Student Center | Instructor Center | Information Center | Home
Personality Psychology
Student Center
Image Library

Chapter Objectives
Chapter Outline
Multiple Choice Quiz
True or False

Help Center

Introduction to personality psychology
Larsen/Buss cover

Chapter Outline

Personality Defined

"Personality is the Set of
Psychological Traits...
And Mechanisms...
Within the Individual...
That Are Organized and Relatively Enduring...
And that Influence...
His or Her Interactions with...
and Adaptations to...
the Environment."

Three Levels of Personality Analysis

Human Nature
  • How we are "like all others"
  • Traits and mechanisms of personality that are typical of our species and possessed by nearly everyone
Individual and Group Differences
  • How we are "like some others"
  • Individual differences refer to ways in which each person is like some other people (e.g., extraverts, sensations-seekers, high self-esteem persons)
  • Group differences refer to ways in which the people of one group differ from people in another group (e.g., cultural differences, age differences)
Individual Uniqueness
  • How we are "like no others"
  • Individual uniqueness refers to the fact that every individual has personal and unique qualities not shared by any other person in the world
  • Individuals can be studied nomothetically or ideographically
    • Nomothetic research involves statistical comparisons of individuals or groups, requiring samples of participants in which to conduct research; applied to identify and learn more about universal human characteristics or dimensions of individual or group differences
    • Ideographic research focuses on a single person, trying to observe general principles that are manifest in a single life over time; often results in case studies or psychological biography of a single person

A Fissure in the Field

  • Gap within personality psychology has not yet been successfully bridged—the gap between the human nature level of analysis, and the analysis of individual and group differences
  • This translates into a gap between grand theories of personality (human nature level of analysis) and contemporary research in personality (individual and group differences level of analysis)
Grand Historical Theories of Personality
  • Attempt to provide universal account of the fundamental psychological processes and characteristics of our species
  • Statements about the universal core of human nature lie at the center of grand theories of personality, such as Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory
Contemporary Research in Personality
  • Most current personality research addresses ways in which individuals and groups differ, not human universals
  • Personality psychologists specialize in a particular domain, such as biological aspects of personality or how culture impacts personality
Bridging the Fissure: The Notion of Domains of Knowledge
  • One way to make sense of the vast amount of research in many different areas of personality is to appreciate that this research occurs along several key domains of knowledge
  • Domain of knowledge is a specialty area of science and scholarship, where psychologists have focused on learning about specific and limited aspects of human nature
  • This specialization is reasonable, but we must strive to integrate diverse domains of knowledge to get the "big picture" of personality

Six Domains of Knowledge About Human Nature

Biological Domain
  • Core assumption of biological approaches to personality is that humans are collections of biological systems, and these systems provide building blocks for behavior, thought, and emotion
  • Behavioral genetics of personality
  • Psychophysiology of personality
  • Evolutionary personality psychology
Intrapsychic Domain
  • Deals with mental mechanisms of personality, many of which operate outside conscious awareness
  • Classic and modern versions of Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, including work on repression, denial, projection, and motives for power, achievement, and affiliation
Dispositional Domain
  • Deals with ways in which individuals differ from one another and, therefore, cuts across all other domains
  • Focus on number and nature of fundamental dispositions
  • Goal of those working in this domain is to identify and measure the most important ways in which individuals differ from one another
  • Also interested in the origin of individual differences and how these develop over time
Cognitive-Experiential Domain
  • Focuses on cognition and subjective experience, such as conscious thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires about oneself and others
  • Self and self-concept
  • Goals we set and strive to meet
  • Emotional experiences, in general and over time
Social and Cultural Domain
  • Assumption that personality affects, and is affected by, cultural and social contexts
  • Much work on cultural differences between groups (e.g., in social acceptability of aggression)
  • Also much work on individual differences within cultures—how personality plays out in the social sphere, including work on sex differences and gender differences in personality processes, traits, and mechanisms
  • At human nature level of analysis, all humans have common set of concerns they struggle with in the social sphere
Adjustment Domain
  • Personality plays key role in how we cope, adapt, and adjust to events in daily life
  • Personality linked with important health outcomes and problems in coping and adjustment
Summary and Evaluation
  • Personality research is often informed by personality theory
  • Theory has several key purposes
    • Serves as a guide for researchers
    • Organizes known findings
    • Makes predictions about behavior and psychological phenomena that not one has yet documented or observed
  • Scientific theories need to be distinguished from beliefs
    • Beliefs are based on leaps of faith, not on reliable facts and systematic observations, whereas theories are based on systematic observations that can be repeated by others to yield similar conclusions