Psychology 2550A 001

Introduction to Personality Theory & Research

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.



LONDON               CANADA 

Department of Psychology 



Psychology 2550A    Section 001 







A survey of the history, methodology and content of the study of individual differences. Topics to be covered include: evaluation of typical personality assessment methods and a consideration of modern empirical research in personality theory and assessment.  


Antirequisite(s): Psychology 2050 if taken before 2016. Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. If you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course. 

Prerequisite: A mark of at least 60% in 1.0 credits of Psychology at the 1000 level. 


Lecture hours: 4  

Course Weight: 0.5 


Note: Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enrol in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites. 





Instructor: Professor Julie Aitken Schermer  

Office and Phone Number: SSC 4429, ext. 84699 

Office Hours: Mondays 1-2pm and Fridays 10-11am or by appointment  



Teaching Assistant: To be announced 


Office Hours:  



Time and Location of In-Person Classes: in-person


Students who are in emotional/mental distress should refer to Health and Wellness @Western for a complete list of options about how to obtain help. 


Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also contact Accessible Education at  or 519-661-2147. 



2.1 Online Learning Notice: 
Please note: For courses delivered in an online format, include an online component, or are required to pivot online, students must have a reliable internet connection and computer that are compatible with online learning system requirements. Some courses may also require the use of a remote proctoring platform to ensure assessments are taken fairly in accordance with Western’s policy on Scholastic Discipline for Undergraduate Students and Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students. Please refer to the course syllabus for further information. 




Note: students may use either the paper version of the book or the e-book: 


Cervone, D. & Pervin, L.A. (2023). Personality theory and research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 


ISBN: 978-1-119-89167-3 


Available at the University Bookstore: PSY2550A 





Learning Outcome  

Learning Activity  


Depth and Breadth of Knowledge.  

  • Learning Outcome 1: Know the difference between personality theories. 
  • Learning Outcome 2: Understand the main research findings within each area of personality psychology. 

Lectures and course readings. 

Multiple choice exams. 

Knowledge of Methodologies.  

  • Learning Outcome 1: Understand the differences between a theory and a quasi-theory in personality psychology. 
  • Learning Outcome 2: Correctly determine the methodology used to test personality theories. 

Lectures and course readings. 

Multiple choice exams. 

Application of Knowledge.  

  • Learning Outcome 1: Correctly ascertain the hypothesis which would be tested for each area of personality psychology. 
  • Learning Outcome 2: Determine the appropriate terminology to describe individual differences. 

Lectures and course readings. 

Multiple choice exams. 

Communication Skills.  

  • Learning Outcome 1:  Discuss and debate various theories of personality. 



In-class discussions will be helpful for understanding the concepts in the exams. 

Awareness of Limits of Knowledge. 

  • Learning Outcome 1: Correctly determine what variables or factors may confound results. 
  • Learning Outcome 2: Understand that not all variability is explained and correctly determine the source(s) of measurement error. 

Lectures and course readings. 

Multiple choice exams. 

Autonomy and Professional Capacity. 

  • Learning Outcome 1: Understand the cultural context with respect to personality psychology. 
  • Learning Outcome 2: Correctly determine what are the indicators of certain personality disorders and their prevalence within society.  

Lectures and course readings. 

Multiple choice exams. 




The evaluation and testing formats for this course were created to assess the learning objectives as listed in section 4.0 and are considered necessary for meeting these learning objectives. 


Exams are multiple choice in format.  Each exam, in total, will be scheduled for two hours, consist of 60 questions, and are closed book examinationsDictionaries, calculators, cellular telephones, electronic devices, etc. are NOT allowed into the examinations.    


The multiple-choice format allows for assessment of students’ detailed knowledge of a broad range of concepts, theories, principles, and research that other formats do not permit. There are different types of multiple-choice questions used in this course, including application-based multiple-choice questions. Although application-based questions can be challenging for students, they are necessary to meet the learning outcomes of this course and to allow students to develop an appreciation for and understanding of the course material. As DiBattisa (2008) notes, “well-chosen multiple-choice questions can provide a broader coverage of course content than [short-answer or essay-type] questions, and moreover, their scoring is generally more statistically reliable” (p. 123). 

According to Burton et al. (1991), multiple choice questions have the following advantages: (1) items can be designed to assess different levels of learning outcomes, from recalling knowledge to applying principles to new situations. (2) Item difficulty can be managed by changing the alternatives/distractors. (3) Items can be subjected to item analysis, thus allowing an instructor to identify student misconceptions or poorly written questions. (4) The items allow for a broader sampling of course topics, “consequently the test scores will likely be more representative of the students’ overall achievement in the course” (p. 5). (5) The items are less prone to guessing than true-false items. (6) The items are objectively scored and, thus, are not prone to the rater inconsistencies found with essay questions or the issues with scoring partial answers often found with short answer questions.  


Burton, S.J., Sudweeks, R.R., Merrill, P.F., & Wood, B. (1991). How to prepare better multiple-choice test items: Guidelines for university faculty. Brigham Young University Testing Services and The Department of Instructional Science.  

DiBattista, D. (2008). Making the most of multiple-choice questions: Getting beyond remembering. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 1, 123-126. 





There are NO make-up exams.   


Students with approved academic considerations for a missed midterm will write a cumulative final exam instead worth 67% (if one exam was missed) or 100% if both exams were missed. 


The expectation for course grades within the Psychology Department is that they will be distributed around the following averages: 


70% 1000-level to 2099-level courses 

72% 2100-2999-level courses 

75% 3000-level courses 

80% 4000-level courses 


The Psychology Department follows Western’s grading guidelines, which are as follows (see: 


A+ 90-100 One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level 

A 80-89 Superior work that is clearly above average 

B 70-79 Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory 

C 60-69 Competent work, meeting requirements 

D 50-59 Fair work, minimally acceptable 

F below 50 Fail 


Note that in the event that course grades are significantly higher or lower than these averages, instructors may be required to make adjustments to course grades. Such adjustment might include the normalization of one or more course components and/or the re-weighting of various course components. 


Policy on Grade Rounding: Please note that although course grades within the Psychology Department are rounded to the nearest whole number, no further grade rounding will be done. No additional assignments will be offered to enhance a final grade; nor will requests to change a grade because it is needed for a future program be considered. To maximize your grade, do your best on each and every assessment within the course. 




October 11 – EXAM 1 IN CLASS (60 multiple-choice questions, covers chapters 1 to 6, 10 questions per chapter, worth 33%). 


November 13 – EXAM 2 IN CLASS (60 multiple-choice questions, covers chapters 7 to 10, 15 questions per chapter, worth 33%). 


EXAM 3 DECEMBER EXAM PERIOD (DEC. 10-22) (60 multiple-choice questions, covers chapters 11 to 15, 12 questions per chapter, worth 34%). 



Exams are multiple choice in format.  Each exam, in total, will be scheduled for two hours, consist of 60 questions, and are closed book examinationsDictionaries, calculators, cellular telephones, electronic devices, etc. are NOT allowed into the examinations.    


Students are responsible for material covered in the lectures as well as the assigned chapters/sections in the text.  Exams 1 and 2 will be in class time.  The third exam will be scheduled during the exam period. Exams will not be returned to students but may be reviewed in the TA’s office.   


Students are required to COMPLETE ALL COMPONENTS of this course.  There are no exceptions to this.  “Extra assignments” to improve grades will NOT be allowed. 


Exams will be scored using the program “Scan Exam” which examines the answer sheets for “unusual” coincidences in the pattern of answers given which may be indicative and used as supporting evidence of cheating.  


Grades will not be adjusted on the basis of need.  It is important to monitor your performance in the course.  Remember: You are responsible for your grades in this course. 




September 11 – Introduction to the course 

September 13 – Ch. 1 Personality Theory 

September 18 – Ch. 2 Scientific Study of People 

September 20 – Questionnaires explained 

September 25 – Ch. 3 Freud 

September 28 – Ch. 4 (More) Freud 

October 2 – Ch. 5 Rogers 

October 4 – Ch. 6 (More) Rogers 


October 11 – EXAM 1 IN CLASS (60 multiple choice questions, covers chapters 1 to 6, 10 questions per chapter, worth 33%). 


October 16 – Ch. 7 Traits 

October 18 – Ch. 8 Big Five 

October 23 – Big 3 versus Big 5 versus Big 6 (HEXACO) 

October 25 – Ch. 9 Behaviourism 

November 6 – Ch. 10 Kelly 


November 13 – EXAM 2 IN CLASS (60 multiple choice questions, covers chapters 7 to 10, 15 questions per chapter, worth 33%). 


November 15 – Ch. 11 Bandura and Mischel 

November 20 – Ch. 12 Social-Cognitive Theories 

November 22 – Ch. 13 Culture and Personality 

November 27 – Ch. 14 Biological Basis 

November 29 – Ch. 14 Biological Basis (Sex versus Gender) 

December 4 – Ch. 15 Assessing Theories 

December 6 – Flex Class (A Flex class is an open time slot in case one of the preceding class times was cancelled due to severe weather, illness, lockdown, etc.).  If no classes were cancelled, there will be no lecture on this date.  The professor will hold extended office hours instead. 


EXAM 3 DECEMBER EXAM PERIOD (DEC. 10-22) (60 multiple choice questions, covers chapters 11 to 15, 12 questions per chapter, worth 34%). 






We acknowledge that Western University is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Attawandaron peoples, on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. 


With this, we respect the longstanding relationships that Indigenous Nations have to this land, as they are the original caretakers. We acknowledge historical and ongoing injustices that Indigenous Peoples (e.g. First Nations, Métis and Inuit) endure in Canada, and we accept responsibility as a public institution to contribute toward revealing and correcting miseducation, as well as renewing respectful relationships with Indigenous communities through our teaching, research and community service. 





Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offences. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offences because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offence are described at the following link: 


As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offences. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and ( 


Computer-marked multiple-choice tests and/or exams will be subject to submission for similarity review by software that will check for unusual coincidences in answer patterns that may indicate cheating. 


In classes that involve the use of a personal response system (PRS), data collected using the PRS will only be used in a manner consistent to that described in this outline. It is the instructor’s responsibility to make every effort to ensure that data remain confidential. However, students should be aware that as with all forms of electronic communication, privacy is not guaranteed. Your PRS login credentials are for your sole use only. Students attempting to use another student’s credentials to submit data through the PRS may be subject to academic misconduct proceedings.  


Possible penalties for a scholastic offence include failure of the assignment/exam, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University. 




If a remote proctoring service is used, the service will require you to provide personal information (including some biometric data). The session will be recorded. In the event that in-person exams are unexpectedly canceled, you may only be given notice of the use of a proctoring service a short time in advance. More information about remote proctoring is available in the Online Proctoring Guidelines. Please ensure you are familiar with any proctoring service’s technical requirements before the exam. Additional guidance is available at the following link: 


* Please note that Zoom servers are located outside Canada. If you would prefer to use only your first name or a nickname to login to Zoom, please provide this information to the instructor in advance of the test or examination. See this link for technical requirements:   




Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 


If you experience an extenuating circumstance (e.g., illness, injury) sufficiently significant to temporarily make you unable to meet academic requirements, you may request accommodation through the following routes:  

  1. For medical absences, submitting a Student Medical Certificate (SMC) signed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner in order to be eligible for Academic Consideration;  
  1. For non-medical absences, submitting appropriate documentation (e.g., obituary, police report, accident report, court order, etc.) to Academic Counselling in their Faculty of registration in order to be eligible for academic consideration. Students are encouraged to contact their Academic Counselling unit to clarify what documentation is appropriate. 


Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation. 


Students seeking academic consideration: 

  • are advised to consider carefully the implications of postponing tests or midterm exams or delaying handing in work;   
  • must communicate with their instructors no later than 24 hours after the end of the period covered SMC, or immediately upon their return following a documented absence 


Students seeking accommodation for religious purposes are advised to contact Academic Counselling at least three weeks prior to the religious event and as soon as possible after the start of the term. 




In the event of a COVID-19 resurgence or any other event that necessitates the course delivery moving away from face-to-face interaction, all remaining course content will be delivered entirely online, either synchronously (i.e., at the times indicated in the timetable) or asynchronously (e.g., posted on OWL for students to view at their convenience). The grading scheme will not change. Any remaining assessments will also be conducted online, as determined by the course instructor. 




In courses, the Psychology Department expects students to honour the following rules of etiquette: 

  • please “arrive” to class on time 
  • please use your computer and/or laptop for note-taking only 


The course instructor will act as moderator for the class and will deal with any questions. To participate, please consider the following: 

  • If you wish to speak, please raise your hand  

General considerations of “netiquette” (for on-line postings): 

  • Keep in mind the different cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students in the course. 
  • Be courteous toward the instructor, your colleagues, and authors whose work you are discussing. 
  • Be respectful of the diversity of viewpoints that you will encounter in the class and in your readings. The exchange of diverse ideas and opinions is part of the scholarly environment. “Flaming” is never appropriate. 
  • Be professional and scholarly in all online postings. Use proper grammar and spelling. Cite the ideas of others appropriately. 


Note that disruptive behaviour of any type during classes may be subject to disciplinary measures under the Code of Student Conduct. 




Office of the Registrar:   


Student Development Services:  


Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site/Current Student Information for information on the following:  


- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct 

- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations 

- Policy on Attendance 

- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines 

- Policy for Assignments 

- Short Absences 

- Extended Absences 

- Documentation 

- Academic Concerns 

- Calendar References 


If you wish to appeal a grade, please read the policy documentation at: 

Please first contact the course instructor. If your issue is not resolved, you may make your appeal to the Undergraduate Chair in Psychology ( 


Copyright Statement: Lectures and course materials, including power point presentations, outlines, videos and similar materials, are protected by copyright. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own educational use. You may not record lectures, reproduce (or allow others to reproduce), post or distribute any course materials publicly and/or for commercial purposes without the instructor’s written consent. 


Policy on the Recording of Synchronous Sessions: Some or all of the remote learning sessions for this course (if scheduled) may be recorded. The data captured during these recordings may include your image, voice recordings, chat logs and personal identifiers (name displayed on the screen). The recordings will be used for educational purposes related to this course, including evaluations. The recordings may be disclosed to other individuals participating in the course for their private or group study purposes. Please contact the instructor if you have any concerns related to session recordings. Participants in this course are not permitted to privately record the sessions, except where recording is an approved accommodation, or the student has the prior written permission of the instructor.