Current Status of the Field

This is an exciting time for the field of personality psycholog . Recent advances have led to a certain degree of consensus regarding the nature, structure, and development of personality, resulting in several decades of sustained growth (Robins, 2002). Recent evaluators have concluded that the field is thriving (Diener & Scollon, 2002; Funde , 2002). One hallmark that a field is hitting its stride is the existence of a handbook Personality psychology has several handbooks (e.g., Hogan, Johnson, & Briggs, 1997; Pervin & John, 1999; Saklofske, 1995), as well as handbooks in personality disorders (e.g., Magnavita, 2003). Another indicator that a field is thriving is the existence o professional societies dedicated to its improvement. In personality psychology there are several societies, including the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the recently formed Association for Research in Personality . This latter society , founded in 2001, is devoted especially to the interdisciplinary study of personality . It promotes scientific research on personality through an annual conference an through the of ficial scientific journal of the association, th Journal of Resear ch in Personality.

Personality psychologists doing research today typically focus on specific com ponents of personality , such as self-esteem; specific traits, such as extraversion o agreeableness; or specific processes, such as the unconscious processing of informa tion. This is the direction toward which the field of personality psychology has shifte over the past 100 years. The early personality theorists, such as Sigmund Freud, constructed theories about the whole person. These grand theories focused on universal properties of human nature, such as Freud' s theory that all behavior is motivated by sexual or aggressive impulses or the theory that all persons go through specific stage of psychosexual development.

Starting about 50 years ago, personality psychologists began turning away from grand theories of personality . In their place, personality psychologists began constructing mini-theories of specific parts of personalit . That is, they began to focus on distinct components of the whole person. This allowed psychologists to focus their research on very specific questions. For example, how do people develop and main tain self-esteem? In what ways do high and low self-esteem persons dif fer from each other? How might a person with low self-esteem increase self-esteem? Certainly , self-esteem is only part of personality , one little corner of the whole picture. Nevertheless, understanding self-esteem contributes to knowledge about the whole person.

The whole of personality is the sum of its parts and the connections among those parts. An understanding of the parts is required for an understanding of the whole. Most of the research in personality today is on specific parts of the proverbia elephant. When these parts are all put together—from the dispositional to the biological, to the intrapsychic, to the cognitive/experiential, to the social and cultural, to the adjustment domains—then we have the foundation for understanding the whole of personality.

To the extent that understanding the whole elephant requires understanding all of its parts, then the blind men, working together , could begin to assemble a reasonable understanding of the whole elephant. They could communicate to each other and work together to build a reasonable understanding of what a whole elephant is like. They could be systematic in their approach to the elephant, using diverse methods and approaches and communicating clearly with each other about how they see the elephant. Personality psychologists are like these blind men, in that they typically focus only on one domain of personality at a time. However , personality psychologists do an excellent job of working together and communicating with each other , and they have a wide variety of methods and approaches for observing and assessing personality. Many psychologists working in one domain are aware of what is going on in other domains. We can get an idea of the whole by knowing the diverse domains of knowledge about human nature.

All of the contemporary research and theorizing appears to fit into the six majo domains of knowledge. Because they formed the basic structure of this book, let' s briefly review each domain you have read about

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