Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Whether we realize it or not, these daily musings on how and why people behave as they do are similar to what personality psychologists do.
While our informal assessments of personality tend to focus more on individuals, personality psychologists instead use conceptions of personality that can apply to everyone. Personality research has led to the development of a number of theories that help explain how and why certain personality traits develop.
Components of Personality
While there are many different theories of personality, the first step is to understand exactly what is meant by the term personality. A brief definition would be that personality is made up of the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that make a person unique. In addition to this, personality arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life.
Some of the fundamental characteristics of personality include:
- Consistency - There is generally a recognizable order and regularity to behaviors. Essentially, people act in the same ways or similar ways in a variety of situations.
- Psychological and physiological - Personality is a psychological construct, but research suggests that it is also influenced by biological processes and needs.
- It impacts behaviors and actions - Personality does not just influence how we move and respond in our environment; it also causes us to act in certain ways.
- Multiple expressions - Personality is displayed in more than just behavior. It can also be seen in our thoughts, feelings, close relationships and other social interactions.
Theories of Personality
There are a number of different theories about how personality develops. Different schools of thought in psychology influence many of these theories. Some of these major perspectives on personality include:
- Type theories are the early perspectives on personality. These theories suggested that there are a limited number of "personality types" which are related to biological influences.
- Trait theories viewed personality as the result of internal characteristics that are genetically based.
- Psychodynamic theories of personality are heavily influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, and emphasize the influence of the unconscious on personality. Psychodynamic theories include Sigmund Freud?s psychosexual stage theory and Erik Erikson?s stages of psychosocial development.
- Behavioral theories suggest that personality is a result of interaction between the individual and the environment. Behavioral theorists study observable and measurable behaviors, rejecting theories that take internal thoughts and feelings into account. Behavioral theorists include B. F. Skinner and John B. Watson.
- Humanist theories emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality. Humanist theorists include Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
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