Moin Syed

Origins and Consequences of Individual Differences: The History and Legacy of Psychology at Minnesota


Dr. Moin Syed, picture taken by Silke Moeller in 2021

Moin Syed, PhD, complicates the study of individual differences by reminding us that individuals live in societies, and that we have families, peers, communities, and cultures that influence us as individuals across our lifetimes.  Syed recognizes the persistence of traits - the cornerstone of the study of individual differences - across human groups, that individuals across cultures can be described as falling along a spectrum of introversion and extraversion, for instance.  Yet, Syed is concerned that psychologists overstate the 'generalizability' of these traits, of their genetic bases, and thus may fall short of describing 'the whole person,' an individual in all their unique complexity.  In terms of personality psychology, Syed recalls the 2006 theoretical work by Dan McAdams and Jennifer Pals encouraging the field to move beyond the reductive concept of personality as the Big 5 personality traits toward a 'new big 5,' which significantly broadens both the focus and the methods used to grapple with personality.

Walking the talk, Syed is a proponent of the Open Science Movement and is actively engaging in theoretical work to improve the science of personality psychology.  The Open Science Movement is focused on doing research that is transparent, credible, reproducible, and accessible.  Syed and his students are expanding the use of qualitative methods such as digital storytelling, intervening methodologically by highlighting non-diverse samples used in studies with universal claims, and working to better outcomes for young people.  

McAdams, Dan P., and Jennifer L. Pals. “A New Big Five: Fundamental Principles for an Integrative Science of Personality.” American Psychologist 61, no. 3 (April 2006): 204–17.

Syed, Moin. “Building Causal Knowledge in Behavior Genetics without Racial/Ethnic Diversity Will Result in Weak Causal Knowledge.” PsyArXiv, August 23, 2022.

Syed, Moin, Jillian Fish, Jill Hicks, Ummul-Kiram Kathawalla, and Erika Lee. “Supplemental Material for Somali Migration to the United States: Understanding Adaptation through Digital Stories.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 28, no. 3 (2021): 361–369.

Syed, Moin. “Where Are Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Personality Research?.” PsyArXiv, February 5, 2021.

The North Star STEM Alliance: Building on the Legacy of Minnesota’s LSAMP. National Science Foundation. $3,736,966 Total Costs. 09/01/17-08/31/22
PIs: Katrice Albert, Moin Syed, Toyia Younger, Samuel B. Mukasa, and Robert B. McMaster


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