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Personality: The Psychology of Individual Differences. How we understand Personality: Approaches (Humanistic/Phenomenological) How we view individuals: Freud vs. Maslow What we focus on: Types vs. Traits Measuring Personality: structured vs. unstructured tests. Personality:

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personality the psychology of individual differences

Personality: The Psychology of Individual Differences

How we understand Personality:

Approaches (Humanistic/Phenomenological)

How we view individuals: Freud vs. Maslow

What we focus on: Types vs. Traits

Measuring Personality:

structured vs. unstructured tests



unique pattern of enduring (i.e., across time and contexts) psychological, behavioural and cognitive characteristics, that differentiate one person from another.

  • Different approaches to understanding personality:
    • Humanistic/Phenomenological
      • behaviour mediated by free-will and subjective experiences; people can make choices: behaviour not entirely deterministic (as psychoanalytic and behavioural approaches would argue)
      • all data from humans is subjective: therefore use intersubjective verification for scientific data
      • behaviour is meaningful, purposeful and valuable because of personal experiences
      • “do not judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes” (author ?)

Different approaches to understanding personality cont.:

    • Psychoanalytic
      • Structure & development of personality:
        • Id/Ego/Superego & Psychosexual stages
    • Cognitive-behavioural
      • personality is mainly an array of behaviours that people acquire through learning and display
      • sum total of behaviours and cognitive habits that develop as people learn through experience in the social world.
      • Classical conditioning/operant conditioning and cognitive expectancies that guide behaviour.

Maslow’s Hierarchy:

= self fulfillment, reaching your fullest potential, etc...








Esteem needs

Love and belongingness needs

security, shelter etc...

Safety needs

Start here; we all have these needs: water, food etc...

Physiological needs


The goal of personality psychologists is to understand the causes of individual differences in behaviour.

In order to do this one must

(a) identify personality characteristics, and

(b) determine the variables that produce and control them.

  • Personality Types versus Personality Traits
  • Types:discrete categories, (eg., Male/female, tall/short, type A and type B personalities)
      • Hippocrates (5th cent. BC)
  • William Sheldon (1940’s)

Traits: stable (permanent) internal tendencies that direct people’s actions, or characteristics that people display consistently over time and across situations, (e.g., friendly, caring, insensitive)


Hippocrates’ type theory (5th cent. BC)

Personality was a reflection of the four humors (fluids) that make up our bodies:

  • Blood. Sanguine temperament:
    • cheerful and active
  • Phlegm. Phlegmatic temperament:
    • apathetic and sluggish
  • Black bile. Melancholy temperament:
    • sad and brooding
  • Yellow bile. Choleric temperament:
    • irritable and excitable

If one of these fluids was dominate, the personality associated with that fluid would be observed


William Sheldon’s somatotypes relating physique to temperament:

  • Endomorphic type (fat, soft, round):
    • Viscerotonia
  • Mesomorphic type (muscular, angular):
    • Somatotonia
  • Ectomorphic type (thin, long, fragile):
    • Cerebrotonia

Allport (1897-1967): looked for trait terms in dictionary

Cattell (1905- ): 16-Factor theory: found 16 core personality traits using factor analysis

Eysenck (1916-1997): 3-Factor theory: Extroversion, Neuroticism, Pychoticism

Extroversion refers to an outgoing nature and the liking of a high level of activity (opposite is introversion).

Neuroticism refers to worry, guilt and anxiety (with the opposite being emotional stability which is characterized by a relaxed person at peace with themselves)

Pychoticism refers to an aggressive, egocentric and anti-social nature (the opposite being self-control which is characterized by kindness and obeying rules)


Measuring Personality:

tools used by psychologists tend to fall into two general categories:

Structured (objective) tests:

paper and pencil type tests that directly ask a person to answer various questions about their personality

Unstructured (projective) tests:

exam personality in a much more indirect way, by assessing a person’s reaction to certain stimuli