INTRODUCTION TO PERSONALITY
Major Issues in Personality
Nature versus Nurture?
o Is it how we are brought up or our environments?
o The way our genes evolve is based on the experiences we have with one another – huge
growing field that was just discovered in the past decade
What is ‘human nature’?
o Has been debated upon greatly between sociologists, psychologists and biologists
o Is there such an event where every human being is ‘similar’ in some particular way?
How does personality develop?
o What does change about our personalities as we grow up?
o What needs to occur so that changes personality after time?
What motivates us?
o What are our motives and why do people act certain ways?
Conscious versus unconscious?
o Introduced by Freud and psychodynamic theory
o Our motives, why we want/need certain things are all unknown to us because it is
stored in our unconsciousness
Group versus individual?
o What should we be trying to understand when studying psychology?
Nomothetic – one studies an (for example) an individual, a tree and an animal
but makes a general conclusion about these things; bring out a general
statement regarding them, but not to its specific being; something that is true
throughout; this dominates Personality Theory
Idiographic – derived from Greek meaning ‘individual drawing’; popular in
Humanistic Theory; studies a specific topic and not to make generalized
statements but a specific statement pertaining to their study
Personality versus Other Fields
More global and general
o Attempting to account for many aspects of psychology because it covers such a broad
o Personality is huge!
Long history of Interest
o Theories of personality goes back thousands of years; very ancient and challenging field
Many large-scale theories
o In other psychology courses, there are only two or maybe three theories but in
personality, there are dozens of theories trying to explain but no dominate one
Theories don’t guide research
o Theories essentially are describing/making sense of some observations; we want to
model reality to describe how things are
o Theories provoke questions for us to understand things better; experiments are often
led by questioning theories
Theories generated/tested differently
o Develop a model/theory from observations of data collection
o Observation to theory to application in most other studies, but in personality, we start
with application, then move to theory and finally observe
o Every form of psychotherapy has worked
Theory Development and Testing
Theorists clinicians, not scientists
o They have all worked with people and developed theories from their work
Influenced by theorist’s personality
o More obvious here than in any other psychology field
o Theorist’s personality has always shaped how they see the world
Little empirical support
o Most influential theorist have not tried to scientifically explain themselves but just used
them in practice
Theories difficult to test (personality theories are not very good at giving certain foretelling
o Postdictive, not predictive – after something has happen/behaved/felt something then
you can make conclusions after-the-fact
o Vague, abstract concepts – not clearly defined by measuring; if you can’t measure them,
then how can you develop conclusions?
What is Personality?
Whatever makes for consistency in our behaviour
o Can’t really define personality because all theorists have different meanings
o We as humans are similar but very different at the same time
o Personality is responsible for that consistency in our behaviour/thoughts/feelings
Whatever is responsible for individual differences in behaviour
o Different people have different patterns of consistency
We need to understand that ‘personality’ does not exist (not physical), it is a hypothetical
construct – something that we have made up to make sense of certain events that have
occurred around us
Most of what we learn in psychology is a hypothetical construct, such as the id, ego, superego
Hypothetical constructs can entail energy, gravity, time, etc!
We look at observations, make certain constructs from them and then derive theoretical
relationships to describe and make sense of them
Psychology uses a lot of hypothetical constructs, just like physics (the atom was once a
hypothetical construct before we could actually use technology)
There are multiples ways to understand certain things
Each theory explains certain aspects in greater depth (elephant story – capturing something
useful in a different light) but is essentially trying to convey the same message across
They are metaphors making sense of what we don’t understand
Every theory is a metaphor based on fictional characters – every field of science uses them
Every theory is a metaphor because they always use hypothetical constructs
The following approaches answers some very basic questions about psychology – what kind of
construct should we be using to describe this? It is a very general way in answering questions
The following perspectives are in chronological order
Perspectives on Personality – Type Approach
Limited number of distinct personality types
o Each one of us have a specific type
Emphasis on biological bases of personality
o You are born with your personality type and isn’t going to change very much
o Not been big in clinical psychology because they ‘can’t do anything about it’
Oldest approach (Greek and Romans) –
The Four Humours (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile)
o View developed by Hippocrates, but was popular because of Galen
o The human body has four substances: blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm which
need to be in balance in order for one to be healthy
o When you have too much of one of these, then you develop an illness
o To get rid of an illness, you must get rid of one of these substances (you cannot get rid
of yellow or black bile though)
o Bleeding was done often in the past to ‘get rid of a certain illness’ – barbers would bleed
o Sometimes you are born with an excess of one of these substances and will have an
illness but also have a certain kind of personality
o Blood (sanguine) – described as being extraverts, creative, optimistic, good-natured and