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Introduction to Personality Psychology

Introduction to Personality Psychology

Author: Erick Taggart

Recognize the various components of personality.

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Hello, class.

In today's lesson, we're going to be looking over the next area of psychology for our study, and that's personality psychology.

When we generally think about a person's psychology, we assume that there's something that's regular, consistent or normal in the person. They don't constantly change, and act differently in different sorts of ways. The person has a sense of self, or a personality. And that's what we'll be studying.

Personality psychology means the study of a person's unique, consistent, and stable patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving over time.

There are three important aspects when we study personality psychology. First, a person's personality is unique. Meaning it differs from person to person, although we look for certain things that are consistent over many people over time, our levels of them might be a bit different.

The second one is that the personality is consistent. Which is to say it's the same, and the person performs similar types of behaviors in different kinds of situations. For example, if somebody is outgoing or sociable, they'll be like that a party, or when they're at work.

And the third one is that personality is stable. It stays the same over time. Which is a little bit unlike other things, like mood, for example. Mood can change, depending on things that happen to a person. For example, if you get cut off when you're driving, then you might be in an angry or irritable mood, whereas a person who's angry or irritable in their personality tends to stay that way.

Some related terms to personality that we'll be looking at in this lesson are character and temperament. Character is an aspect of psychology, and it describes what we consider to be desirable or undesirable in a person, or in ourselves. It's the sort of value, or things that we don't value, in our personalities.

This is different from personality, which is descriptive, it tells what we're like. Character is prescriptive, which is saying how someone should or shouldn't be. And this can differ from culture to culture.

For example, in a collectivist culture, more of a group centered culture like China, they might put more emphasis on the opinions of others. Whereas in the US, in a more individual country, we might value personal consistency over time, over being consistent with the people around us. In fact, we like individuality, being different.

So this is one aspect of personality, and it's how we can be developed by the situation. For example, the culture we just talked about. Or the people around us, our social influences.

Another aspect of personality is our personal or genetic temperament. Our temperament is our innate and inherited aspects of personality. Things like how emotional we are, or how irritable or sensitive we are to things. These are aspects of our personality that we can inherit, and we might develop them more, especially at a younger age, but they're innate to us.

So temperament is what we might call an aspect of behavioral genetics, which is the study of behaviors and personality that are inherited. The things that we have biologically, that we might get from our parents. These are things that are not necessarily a situational, which explains why personality can be stable and consistent over time.

In the field of personality psychology, there are lots of different approaches, just like the rest of psychology. We might have biological approaches-- things that include temperament. We might have social or sociocultural-- things like character and the influence of others.

Three major aspects that we'll be looking at are trait theory, psychodynamic theory, and humanism

Trait theory is the identification of the basic stable and consistent qualities that people show. It's sort of a reductionist approach. Which is to say, we're trying to reduce it down into single components that make up a person's psychology. And this is used in personality tests that you might take online. Things that might say if you're a certain type of person or another. This is probably one of the most widely used aspects of personality psychology.

Another aspect is psychodynamic theory, which is a theory that emphasizes the importance of the unconscious on personality and temperaments. These are things like Sigmund Freud and his idea of competing forces and conflicts, as well as neo-Freudians like Horney and Adler, which talk about anxiety, and the need for superiority. And Jung, who emphasizes the collective unconscious. The unconscious that we all share together.

And finally, humanism is the discussion of the development of ideas of self, about who we are and what we're worth. Things like our self-esteem or self-concept. Humanism looks at positive views of self. How can we achieve the most ideal or perfect version of ourselves.

Terms to Know
Behavior Genetics

Study the link between personality traits and heredity (genetic instructions).


Desirable or undesirable aspects of a person; characteristics that a person values or doesn’t value.


Unique pattern of consistent feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that originate within the individual across time and situations.


Innate and inherited aspects of personality, like emotionality, irritability, or sensitivity.