A picture of the depictions of personality dimensions.
Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that studies personality and its variation among individuals. It is a scientific study which aims to show how people are individually different due to psychological forces. Its areas of focus include:
construction of a coherent picture of the individual and their major psychological processes
investigation of individual psychological differences
investigation of human nature and psychological similarities between individuals
The study of personality has a broad and varied history in psychology with an abundance of theoretical trad. The major theories include dispositional (trait) perspective, psychodynamic, humanistic, biological, behaviorist, evolutionary, and social learning perspective. However, many researchers and psychologists do not explicitly identify themselves with a certain perspective and instead take an eclectic approach. Research in this area is empirically driven, such as dimensional models, based on multivariate statistics, such as factor analysis, or emphasizes theory development, such as that of the psychodynamic theory. There is also a substantial emphasis on the applied field of personality testing. In psychological education and training, the study of the nature of personality and its psychological development is usually reviewed as a prerequisite to courses in abnormal psychology or clinical psychology.
Many of the ideas developed by historical and modern personality theorists stem from the basic philosophical assumptions they hold. The study of personality is not a purely empirical discipline, as it brings in elements of art, science, and philosophy to draw general conclusions. The following five categories are some of the most fundamental philosophical assumptions on which theorists disagree:
Freedom versus determinism – This is the question whether humans have control over their own behavior and understand the motives behind it or if their behavior is causally determined by forces beyond their control. Behavior is categorized as being either unconscious, environmental or biological by various theories.
Heredity versus environment – Personality is thought to be determined largely either by genetics and biology, or by environment and experiences. Contemporary research suggests that most personality traits are based on the joint influence of genetics and environment. One of the forerunners in this arena is C. Robert Cloninger, who pioneered the Temperament and Character model.
Uniqueness versus universality – This question discusses the extent of each human's individuality (uniqueness) or similarity in nature (universality). Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers were all advocates of the uniqueness of individuals. Behaviorists and cognitive theorists, in contrast, emphasize the importance of universal principles, such as reinforcement and self-efficacy.
Active versus reactive – This question explores whether humans primarily act through individual initiative (active) or through outside stimuli. Traditional behavioral theorists typically believed that humans are passively shaped by their environments, whereas humanistic and cognitive theorists believe that humans are more active in their role. Most modern theorists agree that both are important, with aggregate behavior being primarily determined by traits and situational factors being the primary predictor of behavior in the short term.
Optimistic versus pessimistic – Personality theories differ with regard to whether humans are integral in the changing of their own personalities. Theories that place a great deal of emphasis on learning are often more optimistic than those that do not.