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Personality is a common terminology used by many people to state obvious features of individuals or to refer to their specific social skills. Within the field of psychology, personality theorists are mainly interested in explaining why individuals with same heredity and motivation may have diverse reactions in similar situations. Additionally, they are also interested in explaining why individuals with different heredity, past experiences and motivation may act similarly in same circumstances. With this qualification, personality can thus be defined as a dynamic organization within a person of specific systems that determine their normal behavior and thinking. In this paper, I will describe eight common features used to describe personality, state the advantages and disadvantages of having a diversity of personality theories to the understanding of personality, the contributions of Freud and Adler to our current understanding of human personality, The Big Five Model as a complete personality theory according to McCrae and Costa and criticism by other theorists, and finally state what I have learnt about my own personality from this course.
To understand personality psychology, there are eight common features or theories that describe it such as: first, psychoanalytic feature which was developed by Freud dwells on the influences that early family life has on individual’s sexual desires. Second, Neo-Analytical theories which were developed out of psychoanalytic features focus on the self or ego as the central core of the individual. Mainly concerned with how individual egos copes with inner desires and external influences on it by others. Third, behavioral theories which deal with human behavior that can be monitored and also looks at personality features available in external environments. These features replaced the traditional ways of punishment used to rectify bad behavior with a reward system. Main theorists who advanced this perspective were B. F Skinner, Watson, and Pavlov who believed that human behavior is driven by environmental forces. Fourth, cognitive features which dwell on perceptive thoughts, decision making, and individual judgments. Individuals apply these features to the interpretation of the world around them. Fifth, biological features of personality which try to explain behavior through individual’s internal biological process such as genetics, evolution, brain, and nervous system function. Sixth, humanistic theories which attempt to focus on an individual’s self image, and actualization to determine personality. Seven, trait theories of personality which try to deal with individual characteristics believed to be inherited at birth. This theory consists of five traits commonly referred to as the Big Five such as variability and consistency, significance of culture, functional equivalents, common traits, and personal disposition. Finally, interaction’s theory which tries to look at inherited traits and how those traits are adapted through individual’s interaction with the surrounding environment. It attempts to explain individuals react differently in different situations. 1
The theory of psychoanalysis was advanced by Freud Sigmund and has made significant contribution to our understanding of psychology particularly in the field of personality in a number of ways such as: one, the theory advanced mental representations of self, others and relationships. This has had an impact in guiding people’s interactions with others and influences the manner in which people become psychologically aware. Two, Freud’s theory involves not only learning that regulates sexual and aggressive feelings, but also moving people from immature, socially depended conditions to mature and interdepended states. Three, according to Freud stable personality patterns begin in childhood, and adulthood experiences are significant contributors to personality development
Due to the complex nature noticed particularly in defining and explaining personality, there are a number of theories that assist us in understanding personality. These theories advance our understanding of human personality and on the same breadth, hinders our understanding of personality. Having so many theories of personality advances our understanding of human personality because; first, they organize the aspects of personality that we already know. These theories allow the adjustments of these dimensions as new information is developed. Second, personality theories theoretical framework of the key issues I the understanding of personality psychology. For instance, the psychoanalysis theory advocated by Freud Sigmund formally provides a summary of his views regarding the structure of personality and the role of instincts in psychoanalysis. Personality theories also help in isolating insignificant features of the phenomenon being studied. Last but not least, diverse personality theories suggest by organizing significant facts, guides on specific research required to fill in mixing facts. For instance, personality learning theories indicate those features of theories well. These theories provide ideas for research purposes that can assist in further improvement in personality psychology studies. On the other hand, having so many diverse personality theories hinders our understanding of personality because most of these theories cannot account for the irrational less predictive probable patterns of human thoughts and behavior.2
According to McCrae and Costa personality inventory, it is the most complete personality theory. The Big Five Model differs from other theories because it is not based on the theory of any psychologist. However some theorists dispute the assertion that the Big Five Model is the most complete personality theory. According to these theorists, the Big Five Model does not explain completely the aspect of human personality. They particularly feel that the model neglects other domains of personality such as honesty, motivation, self concepts, and many others. According to McAdams, the Big Five Model refers to the characteristics that are obvious to recognize in a stranger. The Big Five Model excludes other aspects of personality that are more privately held or more contexts to individuals. Additionally, other personality theorists differ with McCrae and Costa assertion of the Big Five Model as the most complete theory of personality as it is merely based on empirical finding that certain features group together under factor analysis. The underlying factors behind these factors are not known. 3
In conclusion, I believe that the study of this course has supported and encouraged my critical thinking. It has given me more explanations and discussions which has enhanced my ability to reason. Additionally, it has offered me with ideas which might not have surfaced if I had fully understood the strengths and weaknesses of the past theories of personality psychology. I have been able to get additional insight that would not have been possible without being cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of each personality theory. Further, the study has given me an overview as to the direction that society thinking was heading during the time of the theorist and how that thinking has evolved over periods for instance, Freud’s work in 1800”s and into the next century to more recent reasoning to our present day. I am now able to see how theories of personality seek to offer basic questions of personality of psychology.
- Friedman, N. S., Schustack, M. W Personality Classic Theories and Modern Research (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson, 2006.
- McCrae, R. & Costa, P. T. Personality in Adulthood, A Five Factor Theory Perspective (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press, 2003
- Schultz, D. P. & Schultz, E. S. A History of Modern Psychology (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ Thomson, 2004
- N, Friedman, M, Schustack Personality Classic Theories and Modern Research ( Boston: Pearson , 2006), 341
- Schultz, P A History of Modern Psychology (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/ Thompson, 2004), 341
- McCrae, R, Costa, P Personality in Adulthood, A Five Factor Theory Perspective (New York: Guilford Press,2003), 113