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In psychology, personality is a collection of emotion, thought, and behavior patterns unique to a person. There are several theoretical perspectives on personality in psychology, which involve different ideas about the relationship between personality and other psychological constructs, as well as different theories about the way personality develops.


Personality theories

There is a wide range of psychological theories about the way personality works. Most specific theories can be grouped into one of the following classes of theories.

Trait theories

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of the American Psychiatric Association, personality traits are "prominent aspects of personality that are exhibited in a wide range of important social and personal contexts. ...". In other words: persons have certain characteristics which partly determine their behaviour. For example, a friendly person is likely to generally listen well and show interest in others.

Gordon Allport delineates three kinds of traits with varying degrees of intensity: cardinal traits , central traits, and secondary traits .

Raymond Cattell's research propagated a two-tiered personality structure with fifteen "primary factors" and five "secondary factors". Building on the work of Cattell and others, Lewis Goldberg proposed a five dimension personality model, nicknamed the "Big Five":

  1. Extroversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Emotional Stability
  5. Intellect

John L. Holland proposed a "RIASEC" model of personality widely used in vocational counseling. The RIASEC is a circumplex model where the six types, which are represented as a hexagon where physically closer types are more related than distal types:

  1. Realistic - Physical, hands-on, tool-oriented, masculine
  2. Investigative - Scientific, technical, methodological
  3. Artistic - writing, painting, singing, etc.
  4. Social - nurturing, supporting, helping, healing
  5. Enterprising - organizing, activating, motivating
  6. Conventional - clerical, detail-oriented

Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Meyers alleged that the writings of Carl Jung delineated personality types by constructing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Their personality typology has some aspects of a trait theory: it explains people's behaviour in terms of fixed characteristics.

Psychodynamic theories

Psychodynamic (also called psychoanalytic) theories explain human behaviour in terms of interaction between various components of personality. Sigmund Freud was the founder of this school. He broke the human personality down to three significant components: the id, the ego and the superego. According to Freud, personality is shaped by the interactions of these three components.

Behaviorist theories

Behaviorists explain personality in terms of reactions to external stimuli. This school of thought was started by B. F. Skinner. According to these theories, people's behaviour is formed by processes such as operant conditioning.

Cognitive and social-cognitive theories

In cognitivism, people's behaviour is explained as guided by cognitions (e.g. expectations) about the world, and especially those about other people.

Albert Bandura, a social learning theorist suggested that the forces of memory and feelings worked in conjunction with environmental influences.

Humanistic theories

In humanistic psychology, it is emphasized that people have free will and that they play an active role in determining how they behave. Accordingly, humanistic psychology focuses on subjective experiences of persons, instead of factors that determine behaviour. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers were famous proponents of this view.

A typology of personality models

Modern personality models may generally be broken into three types: factorial models, typologies, and circumplexes.

Factorial models posit that there are dimensions along which human personality differs. The main purpose of a personality model is thus to define the dimensions of personality. Factor analysis is a primary tool of theorists composing factorial models. Such models arise directly from a classical individual differences approach to the study of human personality. Goldberg's Big Five model may be the best-known example of this type of theory.

Typologies or type models arise naturally from some theories that posit types of people. For example, astrological signs represented a well-known, pre-scientific typological model. Typological models posit a relatively small number of modal types and possibly some interaction between the types. The Jungian typology implemented in the MBTI may best represent the typology approach.

Circumplex models may resemble factorial or type models but further specify a relationship between the different types or factors. Typically, some types or factors are more related than others and can be presented on a polygon. Holand's RIASEC may be the best-known example of this type of theory. Correlations of personality scores should resemble a simplex form where opposing types have low correlation and close types have a high correlation.

Personality tests

Types of personality tests include the Rorschach test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the Thematic Apperception Test. Critics have pointed to the Forer effect to suggest that some of these appear to be more accurate and discriminating than they really are.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Mischel, W. (1999). Introduction to personality. Sixth edition. Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace.

Last updated: 08-16-2005 04:40:08