Psychology 310: The Origins of Personality

Fall, 2000

Instructor: Al Cheyne 

Office: PAS 4006 

Phone: ext. 3054 


Office Hours: 
Wednesday.: 1:30pm - 3:30pm 

TA: Avigail Ram 

Office: PAS 4017 

Phone: 2094 


Office Hours: 
Tuesday, 1:00pm-2:30 

     Why do we have the personalities we do? Many of us, including most developmental psychologists, have long believed that personality is largely a consequence of the way our parents treat us as infants and young children. Our assumption has been that parental nurture during the early years of life is an important factor, perhaps the major factor, in determining our personalities. This powerful and pervasive assumption of both mainstream developmental psychology and Western culture more generally has recently been called into question. The author of our text, J. R. Harris makes a counter claim that the effect of parental nurture on adult personality is modest at best. She further argues that a far more important environmental influence is that of peers and, in particular, of peer groups

     In this course we will review arguments and empirical research on parenting and its effects, as well as research that speaks to alternate claims that personality is largely shaped by biological inheritance and/or broader cultural factors, such as the groups and institutions within which we function. 

Class Meetings: 

Room: AL 105 
Monday and Wednesday 
Time: 9:00am- 10:30am

Harris, J. R. (1998). The nurture assumption. New York: Free Press. 
There will be additional readings assigned each week. These will consist of both scholarly and popular articles addressing the issues of concern to the course. 

Prerequisite: Psychology 211 

Judith Rich Harris's arguments regarding the Nurture Assumption  has generated considerable interest and comment. There are a number of web sites with reviews and commentaries. 

An exceptionally thorough book review is provided by Mary Eberstadt in Commentary: 

There is a Nurture Assumption Home page at: 

From the APA Monitor: 

The following link is to the first in a series of exchanges between Harris and Kagan. The exchanges become increasingly acrimonious over the series. Probably best serves as an example that debates are not good contexts for settling scientific disputes. 

Class Meetings: 
Class meeting will be a combination of lecture and discussion aimed at reviewing and supplementing material from the readings. Class members will be expected to have read the assigned chapters from the text as well as the additional readings assigned before each meeting. In addition, students will prepare a brief (1-2 pages, approximately 500 words) response to either the reading from the text or the supplementary reading. This will be submitted at the beginning of each Monday class. The format and substance of the weekly written responses are up to the student. Feel free to pose questions, make critical comments, draw further conclusions, and to present supplementary or opposing information and arguments. 

There will be one in-class mid-term on October 25 and a final exam during the regular Exam Period. The exams will be brief essay format. 

Brief reading responses: Ten brief reading responses at 3 marks each = 30%
Mid-Term exam: 30%
Final exam: 30%
Class participation: 10%
Note on avoidance of academic offenses: 

All students registered in the courses of the Faculty of Arts are expected to know what constitutes an academic offense, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for their academic actions. When the commission of an offense is established, disciplinary penalties will be imposed in accord with Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline). For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students are directed to consult the summary of Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline) which is supplied in the Undergraduate Calendar (p.1:11). If you need help in learning how to avoid offenses such as plagiarism, cheating, and double submission, or if you need clarification of aspects of the discipline policy, ask your course instructor for guidance. Other resources regarding the discipline policy are your academic advisor and the Undergraduate Associate Dean.

Schedule of Meetings: 
Week Dates: Reading from Harris:
1 Sept 11, 13 Link to Overheads Poem, Foreword, & Preface
2 Sept 18, 20 Link to Overheads Ch. 1 & 2
3 Sept 25, 27 Link to Overheads Ch. 3 & Appendix 1
4 Oct 2, 4 Link to Overheads Ch. 4 & 5
5 Thanksgiving, Oct 11 Link to Overheads Ch. 6 & 7
6 Oct 16, 18 Link to Overheads Ch.  8
7 Oct 23, 25* Link to Midterm Questions Midterm Test on Wednesday
8 Oct 30, Nov 1 Link to Overheads Ch. 9
9 Nov 6, 9  Link to Overheads Ch 10
10 Nov 13, 15  Link to Overheads Ch 11, 12 (to bottom of p. 273)
11 Nov 20, 22 Link to Overheads 
You may check our records of weekly assignments received here.
Ch 12 (p. 274 - end), 13
12 Nov 27, 29 Link to Overheads Ch 14, 15
13 Dec 4 Link to Overheads  Appendix 2
Dec 7 Final Exam Questions Time: 2:00 - 4:00  Place: AL 105
* Mid-term
Schedule or Readings: (As we proceed in the course I may add or replace readings from time to time) 

Readings outside the text are indented. These readings will be made available each week in PAS 4005 (open from 8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday). For those who wish to photocopy the readings, there are two available photocopiers in the PAS building in PAS 4028 and PAS 3080. 

The readings will also be available on reserve at Dana Porter. 

Note: TNA refers to the text The Nurture Assumption. 

Week 1 (Sept 11, 13) 

Harris, J. R The Nurture Assumption (TNA). Gibran poem, Pinker Foreword, Harris Preface 

Week 2 (Sept 18, 20)  

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 1: "Nurture" is not the Same as "Environment" 

Thomas, R. M. (1985). The puritan's sinful child and Rousseau's moral child. In R. M. Thomas. Comparing theories of child development.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. (pp. 59-81) Harris, (TNA). Ch. 2: The Nature (and Nurture) of the Evidence  Ceci, S. J. & Williams, W. M. (1999). Born versus made: Nature-nurture in the new millennium. In S. J. Ceci & W. M. Williams (Eds.), The nature-nurture debate. Oxford: Blackwell. (pp. 1-9). Week 3: (Sept 25, 27) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 3 Nature, Nurture, and None of the Above & Appendix 1:Personality and Birth Order 

Scarr, S. & McCartney, K. (1983). How people make their own environments: A theory of genotype-environment effects. Child Development, 54, 424-435. 

Plomin, R. DeFries, J. C., McClearn, G. E., & Rutter, M. (1997). Chapter 11. Personality and Personality Disorders. In R. Plomin et al. Behavior Genetics (Third Edition). New York Freeman. (pp. 195-216)

Week 4: (October 2, 4) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 4: Separate worlds & Ch. 5: Other Times, Other Places 

Fein, G. G. & Fryer, M. G. (1995). Maternal Contributions to early symbolic play competence. Developmental Review, 15, 367-381.  Week 5: (October 11) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 6: Human Nature  & Ch 7: Us and Them 

Goodall, J. (1990). Through a Window. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.  Ch. 10: War (pp. 98-111) 

Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., Sherif, C. W. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The robber's cave experiment. Norman OK: Institute of 
group Relations. Ch. 5 : Intergroup relations. (pp. 96 - 116) 

Of related interest : 

Web site: Chimpanzee cultures 

Week 6: (October 16, 18) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 8: In the company of Children 

Note: No Additional Reading for this week 

You might be interested in this recent New York Times Book Review of: 
Hines, T. (1999). The rise and fall of the american teen-ager. New York: Bard/Avon.

Week 7: (October 23, 25) 

Catch-up and Midterm 

Week 8: (October 30, November 1) 

Harris, (TNA). Harris, Ch. 9: The Transmission of Culture 

Bickerton, D. (1983, July). Creole languages. Scientific American, 249, 116-122. 

Fry, D. P. (1988). Intercommunity differences in aggression among Zapotec children. Child Development, 59, 1008-1019. 

Chimp Culture Recognized (ABC Science News) June 16, 1999

Week 9: (November 6, 8) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch 10: Gender Rules 

      Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and Relationships: A developmental account. American Psychologist, 45, 513-520. 

      Altermatt, E. R., Jovanovic, J., & Perry, M. (1998). Bias or responsivity: Sex and achievement-level effects on teachers' classroom questioning  practice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 516-527. 

 News Item: Girls Less Confident Than Boys In Science Classes, Researcher Finds
Week 10 (November 13, 15) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 11: Schools of Children and Ch. 12 (Growing up - to p. 173) 

      Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613-629. 

      News Item: Women perform better in math without men (Science Daily, Sept. 13, 2000)

Week 11 (November 20, 22) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch 12 (p. 174 - to end): Growing up and Chapter 13: Dysfunctional Families. 

Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674-701. 

Controversial News Item: 

The abortion-crime rate puzzle. The Chicago Tribune. August 8, 1999 

Week 12 (Nov 27, 29, and December 4) 

Harris, (TNA). Ch. 14: What parents can do, Ch. 15: The nurture assumption on trial & Appendix 2: Testing theories of child development 
Week 13 (December 4) 

      Vandell, D. L. (2000). Parents, peer groups, and other socializing influences. Developmental Psychology, 36, 699-710. 

      Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, personality development, and the child's environments: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36, 711-723