What Are the Fundamental Questions Addressed by Personality Psychology?

1. Questions Addressed by Personality Psychology: One way to get the big picture of a field is to understand the sorts of questions that motivated its creation. “Who am I?” is a basic question that in part organizes and motivates personality psychology. What are some related questions?

2. An Early Typology of Human Personality: The early temperament theory of personality—the fourfold classification of humours worked out by Hippocrates—is important to our contemporary understanding of personality (as we will see later). Can you describe each of the four personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic?

3. Understanding of Unconscious Processes: Before Sigmund Freud and modern psychology came on the scene, a number of individuals had studied phenomena related to the unconscious. These included studies of animal magnetism (mesmerism). What has become of the research today?


What Is Personality?

4. Definition(s) of Personality: Definitions of personality tend to stress the fact that it is an organized system of parts. Who was the first to suggest such a definition? How could personality psychology contribute specifically to the field of personality? Note how personality is defined specifically in this textbook. There exist other definitions of personality as well, including those that stress individual differences, and those that stress behavioral consistency. What are some of the drawbacks (if any) of these alternative definitions? What are some of their advantages?

5. Locating Personality: The personality system does not exist in isolation. Rather, it is embedded in other surrounding systems. Personality is “located and identified” amid other systems of scientific study in this chapter. It is distinguished from its biological bases and from more complex systems such as social groups. Two of these dimensions are the molecular-molar dimension and the internal-external dimension. Can you explain what these are? What is yet another dimension?

6. Personality’s Neighboring Systems: Using some of the dimensions to arrange personality amid its neighbors, what are the various systems that can be arranged around personality, and where can they be placed in a dimensional system?


What Is the Field of Personality Psychology?

7. The Establishment of Modern Personality Psychology: In 1890, Wilhelm Wundt recommended the establishment of the discipline. Between that time and the 1920s, two trends occurred: consolidation and synthesis. Consolidation involved collecting what was then known about personality psychology. Synthesis concerned integrating what was known into grand theories. Do you know the roles of Sigmund Freud, Abraham Roback, and Gordon Allport in such activities?

8. Views of the Field: How was personality psychology taught in the mid-20th century? Gradually, the field has become more integrated across theories. This has depended upon several lines of work including translating the language of one theory into another, increasing research, and better defining the central topics of personality psychology. Do you know the first major translation of one theory into another?

9. Increased Research: After World War II, more Americans than ever decided on obtaining a college education. Psychology became an important major on campus. A number of foundations began funding psychological research in general and personality research in particular. Today, graduate students often apply to psychology departments to study personality psychology. Do you know to what area(s) of specialization they apply? Also, what happened to theorizing during this time of increased research?

10. Training in the Field: The training of personality psychologists varies; early personality psychologists came from a variety of disciplines, but personality training programs are increasing in importance. What are some characteristic career paths of personality psychologists today?


Why Study Personality Psychology?

11. Reasons for Studying Personality Psychology: Anyone can study personality psychology simply to seek knowledge for its own sake. In addition, personality psychology has a number of applied uses: for personality assessment, selection, and prediction. Can you give an example of how personality assessment works? What about selection and prediction?


How Is This Book Organized—And What Will You Learn?

12. Limits of Personality Psychology: Can personality psychology really answer questions such as “What is the best way to live?” or “Who am I?” Even if those questions could be answered, what are the limits involved in studying a complex system? Although these limits exist, studying personality can still be a rewarding, exciting experience, and personality psychology has important practical applications.

13. Personality Components: How are personality components defined? The section on personality parts will examine motives and emotions; mental models of the self, world, and relationships; thinking with those models; and the more mysterious parts of personality, including free will and consciousness.

14. Personality Organization: Personality organization refers to how the parts of personality are related to each other. Organization can be divided into two parts. Structural organization refers to the stable, long-term arrangement of personality’s parts. Can you define dynamic organization?

15. Personality Development: Personality development refers to how the parts of personality and their organization change over time. Personality development is often divided between personality origins and growth in childhood and development in adulthood.