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PSYC 4203. Theories of Personality. Why do people do what they do? How did they get to be the way they are?. Other disciplines offer answers to these questions Such as? So how is psychology different? . Two objectives of “the science of persons”.

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Psyc 4203

PSYC 4203

Theories of Personality

Psyc 4203

Psyc 4203

Two objectives of the science of persons
Two objectives of “the science of persons”

1. to explain why people behave as they do, from an empirical, scientific perspective. The emphasis is on converting speculations about human nature into concepts that can be empirically studied…as opposed to relying on intuition, folklore or common sense.

2. to help people live more satisfying lives

So what is personality
So what is “Personality?”

Derived from the latin “persona” - originally, the masks worn in Greek dramas – later, the actor’s portrayal of a comic or tragic figure – this led to a view of personality as a superficial social image – personality as charm, social poise or other characteristics (good/bad personality).

Also - an individual’s most striking or prominent characteristic – “outgoing personality” “shy personality” – also, an evaluation (good or bad) – is not scientific

So what is personality1
So what is “Personality?”

  • In general, personality is defined as the psychological characteristics of the individual that tend to be general, characteristic, enduring and integrated. These characteristics may be functional or dysfunctional (personality disorders) – definitions vary with the theoretical orientation of the particular theorist.

So what is personality2
So what is “Personality?”

  • Ryckman defines personality as “the dynamic and organized set of characteristics of a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations and behaviors.”

  • Guthrie – how we get to be the way we are, and why we do what we do


  • There is no agreement as to how to explain the basic aspects of human behavior – this has led to a number of different theories.

  • Def: a set of interrelated ideas, constructs and principles proposed to explain certain observations of reality.

  • are always speculative – cannot be ultimately “right,” although may be wrong. Is, then valid or credible if consistent with other observations.

Functions of theories
Functions of theories

  • Theories serve 2 main functions – to explain and to predict behavior.

  • A theory is explanatory in that it serves to organize information so that it is understandable. – provides a framework for simplifying and integrating events.

  • A theory should also provide a basis for prediction of events and outcomes that have not yet occurred – the best research is predictive – you predict events, then see if they occur.

  • There are different theories because of different assumptions about the nature of human beings.

These assumptions address the issues of
These assumptions address the issues of:

  • Freedom/determinism

  • rationality/irrationality

  • holism/elementalism

  • constitutionalism/environmentalism

  • changeability/unchangeability

  • subjectivity/objectivity

  • proactivity/reactivity

  • homeostasis/heterostasis

  • Knowability/unknowability

Components of a personality theory
Components of a personality theory

  • Personality structure

  • Motivation

  • Personality Development

  • Psychopathology

  • Psychological health

  • Personality change via therapeutic intervention

Criteria for evaluating personality theories
Criteria for Evaluating Personality Theories

  • Comprehensiveness

  • Precision and Testability

  • Parsimony

  • Empirical Validity

  • Heuristic Value

  • Applied Value