Marks ’16 examines personality traits, identity styles, altruism

by Jennifer Kwon

Super Friday, an annual event at Carleton where senior psychology majors present their year-long comps project, took place April 22 this year.

A psychology major with a concentration in educational studies, senior Brandon Marks (Chicago) presented the results of his study focused on the relationship between altruistic behavior, personality, and identity styles.

Brandon Marks ‘16 and his mother posing in front of his comps poster on Super Friday. (Photo provided by Brandon Marks)

Marks began his research by conducting three surveys (utilizing Amazon Mechanical Turk, also known as Amazon MTurk, a crowdsourcing internet marketplace) aimed at identifying commonalities amongst personality traits, identity styles, and pro-social behavior.

In measuring personality, he focused on the “Big Five” personality traits — openness to experience, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.

To consider identity styles, he categorized people into three groups — informational style, normative style, and diffusive-avoidant style.

To scale altruism, he asked questions such as how often the respondent held the door for someone or would be likely to push a car out of gas to the nearest gas station. The higher the likelihood, the more altruistic the person would be.

In the MTurk surveys, Marks restricted his demographic domestically, to avoid any confounding variables like culture or nationality. He also restricted the age of participants to between 18 and 25, approximately college age, although he did not collect any data from students at Carleton. He believed that college age students are confronted with more opportunities to learn about themselves and interact with pro-social behavior than other age groups.

“It’s different from what I intended to do in the beginning, but what I figured was that I should broaden the scope of my research to look at things more nationally and to not limit [my research] to the college campus,” explains Marks.

To his surprise, Marks discovered that normative style people, those who relied on the opinions and attitudes of their family and loved ones in forming their sense of identity, displayed the highest inclination in pro-social behavior.

He had originally thought informational style people would most likely to help people, since they are more proactive in seeking information about themselves than others.

“I think it’s because these are probably the values that [normative style individuals] were raised with within their homes. They were taught to help other people, and they might actively do charity or volunteer work with their loved ones,” reported Marks in his comps presentation.

Marks have been interested in pro-social behavior since he read an article in 2010 about a homeless man named Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, who was stabbed while assisting a woman that was being mugged. Even though many people walked past by him, only three showed enough interest to report the incident to the police.

This incident made Marks question what led this particular stranger to decide to help the woman, while others avoided engagement.

Following graduation, Marks plans to work at College Possible in St. Paul. He will be helping low-income students to transition successfully into college and provide assistance as they begin their academic career.

Having served as a peer leader himself at Carleton, Marks enjoys forming relationships with first-year students and assisting them in making their experiences meaningful.“I’ll be doing what I did, now but full time,” he remarks.

“I’ll be doing what I did, now but full time,” he remarks.


This article is published on the Carleton website.