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Perspectives of Personality Psychology


The First Force:  Psychoanalytical – Sigmund Freud Self-regulating and independent unconscious processes make up the essence of personality.  They operate though mental structures that are in continual conflict.

 Neo-Freudian – Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Karen Horney –   Conscious individual, social, and interpersonal, factors are powerful fores in shaping personality.  Also referred to as Freud-Neo-Freudian theory.

The Second Force:  Behavioral Theory – John Watson, B.F. Skinner – Personality is learned and is the observable result of reinforcement.

The Third Force:  Humanistic Theory – Albert Ellis, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow – People are basically good and strive toward maximum personal development or self-actualization.

Trait Theory:  Raymond Cattell, Hans Eysenck – Differences among people can be reduced to a limited number of distinct behavioral styles or traits, The Five Factor Model – OCEAN.

In determining main factors that drive personality researchers continue to examine biological and social factors of personality development. Psychologists offer different perspectives regarding the development of personality. Debated frequently is nature versus nurture, is personality contingent upon biology, genetics, or learned behavior via exposure to different environmental factors. To understand personality development each theory and concept must be examined.

Evaluating Perspectives of Personality

Being the first organized structure for the development of personality, Freud developed the most influential and comprehensive theory of personality. Although the psychoanalytical perspective of personality was groundbreaking, the theory had many weaknesses. Freud’s sample population did not represent the greater percentage of people, and that the women of that era viewed sex as uncivilized behavior limiting the objectiveness of research. Freud’s theories did not take other cultures into consideration, Freud’s theories favored men and his documented therapy reports were modified and his questions very leading, and lastly Freudian theory is not scientific. The adaptation of the Neo-Freudian perspective gave more credibility to Freudian theory when social, cultural, and gender facts were taken into consideration. These new theories of personality lifted the constraints of Freudian theory and allowed researchers to expand personality development to encompass the life span.

To date technology has allowed behavioral theorists and genetic researchers to identify certain heredity genetic factors that are evident in one’s cognitive abilities, personality, health, mental health, and sexual orientation. Psychologists agree that personality is formed through interaction between characteristics, the environment, and personal experience. Critics argue that behaviorists cannot compare results of animal studies with those of humans and that behaviorists do not place enough significance on biological factors. The social-cognitive approach expands all theories, psychoanalytical, behavioral, and genetic/trait encompassing all relevant factors including socially important principles, Bio-psycho-social. Conclusions on genetic and trait theories suggested that genetic or trait influences do appear to contribute significantly in the development of personality. The belief of genetic and trait theories is that people inherit biological genetic traits and then with experience and time develop into individual unique people. However, genetic and trait theories alone also have many weaknesses. Trait theories describe personality more than explain the development of personality. Trait theorists are unable to explain the relationship between traits and individual feelings. The thoughts and feelings of the individual are not explored and trait theory only allows for a broad list of personality descriptions without explaining how the genetic or biological influences interact within the person.

Lastly, humanistic and social-cognitive perspectives on personality appear to be the most credible. Taking into account Bandura’s perspective that thought, environment, and behavior are interdependent and equally important and can only be understood by the combination of biological traits and life experience. Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism in fact defines personality. Strengthening this perspective is Mischel’s Cognitive/Affective theory indicating that cognition variables coupled with situational variables produces behavior. This new focus of personality development is consistent with Bandura’s reciprocal determinism concept. Unlike the standard behavioral approach to personality that neglected to include unconscious processes, experiences, and genetic or biological issues, the social-cognitive approach applies all concepts of personality development.

Veronica Emilia Nuzzolo, MED

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Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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