Personality psychology is one of the largest and most popular branches of psychology. Psychologists strive to understand how personality develops as well as how it influences the way we think and behave. This area of psychology seeks to understand personality and how it varies among individuals as well as how people are similar in terms of personality.
What is it that makes you who you are? Certainly a wide variety of factors contribute to the person you are today including your genetics, your upbringing, and your life experiences.
Many would argue that what truly makes you unique is your own characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that make up your personality.
While there is no single agreed upon definition of personality, it is often thought of as something that arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life. It encompasses all of the thoughts, behavior patterns, and social attitudes that impact how we view ourselves and what we believe about others and the world around us. Understanding personality allows psychologists to predict how people will respond in certain situations and the sorts of things they prefer and value.
In order to understand how researchers study personality psychology, it is important to start by learning more about some of the most influential personality theories.
Theories of Personality
A number of different theories have emerged to explain different aspects of personality. Some theories focus on explaining how personality develops while others are concerned with individual differences in personality.
The following are just a few of the major theories of personality proposed by different psychologists:
The trait theories of personality are centered on the idea that personality is made up of a number of different broad traits or dispositions. A number of different theories have been proposed over the years to attempt to identify exactly which traits serve as key components in personality and to identify the total number of personality traits.
Let's take a closer look at a few of these trait theories.
Common traits are those that are shared by many people within a particular culture. Central traits are those that make up an individual's personality. Cardinal traits are those that are so dominant that a person become primarily known for those traits.
The "Big Five" Personality Dimensions is perhaps the most popular and widely accepted theory of personality today. This theory proposes that personality is made up of five broad personality dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, contentiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development
Freud's theory of psychosexual development is on of the best known personality theories, but also one of the most controversial. According to Freud, children progress through a series of stages during which the libidinal energy of the id becomes focused on specific erogenous zones. Successful completion of each stage results in moving on to the next phase of development, but failure at any particular stage can result in fixations that can impact adult personality.
Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
According to Erik Erikson, each stage plays a major role in the development of personality and psychological skills. During each stage, the individual faces a developmental crisis that serves as a turning point in development.