Personality psychology is the study of the development of personality, the effects of personality on important outcomes, and attempts to make beneficial changes to maladaptive personality characteristics. Personality theories, therefore, differ in how much they focus on development of personality, change in personality, characterizing components of personality, and outcomes of personality. The “classic” theories of personality come from the clinical perspective and, hence, address human development and change. In contrast, the trait theorists are less concerned with development and change than in capturing the characteristics of personality which vary across all individuals. Yet another alternative focus within personality psychology is on the intersection of emotions/thoughts/behaviors which work to create the dynamic expression of personality in various situations. So, what is personality? Personality can be defined in terms of traits or characteristics which exist on a continuum and uniquely influences our cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations across time. This definition highlights the two major aspects of personality: first, that personality varies from person to person and second, that the traits that one person has may be similar to or quite different from traits that another person has. Consider, for example, the fact that some people enjoy going out and being around people on a regular basis, while others may prefer to stay in and do something quiet and relaxing with their free time. There are clearly subtleties to these traits, with people rarely staying at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Taken together, all of an individual’s preferences make up his or her personality. Given the range of differences that we can see within a single personality trait, and the range of different personality traits that one can have, it is easy to see how one’s personality is unique from any other. This course will begin by explaining and categorizing the various types of research/theories which constitute personality psychology. Next, this course will address the science of personality psychology and the various assessments and research methods used within this field. After identifying and describing various seminal classical theories of personality, the trait perspective will be introduced. Lastly, this course will address the biological/evolutionary perspectives, and social-cognitive and emotional theories of personality. Overall, you will gain a sense of the varied nature of personality psychology. You will also learn to appreciate the unifying and underlying theme of personality psychology—that of the quest to determine what drives our behaviors.
Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
Identify research methodologies involved in the science of personality psychology.
Describe the purpose of comprehensive clinical theories in the field of personality psychology.
Compare and contrast major classical theories of personality (i.e., humanism, psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, behaviorism, cognitive, and social-cognitive theories of personality).
Describe the main concerns of trait theorists, the influential figures who helped develop this perspective, and the sequential development leading up to the current understanding of traits.
Define the main components of the five-factor model of personality.
Identify the theory, methodology, and main findings of the empirical journal articles assigned.
Describe the important contributions of the biological/evolutionary perspective made to personality psychology.
Describe the intrapersonal and interpersonal function of emotion as an expression of personality.