Chapter 1 – Studying the Person
Personality psychology is the scientific study of the whole person. The ultimate goal of personality
psychology is to construct a scientifically credible account of psychological individuality. Personality
psychologists often study individual differences in people.
What Do We Know When We Know A Person ?
Sketching an Outline: Dispositional Traits
Personality traits are those general, internal, and comparative dispositions that we attribute to people in
our initial efforts to sort individuals into meaningful behavioural categories and to account for
consistencies that we perceive or expect in behaviour from one situation to the next and over time.
Most common procedure for quantifying individual differences in dispositional traits is by using self-
report questionnaires. The Big Five trait categories are: Openness to experience, conscientiousness,
extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Filling in the Details: Characteristic Adaptations
Trait attributions are useful because they tell us about trends in behaviour over time and across
different situations, settings, and contexts. Characteristic adaptations are contextualized facets of
psychological individuality that speak to motivational, cognitive, and developmental concerns in
Theories of human motivation, which essentially speak to the question of what people fundamentally
want or desire in life. Theories of cognition and personality underscore the role of cognitive factors –
values, beliefs, expectancies, schemas, plans, personal constructs, cognitive styles – in human
individuality. Developmental theories focus on the evolution of the self and its relationships with others
from birth to old age.
Constructing a Story: Integrative life narratives
Identity is the problem of unity and purpose in life, a problem – or better, a challenge – that many
persona, especially those living in modern societies, first encounter as they move from adolescence into
young adulthood. Beyond traits and adaptations, many people seek an integrative framework. The third
level or personality is the level of identity as a life story and life story is an internalized and evolving
narrative of the self that integrates the reconstructed past, perceived present, and anticipated future in
order to provide a life with a sense of unity and prupose.
Science and the Person
Science generally proceeds according to three steps: 1) unsystematic observations, 2) building theories,
and 3) evaluation propositions.
Step 1: Unsystematic Observation