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Computer Models and Personality Theory

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute of Mental Health, Computer Simulation, Models, Personality Theories


This paper describes computer simulation of personality, and discusses its possible contributions to personality theory. Simulation is examined as language translation, as mimic, and as model. The context of simulation and the role of individual differences in computer formulations is also discussed. In terms of language translation, the rigorous processes that are necessary to objectively translate psychological processes into computer language can provide information about the theory, its implications, and any inconsistencies. In artificial intelligence, a problem is solved or an activity is performed without necessarily imitating the processes by which a human performs the task. This type of computing is not particularly germane to personality simulation. A computer simulation constitutes a model of a particular psychological domain, providing a representational system that defines symbols, specifies relationships among variables, and incorporates rules of inference. Running the model on the computer permits the implications of the model to be determined and evaluated for consistency. It affords both greater speed and complexity than mathematical models or verbal models. The issue of individual differences does not pose a different or more peculiar problem for the computer simulation of personality than it does for personality theory in general.

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