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Personality Psychology

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Jeradine Young Personality Psychology May 30, 2006 Introduction The field of personality psychology is flourishing. In many respects the current aspects of the field reflects important shifts, both methodological and conceptual, that have occurred over the past two decades. Some of these changes arose in response to conceptual crises within the field, particularly the Great Trait Debate that occupied much of the field in the seventies. Other shifts reflect the gradual maturing of intellectual agendas that were present at the modern inception of academic personality psychology in the nineteen thirties (Craik, 1986). Personality Psychology Personality psychology is the scientific discipline that studies the personality system. The discipline seeks to understand a person's major psychological patterns and how those patterns are expressed in an individual's life. Personality psychologists conduct scientific research on personality, teach about personality (usually at the college and university level) and participate in the broader discipline of psychology (Phares, 1991). Personality psychology studies how psychological systems work together. The field can act as a unifying resource for the broader discipline of psychology. Yet, personality's current field-wide organization promotes a fragmented view of the person, seen through such competing theories as the psychodynamic, trait, and humanistic (Pervin, 2003). Unlike some of the others areas of psychology, personality psychology has no single accepted theoretical framework (Burger, 1993). There is, of course, a consensus within the field about the important questions (that's what makes it a field in the first place), but the kinds of answers that satisfy one personality researcher can, and often do, differ radically from the kinds of answers that satisfy another. Why is this? One reason may be that the goal of personality psychology, to make sense of the whole person, is inherently controversial (Burger, 2000). Personality psychologists strive to understand the impact that one person can have on others in the social environment. Although it is a concern that personality psychologists and lay observers both share, the more evaluative connotations of personality are largely absent from the scientific study of personality. ...read more.


Because it is other people who provide this positive regard, we become dependent on them. Consequently, our view of ourselves and our self-worth is a reflection of how we think others view us (Boeree, 1997). Abraham Maslow suggests that self-actualization is a primary goal in life. Self-actualization is a state of self-fulfillment in which people achieve their highest potential in their own unique way (Boeree, 1997). The Evolutionary Theory stresses that behavior is strongly influenced by biology, is tied to evolution, and is characterized by critical or sensitive periods (Malone, 1990)). Evolutionary approaches grow out of the groundbreaking work of Charles Darwin. The evolutionary perspective is also referred to as Ethological or Biological (Feist & Feist, 2002). Konrad Lorenz discovered that newborn geese are genetically preprogrammed to become attached to the first moving object they see after birth. His work, which demonstrated the importance of biological determinants in influencing behavior patterns, ultimately led developmentalists to consider the ways in which human behavior might reflect inborn genetic patterns (Feist & Feist, 2002). The evolutionary perspective encompasses one of the fastest growing areas within the field of lifespan development, behavioral genetics. Behavioral genetics studies the effects of heredity and genetics on behavior. As technology improves, and researchers continue to map the human genome, there is an increasing understanding of the role and function of the genetic codes and their influence on development (Malone, 1990). Advocates of the psychodynamic perspective believe that behavior is motivated by inner forces, memories and conflicts that are generally beyond people's awareness and control. There are 2 major theories: Freud's psychoanalytic theory suggests that unconscious forces act to determine personality and behavior. To Freud, the unconscious is a part of the personality about which a person is unaware. It contains infantile wishes, desires, demands and needs that are hidden, because of their disturbing nature, from conscious awareness. Freud suggested that the unconscious is responsible for a good part of our everyday behavior. ...read more.


pattern of a number of human tendencies, including traits, dispositions, unconscious dynamics, learned coping strategies, habitual and spontaneous affective responses, goal-directedness, information-processing style, and genetic and biological factors that give some degree of consistency to human behavior. Very important in this approach to understanding personality are the notions of both a pattern of characteristics and the relatively consistent nature of their occurrence. Personality theory is not greatly concerned with a unique occurrence of a particular behavior, but rather the consistent pattern of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions and their overlapping and unique manifestations in individuals (Engler, 1995). At this point in the development of a science of personality, there is no general agreement on all the factors which contribute to, and make up human personality. There is not even general agreement over which aspects to study or exactly how to study them. Nevertheless, the field of personality theory and research is exceedingly rich and varied. However, we must approach this richness by understanding the approaches of various theories and their particular focus (Carver & Scheier, 2000). Within the social and behavioral sciences, personality psychologists have chosen to specialize in comprehensiveness (Little, 1972). As an intellectual field its scope of inquiry is inordinately extensive. Personality psychology seeks to integrate diverse influences on human conduct ranging from the genetic and neurophysiological underpinnings of traits to the historical contexts within which individual life stories can be rendered coherent. Pervin (2003) has provided a thoughtful definition of personality which, in part, characterizes it as "the complex organization of cognitions, affects, and behaviors that gives direction and pattern (coherence) to the person's life." The study of personality seeks to understand how individuals are like all other people, some other people, and no other person (Little, 1972). It formulates theories about the nature of human nature, the role of individual differences, and the study of single cases. Personality psychology provides one of the core basic sciences underlying many of the fields of applied psychology, including clinical, counseling, health, and organizational psychology. ...read more.

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