Cross-Cultural Differences in Brain Activation When Considering the Self.

Question One: Consider the Research by Zhu, Ziang, Fan, and
Han in the text on Cross-Cultural Differences in Brain Activation When Considering the Self.
What does it mean to have a self-concept that is so fused with representations of others?
What does it mean to have a self-concept that is NOT fused with representations of others?
What might the behavioral implications be?

Question Two: Some psychologists have suggested that while individuals tend to use
traits to describe themselves and others, this merely tells us something about the
cognitive functioning of individuals and about their interpersonal perceptions—
it does not tell us that traits represent the best tools for the scientific analysis of personality.
How important is the fact that the layperson finds the trait a useful construct? If we accept
the importance of the layperson’s use of this construct for theory development,
does this also commit us to accepting the specific trait names and categorizations used by
the layperson (e.g., honest, aggressive, sympathetic)?

Question Three: Big five terms are great for describing differences between people. But
are they also good for explaining people’s behavior? Is it reasonable to say that “Liz smiled
and greeted people happily because she is an extravert”? Or is that similar to saying “It is
sunny and warm in San Diego this week because San Diego has nice weather”?
In other words, is this sort of “explanation” one that just takes you around in circles?

Question Four: The text discusses research on brain systems involved in higher-level
psychological functions, such as self-concept. How much do we learn about such
psychological functions by studying the brain? In other words, since we know that some
systems in the brain have to be involved in any psychological function, does an analysis
of underlying neuron-anatomy answer the most pressing questions about personality? Or does
it leave unanswered critical questions about the ways in which these psychological capacities develop and function in the social world? In short: Can there be a neuroscience of personality?

Question Five: Skinner suggests that since environmental control is ever-present,
we should learn to make maximum use of these environmental influences. He also suggests
that concern with internal variables, such as emotion and motivation, as explanations of
behavior has led psychologists astray. Do you think this approach would lead to a more
scientific psychology? Or might it instead create a psychology that fails to develop a science
of important aspects of human experience?

Question Six: In considering Kelly’s constructive alternativism, does it seem odd to read
about a theorist who holds little stock in idea that there is an objective reality or absolute
truth to discover? Can we conduct a science of persons if there is no objective reality or
truth to discover? How might Kelly’s constructive alternativism foster an even more fruitful
scientific investigation of persons than other theories?

Question Seven: B. F. Skinner questioned people’s capacity for free will and self-control.
In what ways does social cognitive theory, and its associated programs of research,
provide a counter-argument to Skinner’s position? How does a focus on expectancies
differentiate social-cognitive theory from behaviorism? How does this shift enable
social-cognitive theorists to explain why two people react differently to the same

Question Eight: People seem to differ in their “moods.” Some people are commonly
“upbeat” and “lively.” Others seem lower in energy. Some people seem commonly to
be depressed. How does social cognitive theory explain these individual differences?
Or does it? Might this be a limitation to the social-cognitive approach? What are your
thoughts about problem-focused and emotion-focused coping?

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