Most people understand personality as the image that people display and project to the outside world. However, personality is more than this and includes even the psychological experience that is hidden inside us (Ewen, 2003). The word personality is a derivative of a Latin word-‘persona’ who’s meaning is ‘mask’ (Ewen, 2003). Personality analysis can therefore be referred to as the comprehensive investigation of all the aspects relating to personality. For many years people have tried to explain behavior as well as what it is that makes a person.
In an attempt to offer explanations, personality theories have been advanced some of which are the existential/humanistic and dispositional theories. Just like many other theories, these personality theories are fallible and they cannot be proved. These theories have their similarities as well as their differences. Dispositional theories of personality try to explain personality using innate tendencies. These are the tendencies that individuals are born with and they can be hereditary or not.
Dispositional theorists believe that genes play a big part in determining one’s personality. Words and phrases are mostly used to reflect this theory (Weiten, 2010). For example when one says that someone is kind-hearted. These theories are also known as trait theories and trait theorists’ assumption is that physique does not determine behavior but that the stable personality traits are the ones that determine behavior. Personality traits are described as stable qualities that one displays in all the situations.
These theories were advanced in reaction to a personality theory known as type personality theory which linked human physique to certain temperaments or personality characteristics. Several people are associated with the development of trait theories and examples include Gordon Allport, Lewis Goldberg, and Hans Eysenck but the person who originally introduced the trait theories was known as Carl Jung (Nicholas, 2008). Carl Jung is the one who introduced the idea of temperaments and his theory purported that one is either born an introvert or an extrovert and that this cannot be changed.
Gordon Allport described personality as a combination of both mental and physical personality aspects (Nicholas, 2008). He described personality as a dynamic organisation meaning that the aspects of personality keep on changing throughout an individual’s life in response to situations (Nicholas, 2008). These personality changes occur only to a certain degree and the personality remains relatively stable over time. Allport’s trait theory also portrays personality as naturally deterministic.
This means that behavior, personality and thought are influenced and controlled by a mechanism that is inborn. In development of his theory, Allport categorized all the words contained in the dictionary that describe personality traits into central traits, cardinal traits and secondary traits (Nicholas, 2008). The cardinal traits are those that dominate in the whole life of an individual. People who exhibit these traits are rare and people tend to associate these people with these traits. Central traits on the other hand are less dominating compared to cardinal traits.
They are the characteristics that constitute the foundation of an individual’s personality and are commonly used by people to describe others. For instance when one says that someone else is intelligent they are describing those people using the central traits. The last personality characteristics are secondary traits. These are the traits that manifest depending on situation and are sometimes related to preferences or attitudes (Ewen, 1998). Lewis Goldberg and Costa & McCrae among others expanded the theory of Fiske D. and this led to development of the big five model.
The personality traits attributed to this theory are classified under five categories. One is extraversion where some people are social and outgoing. The second one is conscientiousness where individuals display high levels of organization and thoughtfulness (Oliver, Robins & Pervin, 2008). The third is openness where individuals display insight and imagination. The fourth category is agreeableness where individuals are trustworthy, kind, and affectionate. The last one is neuroticism where individuals with this trait tend to be anxious, sad, moody and emotionally unstable (Oliver et al. , 2008).
Based on this theory, individuals who have traits such as extraversion and agreeableness will get along well with people while people with neuroticism traits will not get along with people. Hans Eysenck built on Jung’s idea by approaching the idea of temperaments from a mathematical point of view. Since his theory is built on the work of Jung, then this theory also assumes that a part of personality is genetically determined. Jung said that though it was impossible for an introvert to change to an introvert, depending on the situation one can modify their behavior (Boeree, 2009).
He created a test that was used to determine people’s traits. Based on his theory there are several personality characteristics. One of these is introversion and extraversion where extroverts are outgoing and introverts are reserved. The other personality trait is emotional stability/neuroticism where individuals with a high level of neuroticism exhibit nervousness and emotional instability (Boeree, 2009). The last personality trait is psychoticism where people find it hard to deal with the reality (Boeree, 2009). These personality traits determine how individuals interact with others.
People who are extraverts tend to get along well with people as they are outgoing while introverts are not social and may be viewed as unfriendly. Another thing is that people with psychoticism do not relate well with people as they tend to be hostile and manipulative. Humanistic personality theories approach to personality is phenomenological. This phenomenological approach focuses on the subjective experiences of individuals. The leading theorists associated with humanistic theories are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.
These theories are known as humanistic because their emphasis is on the unique characteristics of people. According to these theories, all people have an inborn tendency to become self-actualised and that self actualization serves as the main force that drives behavior (Mitterer & Coon, 2008). This self-actualisation is an ongoing process where one naturally grows towards fulfilling their potential. Humanistic theorists acknowledge the uniqueness of personalities as people’s perceptions of the world are unique to them. These perceptions are reflected in the way people behave.
According to these theorists, people’s perceptions are not determined by their personality traits, their reinforcement history, or their ego development (Mitterer & Coon, 2008). They further say that by nature people are good. Carl Rogers’s humanistic personality theory portrays personality as being composed of structural components. These components include self, self-regard, self-ideal, and self-concept (Mitterer & Coon, 2008). Of these components, Rogers says that the main component is self and it consists of concepts, ideas, perceptions, and values that define an individual (Mitterer & Coon, 2008).
According to him, a person’s behavior and perception of the world is influenced by their self-concept. In addition, he says that in addition to self-concept every individual has an ideal self and that happiness and fulfillment are increased if the ideal self is closer to the self concept (Mitterer & Coon, 2008). He further says that a phenomenal field is composed of both an individual and their world and that reaction to the world involves the individual as a whole and not merely parts of the individual (Mitterer & Coon, 2008). Maslow’s humanistic personality theory is similar to that of Rogers.
Maslow just like Rogers believed that individuals have a tendency to grow towards self-actualisation. In addition, just like Rogers’s theory Maslow’s theory views individuals as beings whose approach to current issues and perceptions is subjective (Engler, 2008). According to Maslow there are several characteristics associated with people who have gained self-actualisation. One of these is awareness meaning that these people are very much aware of the meaningfulness of life and that due to this they are usually constantly enjoying life.
The other characteristic is that they are reality centered and this means that they are usually concerned with issues in their environment. Acceptance is the other characteristic and it means that these people accept their environment as well as what cannot be changed. Lastly these people exhibit a sense of humor that is not hostile meaning that they do not joke about others as they consider this offensive (Engler, 2008). All the above theories in one way or another attempt to give an explanation of human behavior. They all acknowledge that personality characteristics affect the way people behave in different situations.
It is the differences in personalities that make people to react differently to the same situation. Each theory has a number of personality characteristics which are attributed to them and these determines how individuals interact with others so that some people tend to get along well with people while others do not. References Boeree, G. (2009). Trait theories of personality. Retrieved 1 May, 2010 from http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/genpsytraits. html Engler, B. (2008). Personality theories (8th ed. ). USA: Cengage Learning. Ewen, R. B. (1998). Personality, a topical approach: Theories, research, major controversies and emerging findings. New Jersey: Lawrence Eribaum Associates, Inc. Ewen, R. B. (2003). An introduction to theories of personality.
New Jersey: Lawrence Eribaum Associates, Inc. Mitterer, J. O. & Coon, D. (2008). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior (12th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Nicholas, L. (2008). Introduction to psychology (2nd ed. ). Cape Town: UCT Press. Oliver, P. J. , Robins, R. W. , & Pervin, L. A. (2008). Handbook of personality: Theory and research. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Weiten, W. (2010). Psychology: Themes and variations (8th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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