Personality Psychology – One of the Most Popular Psychology Branches
Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that examines personality and its variation among individuals. It aims to show how people are individually different due to psychological forces. Its areas of focus include:
- construction of a coherent picture of the individual and their major psychological processes
- investigation of individual psychological differences
- investigation of human nature and psychological similarities between individuals.
Personality concerns the most important, most noticeable, parts of an individual’s psychological life. It refers to the enduring characteristics and behavior that comprise a person’s unique adjustment to life (traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns). From eccentric and introverted to boisterous and bold, the human personality is a complex and colorful thing. Personality refers to a person’s distinctive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It derives from a mix of innate dispositions and inclinations along with environmental factors and experiences. Although personality can change over a lifetime, one’s core personality traits tend to remain relatively consistent during adulthood.
Thinking About the Problem
Different answers are possible to the question “Why Study Personality?” Here is a possible answer. Each of us, as human beings, influences much that is within us and around us. Each of us has many psychological attributes — feelings, thoughts, motivations, and the like. It is our personality that orchestrates our psychological qualities. The discipline of personality psychology helps answer some of the following questions.
- Our feelings (strong or slight) determine some of how we act and react. Our thoughts guide us and influence others, who may be entertained by our wit or attracted to our wisdom.
- Our sense of self helps inform us of how to make choices among alternatives. These choices may help us grow or may harm us.
- The personality persistently influences how we feel, what we do, who we are, and how we influence the world.
- Most of us can’t help but wonder how our personality works, how our personality came to be — and what it might mean for our future.
- We also wonder about the personalities of others — how they are the same or different from us.
Personality psychology concerns what our personalities are, how they work, and what they can mean to our own and others’ futures.
The study of personality is not a purely empirical discipline. It also brings in elements of art, science, and philosophy to draw general conclusions. The following five categories are some of the most fundamental philosophical assumptions on which theorists disagree:
- Freedom versus determinism – This is the question of whether humans have control over their own behavior and understand the motives behind it, or if their behavior is causally determined by forces beyond their control. Behavior is categorized as being either unconscious, environmental or biological by various theories.
- Heredity versus environment – Personality is thought to be determined largely either by genetics and biology, or by environment and experiences. Contemporary research suggests that most personality traits are based on the joint influence of genetics and environment. One of the forerunners in this arena is C. Robert Cloninger, who pioneered the Temperament and Character model.
- Uniqueness versus universality – This question discusses the extent of each human’s individuality (uniqueness) or similarity in nature (universality). Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers were all advocates of the uniqueness of individuals. Behaviorists and cognitive theorists, in contrast, emphasize the importance of universal principles, such as reinforcement and self-efficacy.
- Active versus reactive – This question explores whether humans primarily act through individual initiative (active) or through outside stimuli. Traditional behavioral theorists believed that humans are passively shaped by their environments, whereas humanistic and cognitive theorists believe that humans play a more active role. Most modern theorists agree that both are important, with aggregate behavior being primarily determined by traits and situational factors being the primary predictor of behavior in the short term.
- Optimistic versus pessimistic – Personality theories differ with regard to whether humans are integral in the changing of their own personalities. Theories that place a great deal of emphasis on learning are often more optimistic than those that do not.
The study of personality has a broad and varied history in psychology, with an abundance of theoretical traditions. Researchers in this field of personality psychology use a variety of methods, including self-report surveys, behavioral observations, and experimental manipulations, to study these topics. They may also use brain imaging and genetic analysis to understand the underlying biological and environmental factors that contribute to personality.
The major personality theories include dispositional (trait) perspective, psychodynamic, humanistic, biological, behaviorist, evolutionary, and social learning perspective. Many researchers and psychologists do not explicitly identify themselves with a certain perspective and instead take an eclectic approach.
Dispositional (Trait) Personality Theory
Dispositional (trait) personality theory proposes that personality is made up of a small number of key traits that are relatively stable over time. That means that they tend to be consistent across different situations and contexts. According to it, people differ in the levels of certain traits that they possess. These differences can help to explain why people behave and think in different ways.
Trait theories are useful because they provide a framework for understanding and predicting individual differences in personality. Here are several examples:
– Someone who is high in extraversion is more likely to be outgoing and sociable.
– An individual who is low in extraversion is more likely to be introverted and shy.
– Someone who is high in conscientiousness is more likely to be organized and responsible.
– An individual who is low in conscientiousness is more likely to be disorganized and irresponsible.
Trait theories have been influential in the field of psychology and have led to the development of various personality assessments, such as the Five Factor Model (FFM) and the Big Five personality traits. These assessments are used to measure and describe an individual’s personality in terms of the five key traits mentioned above.
Psychodynamic Personality Theory
Psychodynamic personality theory is a psychological theory that emphasizes the role of unconscious desires and conflicts in shaping personality. This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud, who is considered the father of psychoanalysis. According to psychodynamic theory, personality is made up of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id represents our primitive and instinctual drives (desire for food, sex, and aggression). The ego is responsible for our conscious thoughts and actions. It serves as a mediator between the id and the outside world. The superego represents our moral and ethical standards. It strives to suppress the impulses of the id in order to conform to societal norms.
According to psychodynamic theory, the unconscious mind plays a central role in shaping personality. It contains our repressed thoughts, feelings, and memories. These unconscious conflicts can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in powerful ways.
Psychoanalytic therapy, which is based on psychodynamic theory, is a form of treatment that aims to help individuals understand and resolve their unconscious conflicts. This is typically done through a process called free association. The therapist helps the patient to explore their thoughts and feelings without censorship. By bringing unconscious conflicts to the surface, individuals can gain insight into their underlying causes and work towards resolving them.
Humanistic Personality Theory
Humanistic personality theory emphasizes the importance of personal growth, self-actualization, and the individual’s subjective experiences in shaping personality. This theory was developed by two influential psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. They focused on the positive aspects of human nature and the potential for personal growth.
According to humanistic theory, people have an innate drive to reach their full potential and achieve self-actualization. This drive is motivated by a basic human need for self-esteem and a sense of personal worth. This theory suggests that people are fundamentally good and have the capacity to make choices based on their own values and beliefs. It also emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and self-determination in shaping personality.
Humanistic therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on helping individuals understand and fulfill their potential for personal growth. This is typically done through a process called person-centered therapy. The therapist helps the patient to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a non-judgmental and supportive environment. By helping individuals to understand their own subjective experiences and identify their own values and goals, humanistic therapy can help them to develop a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
Biological Personality Theory
Biological personality theory suggests that personality is influenced by genetics and biology. This theory proposes that differences in personality are due, at least in part, to differences in the genes that people inherit from their parents and gene expression.
Researchers who study biological personality theory focus on identifying the specific genes and brain structures that are associated with certain personality traits. Studies have found that certain genetic variations may be associated with higher levels of traits such as extraversion or neuroticism. Other research has identified specific brain structures, such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, that are involved in the regulation of emotions. They may also be related to personality traits.
Biological personality theory suggests that genetics and biology may play a role in shaping an individual’s personality. But it is important to note that other factors, such as environmental influences and life experiences, also play a significant role. In order to understand the complex interplay between genetics, biology, and the environment in shaping personality, researchers often use a multivariate approach, which takes into account the contributions of multiple factors.
Behaviorist Personality Theory
Behaviorist personality theory proposes that personality is shaped by a combination of heredity and environmental influences, including the experiences and observations a person has throughout their life. This theory suggests that people learn new behaviors and attitudes through reinforcement, punishment, and observation.
Behaviorist theory is based on the idea that personality is not an inherent or fixed characteristic, but rather a set of learned behaviors. It is acquired through experience. According to this theory, people’s personalities are shaped by the rewards and punishments they receive for behaving in certain ways. For example, if a person is consistently rewarded for being outgoing and sociable, they may develop an extraverted personality. On the other hand, if a person is consistently punished for being aggressive, they may develop a more submissive personality.
Behaviorist theory also emphasizes the role of observation in shaping personality. People may learn new behaviors and attitudes by observing others, particularly those who are influential or have high status. For example, children may learn to behave in certain ways by observing and imitating their parents or other authority figures.
Behaviorist theory helped to develop various approaches to personality assessment and treatment like behavioral therapy and social learning theory. These approaches focus on changing behaviors and attitudes through reinforcement and other learning principles.
Evolutionary Personality Theory
Evolutionary personality theory suggests that personality is influenced by evolutionary forces, such as natural selection and sexual selection. This theory proposes that certain personality traits may have evolved because they helped individuals to survive and reproduce in their ancestral environments. It states that personality traits are influenced by genetics and may be passed down from one generation to the next. Some researchers have suggested that certain personality traits may have evolved as adaptations to specific environmental challenges. Need to find food or defend against predators can serve as examples.
Evolutionary theory also proposes that certain personality traits may be related to attractiveness and may have evolved as a result of sexual selection. This process makes certain traits or behaviors more common in a population because they are attractive to the opposite sex. Thus, research has suggested that traits such as kindness, intelligence, and a sense of humor may be attractive to potential mates. So, they may have evolved as a result of sexual selection.
Evolutionary personality theory is a relatively new area of research and is still being explored by psychologists and other researchers. It is important to note that personality is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and social factors, and that evolutionary theory is just one perspective on how personality may have developed over time.
Personality Testing as the Applied Field of Personality Psychology
There is also a substantial emphasis on the applied field of personality testing in personality psychology.
Personality testing involves the use of standardized tests or other assessment tools to measure and evaluate individual differences in personality. They are designed to measure specific aspects of personality, like motionality, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion. These tests can be used to assess a wide range of personality traits, including motivation, self-confidence, leadership ability, and interpersonal skills. Personality tests are commonly used in a variety of settings, including education, employment, and mental health treatment. They can be administered in a variety of formats, including online, on paper, or through one-on-one interviews with trained professionals.
Personality psychology is concerned with understanding how personality develops, how it varies across individuals, and how it influences behavior in different situations. It has many practical applications, including in the fields of education, employment, and mental health. By understanding personality, psychologists can better predict behavior and make decisions about their suitability for certain roles or positions. They can also help individuals develop their own strengths and improve their well-being. In addition, personality studies can help us improve our relationships with others and better understand ourselves.