYC 2P25), Prof. Ashton’s name, the date, and the wordcount. Also include a running head and page numbers. Do not include an Abstract.You should include section headings (not numbered) for the main sections of your essay,as well as subheadings for the features of the Idiographic section and for the factors of theNomothetic section. The main sections should have headings that are centred andbolded, and the subsections should have headings that are left-justified and bolded.You should include a References section with only two references. One will be the novelor movie from which your character is taken, and the other will be the course textbook.Use APA style for the References section.Also, you should cite both the novel and the textbook in the opening sentences of youressay: the novel or movie will be cited when you first mention the character and thebook title, and the textbook will be cited when you first mention the terms idiographicand nomothetic (you don’t have to define these terms). Use APA style for the citations.(If you use a movie or television series instead of a novel or play, you should use theappropriate APA style for citing those kinds of audiovisual media and also for theReferences section.)When citing the novel in the later sections of your essay (i.e., Idiographic, Nomothetic,and Comparison), you can depart from APA style and simply give, in parentheses, thepage number for the evidence you’re mentioning (please see above for the equivalent ofpage numbers for movies and television programs). The reason for this relaxation of theusual rule is that for these sections of this essay, it’s understood that you are referringexclusively to this one book.Your fictional character should be from a work that was written or performed in English(written translations of novels or plays are okay). The work must be readily found in alibrary or internet search. (If there is a series of related novels by the same author, youcan decide whether to use one or more than one of those novels, but if you include morethan one, be clear which book is being cited for a given example.) The analogous pointapplies for movies.The minimum and maximum length of the text of your essay are 1500 and 2000 words,respectively. You must indicate an accurate word count of the text of the essay at thebottom of the title page. (Note that “text” here does not include the title page orreferences.)Double-space your essay. Use a 12-point Times New Roman font with margins of 1 inch(2.54 cm) on every side.Do not try to find any sources in which the personality of your fictional character isdescribed. Instead, you should rely solely on your own observations in describing yourfictional character.Important note: Very few of you would even consider doing this, but please DO NOTfabricate any non-existent works or any non-existent examples from any works; doing sois a serious violation of academic integrity.Some Suggestions and AdviceIt’s probably easier to work on the idiographic section before the nomothetic section.This assignment is likely to be easier if you choose a novel or movie that you’vepreviously read and enjoyed (but then again, you could always look for a new one).Try to pick a novel or movie that has some interesting insights into a character’spersonality.Note that novels or movies that are oriented totally around the plot—especially a plot thatrelies heavily on sex and/or violence—might give only limited indications about thepersonalities of the characters, so be cautious about choosing such a novel for thisassignment.Also, it’s probably easier not to use a novel or movie in which the character has a “splitpersonality” or undergoes some total transformation of their personality.The above points apply even more strongly in the case of movies or television programs.Even if it’s your favourite movie or television series, don’t choose it unless it gives somedetailed, varied insights into the personality of the characters.Marking CriteriaYour essay will be marked holistically rather than according to a “scoresheet” assigningspecific mark values to particular aspects of the essay. The following considerations (notnecessarily an exhaustive list) will be important in marking your essay:Clarity of personality descriptions for the character, especially in the idiographic sectionFor the nomothetic section, relevance of examples to their intended HEXACO factors(i.e., consistency with factor content)Continued…Accuracy of information (the markers may verify any particular example that you give)Consistency with assignment instructionsWriting quality (including sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, grammar, word use,etc.)APA style (but see “Details…” section above for assignment-specific guidelines)

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