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Personality psychology

Personality psychology is a branch of psychology which studies personality and individual difference processes - that which makes us into a person. One emphasis in personality psychology is on trying to create a coherent picture of a person and all his or her major psychological processes. Another emphasis views personality psychology as the study of individual differences. These two views work together in practice. Personality psychologists are interested in a broad view of the individual's psychological processes. This often leads to an interest in the most visible individual differences among people.

Some parts of personality include personality traits. The most common models of traits incorporate four or five broad dimensions or factors. The least controversial dimension, observed as far back as the ancient Greeks, is:

  • extraversion vs. introversion (outgoing and physical-stimulation-oriented vs. quiet and physical-stimulation-averse)

The so-called five-factor models or Big Five models add the following four factors:

  • emotional stability (calm, unperturbable, optimistic vs. emotionally reactive, prone to negative emotions),
  • agreeableness (affable, friendly, conciliatory vs. aggressive, dominant, disagreeable),
  • conscientiousness (dutiful, planful, and orderly vs. spontaneous, flexible, and unreliable), and
  • openness (open to new ideas and change vs. traditional and staid).

The Big Five factors have the weight of a considerable amount of empirical research behind them.

An older, more theoretically-motivated, but quite popular approach to personality traits is a Jungian model Big Four that accepts Extraversion vs. Introversion as basic, and adds the following three only:

  • Intuition vs. Sensing (trust in conceptual/abstract models of reality versus concrete sensory-oriented facts)
  • Thinking vs. Feeling (thinking as the prime-mover in decision-making vs. feelings as the prime-mover in decision-making)
  • Perceiving vs. Judging (desire to perceive events vs. desire to have things done so judgements can be made)

This model was based on the observations of Carl Jung and elaborated on to an important degree by the mother-daughter team of Katharine C. Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers during WWII and later on by David Keirsey.

In these more traditional models, the intuition factor is considered the most basic, dividing people into "N" or "S" personality types. An "N" is further assumed to be guided by the thinking or objectication habit, or feelings, and be divided into "NT" (scientist, engineer) or "NF" (author, human-oriented leader) personality. An "S", by contrast, is assumed to be more guided by the perception axis, and thus divided into "SP" (performer, craftsman, artisan) and "SJ" (guardian, accountant, bureaucrat) personality. These four are considered basic, with the other two factors in each case (including always extraversion) less important.

Critics of this traditional view have observed that the types are quite strongly stereotyped by professions, and thus may arise more from the need to categorize people for purposes of guiding their career choice. This among other objections led to the emergence of the five factor view, which is less concerned with behavior under work stress and more concerned with behavior in personal and emotional circumstances.

Some critics have argued for more or fewer dimensions while others have proposed entirely different theories (often assuming different definitions of "personality").

One criticism of trait models of personality as a whole is that they lead professionals in clinical psychology and laypeople alike to accept classifications, or worse offer advice, based on superficial analysis of one's profile.

Apart from the factor models, there are many other views on personality psychology, one of them George Kelly's personal construct theory. Important contributors to the field are Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Erik Erikson, Otto Rank, Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Albert Ellis, Erich Fromm, B. F. Skinner, Hans Eysenck, Albert Bandura, Gordon Allport, Snygg and Combs, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Ludwig Binswanger, Medard Boss , Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, and Jean Piaget. The fields of Sociobiology and Buddhist Psychology are also of interest in this context.

Personality psychology is often closely associated with social psychology.

See also: clinical psychology, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

External links

  • Personality Theories
  • A contemporary approach to the field of personality psychology
  • The personality project
  • Thesis on the interpersonal theory of personality
  • Personality Theories -- Table of Contents
  • Snygg & Combs' phenomenal field psychology
  • Karen Horney: Personality and gender
  • Existential psychology , discussing, among others, Medard Boss
  • Gordon Allport's personality definitions
  • Buddhist psychology

Last updated: 03-05-2005 19:56:30