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Using Common Psychological Terms to Describe Other People: From Lexical Hypothesis to Polysemous Conception

Abstract : According to the lexical approach to personality, psychological adjectives used in everyday language (e.g., "extraverted") are a valid basis for describing the psychological properties that can be measured using personal- ity inventories. In the present contribution, both the foundations and the con- sequences of this approach are subjected to a critical analysis, which comes to the conclusion that it is based on a mistaken conception of psychological terms and a questionable assumption as to the purpose of personality inven- tories. A fresh method is therefore put forward, defending a polysemous approach to psychological terms, partly inspired by Wittgenstein's second philosophy (1953). This approach stresses the fact that every adjective encom- passes different meanings (i.e., no adjective can be summed up by a single essential meaning); and one of these meanings may become dominant, to the detriment of the others, according to the forms of life (i.e., social and lin- guistic practices) in which people are objectively involved. The need to link the definition of adjectives to peoples' concrete forms of life paves the way for a new and radically different program of research from that constructed within the framework of the lexical hypothesis.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 4:58:20 PM
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Patrick Mollaret. Using Common Psychological Terms to Describe Other People: From Lexical Hypothesis to Polysemous Conception. Theory and Psychology, SAGE Publications, 2009, 19 (3), pp.315-334. ⟨10.1177/0959354309104157⟩. ⟨hal-01473315⟩

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