Peter Raggatt
James Cook University, School of Psychology, Douglas, Queensland, Australia

E-mail:peter.raggatt@jcu.edu.au

 

A DIALOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIG FIVE?
SOME EMPIRICALLY-DERIVED LINKS BETWEEN PERSONALITY TRAITS AND THE DIALOGICAL SELF

 

The concept of a 'dialogical self' has taken on a number of different meanings in the past decade. At the micro level, it can be used to understand the dynamics of conversation between voices (both inter-personal and intra-personal) that are in dialogue. The concept can also be used to explore the construction of meanings within and across cultures (Hermans, 2001). The focus here is on a third meaning: using dialogical theory to understand individuals as storytellers who deploy conflicting narrative accounts of the self (Raggatt, 2000). This paper addresses the question of how these accounts might relate to other personality variables. The study described here examines relationships between life narratives produced as part of the dialogical self, and personality traits. One hundred and two individuals (mean age = 31 years) completed the NEO PI-R trait measure, and a questionnaire measure of the dialogical self, adapted from the Personality Web Interview Protocol (Raggatt, 2000). The protocol elicits narrative constructions by asking participants to describe 24 key attachments from their life histories (e.g., people, events, place attachments). Participants sort these attachments into related clusters and provide self-relevant 'narrative voice' labels for each cluster (e.g. 'adventurous self', 'victim'). It was predicted that the content of these voice labels would be systematically related to the Big Five - for example, that the labels 'adventurous self' and 'optimistic self' would be associated with Extraversion, and that 'artistic self' and 'creative self' would be associated with Openness. Anova analyses revealed significant trait x narrative relationships for Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness and Agreeableness. Results are discussed in the light of a dialogical interpretation of the Big Five traits, and with a view to broadening our understanding of the dialogical approach and its relation to other more traditional personality assessment strategies.