Personality an individual’s characteristic patterns of thoughts, emotion, and behavior

• Plus the psychological mechanisms (hidden or not) behind those patterns


• Personality is defined as the unique pattern of relatively stable behaviours and mental processes that characterize an individual and how he or she interacts with their environment

• Influenced by genetics (dispositions or temperament 40 – 60%)

• Influenced by environment (development in the context of family and culture)

• We often use vernacular terms to describe personality like intelligent, extroverted, conscientious, pleasant, moody, etc.

How is Personality Measured?

Projective Test - elicits an individual’s response to abstract stimuli

Behavioral Measures - personality assessments that involve observing an individual’s behavior in a controlled situation

Self-Report Questionnaire - assessment involving an individual’s responses to questions

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - instrument measuring Jung’s theory of individual differences.

Approaches to Personality:

• Descriptive (Trait theories)

• Biological or genetic (Dispositional theories)

• Learning (Behavioural and Cognitive social learning theories)

• Psychodynamic

• Humanistic , Existential or Phenomenological

Early approaches to understanding personality:

• Initial attempts to identify personality traits involved studying the English language for terms describing human behaviour

• There are approximately 18,000 terms describing behaviour (5% of the English language)

Dispositional theories:

• Earliest theories of personality were dispositional theories - personality made up of various behavioural tendencies, dispositions or temperaments

• Dispositional theories originate with Hypocrites - the ancient Greek considered to be the father of modern medicine

• Hypocrites proposed Humoural theory

• Humoural theory states that the body consists of 4 basic humours or fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile

Other Modern theories of personality:

• Trait theory

• Psychodynamic theory

• Learning theory (Behavioural and Cognitive social learning)

• Humanistic theory (Phenomenological, Existential)

• Difficult to find someone who is totally committed to any specific theory – today personality theorists tend to be eclectic

Trait theory:

• Personality and behaviour controlled by a wide variety of relatively stable personality traits e.g., dependency, aggressiveness, gentleness, thoughtfulness

• Trait theory is really an expression of an empirical methodology

• Trait theory in its purest form does not provide a mechanism for explaining behaviour, only a set of descriptions of behaviour

• Personality determined by a combination of traits

• Trait theories largely based on factor analytic studies, a statistical technique for determining intercorrelations amongst item (trait) variables

• Different statistical criteria for establishing trait factors can lead to different numbers of personality factors being identified

• Cattell for example identified 16 personality factors and Gall 37

Eysenck (1960's):

• Eysenck was a Trait theorist who extended Trait theory beyond being simply an empirical description of personality

• He believed personality traits based primarily on learning (classical and operant conditioning) and to a lesser extent on genetic factors

• Eysenck identified 2 primary dimensions to personality by means of factor analysis

• emotional stability

• introversion/extroversion (inward Vs outward view on world)

• Introverts more easily conditioned and develop behaviours that show susceptibility to conditioning e.g., anxiety and depression