Orientation to Personality
Professor Andersen !
WHAT IS PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY?
• “Personality” has many definitions with no single, universally
• Personality is associated with social skills and effectiveness
in popular usage
- i.e. someone has” a lot of personality”, or “a popular
• Personality is also associated with an individual’s most
striking or dominant characteristic.
- i.e. you have a “shy” personality
• In Personality psychology, the concepts goes beyond these
meanings, it has many aspects, which reflects the richness
and complexity of the term.
Stable, Coherent Individual Differences
• Different people respond differently to similar events
• One goal of Personality psychology is to find and describe
those individual differences between people that are
psychologically meaningful and stable.
• Concept of personality deals with how we are different from
each other and qualities of individuals that are relatively
• If a person’s behavior changes from time to time, then it may
or may not be indicative of behavior, however, sometimes the change in a person’s behavior can be meaningful and tell
you something about their personality
• Situational factors contribute to the change in a person’s
behavior, if the change is consistent with similar
circumstances, this can tell you about personalities
• Coherence in the pattern of change in an individual’s
behavior may be another key component of personality.
** Jane and Charles + grades example
Predicting and Understanding
• “Personality” usually implies continuity or consistency in the
• Observed differences may be meaningful indicators of
individual differences in the personality of individuals.
• Goals of Personality Psychologists:
1) Identifying consistent, stable individual differences (map
out characteristic ways of behaving) in order to describe
people and to predict their future behavior (what to expect
2) What underlies these differences?
• Try to explain and understand observed psychological
differences between people.
• Definition begins with the assumptions that: 1) there are
stable individual differences and 2) these differences reflect
an underlying organization or structure.
• One classic and still influential working definition: “…the
dynamic organization within the individual of those
psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic
behavior and thought.”
• Broadly accepted definition: “Personality is the complex
organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviors that gives
direction and pattern (coherence) to the person’s life. Like the body, personality consists of both structures and
processes and reflects both nature (genes) and nurture
(experience). In addition, personality includes the effects of
the past, including memories of the past, as well as
constructions of the present and future” – Pervin (1996)
• Mission of personality psychology – “account for the
individual’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, emotion, and
behavior together with the psychological mechanisms –
hidden or not – behind those patterns.” – David Funder
• To capture richness of human behavior, personality construct
has to encompass:
1) Personality shows continuity, stability, and coherence
2) Personality is expressed in many ways – from overt
behavior through thoughts and feelings.
3) Personality is organized In fact, when it is fragmented or
disarranged, it is a sign of disturbance.
4) Personality is a determinant that influences how the
individual relates to the social world
5) Personality is a psychological concept, but it also is
assumed to link with the physical, biological characteristics
of a person.
• THEORY AND LEVELS OF ANALYSIS IN PERSONALITY
Early “Big Picture” Theory
• Personality psychology existed since people started asking
questions about human nature and attempted to classify and
understand the varieties of individual differences in important
attributes and their causes.
• 400 B.C.: Hippocrates philosophized about basic human
temperaments (e.g. choleric, depressive), associated traits
- thought physical qualities (yellow bile or too much blood)
= responsible for differences in temperament - began Trait and type psychology – draw from modern
measurements method and today’s biology
• Aristotle believed the brain is the “conscious and intellectual
soul that is peculiar to man” – brain is the seat of rational
- led to the western view of human mind
- dualistic view: humans consist of mind and body
• Descartes: the mind is what gives us the capacities for
thoughts and consciousness
- the mind decides and the body carries out
• 1900s: Sigmund Freud
- a Vienna physician
- characterized his time with a comprehensive and powerful
theory of personality
- his theory made reason secondary and made primary the
unconscious and its often unacceptable, irrational motives
and desires – changed view of human nature.
- his tradition continue to influence modern personality
psychology but in ways that changed from Freud’s original
- work of his followers and scientific developments help
reinterpret and revise his work
• From Grand Theories to Levels of Analysis
• First half of 20 century, personality psychology influenced
by theories of personality developed by “big picture”