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2.6: Personality Psychology

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    Personality psychology focuses on patterns of thoughts and behaviors that make each individual unique. Several individuals (e.g., Freud and Maslow) that we have already discussed in our historical overview of psychology, as well as the American psychologist Gordon Allport, contributed to early theories of personality. These early theorists attempted to explain how an individual’s personality develops from his or her given perspective. For example, Freud proposed that personality arose as conflicts between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind were carried out over the lifespan. Specifically, Freud theorized that an individual went through various psychosexual stages of development. According to Freud, adult personality would result from the resolution of various conflicts that centered on the migration of erogenous (or sexual pleasure–producing) zones from the oral (mouth) to the anal to the phallic to the genital. Like many of Freud’s theories, this particular idea was controversial and did not lend itself to experimental tests (Person, 1980).

    More recently, the study of personality has taken on a more quantitative approach. Rather than explaining how personality arises, research is focused on identifying personality traits, measuring these traits, and determining how these traits interact in a particular context to determine how a person will behave in any given situation. Personality traits are relatively consistent patterns of thought and behavior, and many have proposed that five trait dimensions are sufficient to capture the variations in personality seen across individuals. These five dimensions are known as the “Big Five” or the Five-Factor model, and include dimensions of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (OCEAN) (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). Each of these traits has been demonstrated to be relatively stable over the lifespan (e.g., McCrae & Costa, 2008; Rantanen et al., 2007; Soldz & Vaillant, 1999) and is influenced by genetics (e.g., Jang et al., 1996).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): The dimensions of the Five-Factor model. The provided description would describe someone who scored highly on that given dimension. Someone with a lower score on a given dimension could be described in opposite terms. [This work, “Dimensions of Five-Factor Model,” is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 by Judy Schmitt. It is a derivative of “Figure 1.14”/OpenStax, which is licensed under CC BY 4.0.]

    This page titled 2.6: Personality Psychology is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kate Votaw.

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