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Social Sci LibreTexts

11.1: Personality and Behavior: Approaches and Measurement

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  • Learning Objectives

    1. Outline and critique the early approaches to assessing personality.
    2. Define and review the strengths and limitations of the trait approach to personality.
    3. Summarize the measures that have been used to assess psychological disorders.

    Early theories assumed that personality was expressed in people’s physical appearance. One early approach, developed by the German physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) and known as phrenology, was based on the idea that we could measure personality by assessing the patterns of bumps on people’s skulls (Figure 11.1 “Phrenology”). In the Victorian age, phrenology was taken seriously and many people promoted its use as a source of psychological insight and self-knowledge. Machines were even developed for helping people analyze skulls (Simpson, 2005). However, because careful scientific research did not validate the predictions of the theory, phrenology has now been discredited in contemporary psychology.

    Figure 11.1 Phrenology


    This definition of phrenology with a chart of the skull appeared in Webster’s Academic Dictionary, circa 1895.