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Personality Assessment Lab

Intentionally or unintentionally, we frequently make judgments about the stable characteristics of people in our social world. In natural settings, these judgments are informal and if conscious, take the form of simple summative phrases about people in our environment (e.g., Tom’s a friendly guy and George is an unfriendly guy). In laboratory settings, personality psychologists attempt to measure individual differences more formally, through the use of validated personality tests of various sorts (e.g., self- or peer-report inventories). 

The Personality Assessment Laboratory’s general mission is to investigate both formal and informal measurements of personality. Our projects range from more formal scale constructions to broad-based examinations of the naturalistic process of judging personality in others. Recently, the laboratory has focused on a few primary areas within the general topic, as described below.

Snap Judgments of Personality
Despite social proscriptions against “judging a book by its cover,” we frequently come to very quick conclusions about the general tendencies of people we encounter.  In some domains, coming to such conclusions is fairly automatic, and in a precious few instances, we can make reasonably accurate estimates of personality based on very limited information or contact with the subject. We have been conducting a series of studies examining the conditions under which we can make accurate judgments at what is often termed “zero acquaintance.” 

The Acquaintanceship Process
In contrast to our general difficulty in evaluating the personalities of strangers, we are actually fairly adept at assessing personality traits of those closest to us, such as friends, family, and romantic partners. This difference is commonly referred to as “the acquaintanceship effect,” and while it may seem perfectly concordant with what common sense would indicate, the specific mechanisms by which we come to know others are not entirely clear. Thus, we are also frequently engaged in studies (largely experimental in nature) aimed at elucidating the basic process of getting to know someone.

Ecological Validity
One concern across all areas in psychology lies in the idea that some of our contrived laboratory situations do not reflect the natural processes about which we seek knowledge. Thus, another common theme of late in the laboratory has been moving things out of the laboratory. We have an ongoing study using naturalistic observation methodology as well as a series of in-lab experiments in which we attempt to more closely approximate the natural personality judgment process.

Want to Get Involved?
If you are interested in answering any of the following questions, you might be interested in working with us:

  • What can we tell about someone upon first meeting them?
  • How do we come to more completely understand those around us?
  • How do people behave and make inferences about others’ behavior in the real world?

We are always looking for interested, motivated students to join our efforts in the PAL. To apply for a research assistantship with us, please contact Dr. Andrew Beer

Contact Us
If you want more information about the laboratory or opportunities to participate, please contact us.

Contact Us

Dr. Andrew Beer
Director of the PAL
Associate Professor of Psychology
Phone: (864) 503-5762
Fax: (864) 503-5748
Office: CASB 132
Email: abeer@uscupstate.edu

University of South Carolina Upstate
800 University Way
Spartanburg, SC 29303