Introduction to Personality The purpose of this paper is to define personality, examine the theoretical approaches in studying personality, and to analyze factors that may influence an individual’s personality development . According to Feist 2009, although there is no single definition of personality that is acceptable to all personality theorists; we can say that personality is a pattern of relatively permanent traits and unique characteristics that give both consistency and individuality to a person’s behavior.
To better understand how traits and characteristics shape personality one must first understand the concept of traits and characteristics. Traits contribute to individual differences in behavior, consistency of behavior over time, and stability of behavior across situations. Traits may be unique to an individual, common among certain groups, or shared by the entire species, but their pattern is different for each individual. Therefor each individual may be like others in some ways but also have differences; the differences are what shape a unique personality for each individual.
Characteristics are unique qualities of an individual that include such attributes as temperament, physique, and intelligence (Feist, 2009). According to Feist 2009, personality theories differ on basic issues concerning the nature of humanity because each personality theory reflects its author’s assumptions about humanity. These assumptions rest on several broad dimensions that separate the various personality theorists, and have resulted in truly different personality theories, not merely differences in terminology.
The six dimensions we use as a framework for viewing each theorist’s concept of humanity are determinism versus free choice, pessimism versus optimism, causality versus teleology, conscious versus unconscious determinants of behavior, biological versus social influences, and uniqueness versus similarities (Feist, 2009 p. 11-12). From these different concepts five theoretical approaches to studying, describing and explaining personality have been identified.
The five theoretical approaches include the psychodynamic theories, humanistic theories, existential theories, dispositional (trait) theories, and learning theories. Psychodynamic theories began with the work an Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, who first proposed the theory. According to Freud, personalities arise because of attempts to resolve conflicts between unconscious sexual and aggressive impulses and societal demands to restrain these impulses.
Carl Jung and Alfred Adler who were followers of Freud’s expanded on his theories which emphasize unconscious motives and desires, as well as the importance of childhood experiences in shaping personality (SparkNotes Editors, 2005). Humanistic theorist believed that one of the faults with the psychodynamic theory was that it did not consider the qualities that make humans unique among animals, such as striving for self-determination and self-realization. Humanistic theorists believe in an individual’s ability to think consciously and rationally, to control their biological urges, and to achieve their full potential.
In the humanistic view, people are responsible for their lives and actions and have the freedom and will to change their attitudes and behavior (SparkNotes Editors, 2005). Dispositional theories, also known as trait theories, define one’s personality through their personal traits and believe that there are five basic traits that each individual share and they refer to these as the big five. The big five includes neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
The Big Five traits remain quite stable over the life span, particularly after the age of thirty. Unlike psychodynamic theorists, behaviorists study only observable behavior. Their explanations of personality focus on learning. Skinner, Bandura, and Walter Mischel all proposed important behaviorist theories. . References Feist, J. , & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed. ). New York, NY: McGraw Hill. SparkNotes Editors. (2005). SparkNote on Personality. Retrieved August 2, 2011, from http://www. sparknotes. com/psychology/psych101/personality/