What are the Different Types of Personality Theories?



The individual's common and unique experiences interact with inherited potential to shape personality.

How this occurs, and how the resulting personality can best be described, has been the subject of many theories.

Most personality theories can be grouped into one of four classes: trait, psychoanalytic, social learning, and humanistic, These theoretical approaches differ markedly in the constructs they purpose as forming up structure of personality (e.g., traits, id-ego-supereys, learned habits, or self-concept) and the way they relate these constructs to behaviour.

They also differ in the methods they use to assess or measure personality.

Trait Theory :

Traits are dimensions or scales on the basis of which a personality is described.

Psychologists working in the area of trait theory are concerned with (1) determining the basic traits that provide a meaningful description of personality and, (2) finding some way to measure them. What are the basic traits?

Thousands of words in the English language refer to characteristics of behaviour.

How do we reduce them to a small number of meaningful traits? One approach uses factor analysis.

Factor analysis is a complex statistical technique (to be discussed more fully in the next chapter) for reducing a large number of measures or a smaller number of independent dimensions.

With this technique several hundred test responses might be reduced to a few underlying dimensions of factors that account for all of the response data.

Personality traits can be assessed by two miethods:

(1) The person describes-himself by answering questions about his attitudes, feelings, and behaviours; (2) someone else evaluates the person's traits either from what he knows about the individuals or form direct observations of behaviour. With the first method a personality inventory is most often used, whereas the second usually involves a rating scale.

Some examples of rating scales:

How would you describe the individual's self- confidence? Place a check at the point that describes the individual's poise. How would you rate the subject's emotional control? Does the individual antagonize others? How would you rate the parent's behaviour toward the child?

Considers himself incapable of much success Does the individual Needs much dual need constant prodding in doing prodding of ordinary proceed with his assignments work without being told?

Psychoanalytic Theory :

Psychoanalytic theory approaches personality from a viewpoint that is very different from that of trait theory.

Trait theorists try to find the stable dimensions of personality by studying groups of people, and much of their data is derived from self-reports-what the individual says about himself.

In contrast, phsychoanalytic theory is based on the in-depth study of individual personalities.

And because motivation is believed to be unconscious, self-reports are, not neccessarily considered accurate. Instead a person's verbalizations are overt behaviours are interpreted as disguised representations of underlying unconscious processes.

Freud's theories, developed over a 40 year period of clinical work, fill 24 volumes-from. The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, to Outline of Psychoanalysis, published posthumously in 1940, a year after his death.

Freud compared the human mind to an iceberg; the small part that shows on the surface of the water represents conscious experience, while the much larger mass below water level represents the unconscious-a storehouse of impulses, passions, and primitive instincts that affect our thoughts and behaviour. It was this unconscious portion of the mind that Freud sought to explore, and he did so by the method of free association.

The method requires that the person talk about everything that comes into the conscious mind, no matter how ridiculous or trivial it might seem. By analysing free associations, including the recall of dreams and early childhood memories, Freud sought to puzzle out the basic determinants of personality.

Social Learning Theory :

The social learning approach to motivation focuses on the patterns of behaviour the individual learns in coping with environment. Within this viewpoint, individual differences in behaviour result from variations in the conditions of learning that the person encounters in the course of growing up.

Some behaviour patterns are learned through direct experience; the individual behaves in a certain manner and is rewarded or punished. But responses can also be acquired without direct reinforcement.

Because we can make use of complex symbolic processes to code and store our observations in memory, we can learn by observing the actions of others and by noting the consequences of those actions.

Thus, for social learning theorists, reinforcement is not necessary for learning, although it may facilitate learning by focusing attention. Much of human learning is observational or vicarious.

Reinforcement may not be necessary for learning, but it is crucial for the performance of learned behaviour.

One of social learning theory's main assumptions is that people behave in ways likely to produce reinforcement. A person's repertoire of learned behaviours is extensive; the particular action chosen for a specific situation depends on the expected outcome.

Most adolescent girls know how to fight, having watched their male classmates or TV characters agrees by kicking, hitting with the fists, and so on. But since this kind of behaviour is seldom reinforced in girls, it is unlikely to occur except in unusual circumstances.

The reinforcements that controls the expression of learned behaviour may be (1) direct-tangible rewards, social approval or disapproval, or alleviation of aversive conditions; (2) vicarious- observation of someone else receiving reward's or punishment for similar behaviour, or (3) self- administered-evaluation of one's own performance with self-praise or reproach. As we noted earlier, self-administered reinforcement plays an important role in social learning theory, and efforts have been devoted to discovering the conditions that facilitate regulation of behaviour through self- reward and self-punishment.

Humanistic Theory

The humanistic approach to the study of personality includes a number of theories that, although different in some respects, share a common emphasis on man's potential for self-direction and freedom of choice. They are concerned with the "self" and the individual's subjective experiences.

Humanistic theories reject both the psychoanalytic and the behaviouristic conceptions of human nature as too mechanistic, portraying people as creatures helplessly buffeted about by internal instincts or external stimuli. They are less concerned with motivational constructs as explanations of behaviour than with the individual's perception of himself, immediate experiences and his personal view of the world.

Most humanistic theories stress our positive nature-our push toward growth and self- actualization. Their emphasis is also on the "here and now" rather than on events in early childhood that may have shaped the individual's personality.

Personality and Performance :

Personality is closely related to performance, successful athletes show greater positive mental health than less successful athletes do. Basically, the various personality models suggest that positive mental health is directly related to athlete success and high levels of performance.