Introduction to Personality Psychology

Personality Defined

Personality Is the Set of Psychological Traits . . . And Mechanisms . . . Within the Individual . . .

That Are Organized and Relatively Enduring . . .

And That Influence . .

His or Her Interactions with . . .

The Environment

Three Levels of Personality Analysis

Human Nature

Individual and Group Dif ferences Individual Uniqueness

A Fissure in the Field

Grand Theories of Personality Contemporary Research in Personality

Six Domains of Knowledge about Human Nature

Dispositional Domain Biological Domain Intrapsychic Domain Cognitive-Experiential Domain Social and Cultural Domain Adjustment Domain

The Role of Personality Theory

Standards for Evaluating Personality Theories

Is There a Grand Ultimate and True Theory of Personality?

Key Terms

INTRODUCTION

Each person is, in certain I respects, like all other persons, like some other persons, and like no other person.

Those who carry humor to excess ar e thought to be vulgar buffoons, striving after humor at all costs, not caring about pain to the object of their fun; . . . while those who can neither make a joke themselves nor put up with those who do ar e thought to be boorish and unpolished. But those who joke in a tasteful way ar e called r eady-witted and tactful . . . and it is the mark of a tactful person to say and listen to such things as befit a good and well-b ed person.

Each person is, in certain I respects, like all other persons, like some other persons, and like no other person.

Aristotle, in The Nicomachean Ethics, expressed these wise observations on the subject of humor and people who do and do not indulge in it. In this quote we see Aristotle behaving much as a personality psychologist. Aristotle is analyzing the characteristics of persons who have an appropriate sense of humor , providing some details on what features are associated with a sense of humor . Aristotle adds to this description by comparing people who are extreme, having either too much or too little sense of humor. In his book on ethics, Aristotle described and analyzed many personality characteristics, including truthfulness, courage, intelligence, self-indulgence, anger-proneness, and friendliness.

We might conclude that Aristotle was an amateur personality psychologist. But aren't we all amateur personality psychologists to some extent? Aren't we all curious about the characteristics people possess, including our own characteristics? Don't we all use personality characteristics in describing people? And haven't we all used personality characteristics to explain behavior , either our own or others'?

When we say that our friend goes to a lot of parties because she is outgoing, we are using personality to explain her behavior . When we refer to another friend as conscientious and reliable, we are describing features of his personality . When we characterize ourselves as thoughtful, intelligent, and ambitious, we are describing features of our personalities.

Features of personality make people dif ferent from one another , and these features usually take the form of adjectives we use to speak about a particular person, such as John is lazy and unreliable, Mary is optimistic, and Fred is anxiety-ridden. Adjectives that can be used to describe characteristics of people ar e called trait-descriptive adjectives. There are more than 20,000 such trait-descriptive adjectives in the English language. This astonishing fact alone tells us that, in everyday life, there are compelling reasons for trying to understand and describe the nature of those we interact with, as well as compelling reasons for trying to understand and describe ourselves.

Notice that the adjectives describing personality refer to several very dif ferent aspects of people. Words such as thoughtful refer to inner qualities of mind. Words such as charming and humorous refer to the ef fects a person has on other people. Words such as domineering are relational and signify a person' s position, or stance, toward others. Words such as ambitious refer to the intensity of desire to reach our goals. Words such as creative refer both to a quality of mind and to the nature of the products we produce. Words such as deceitful refer to the strategies a person uses to attain his or her goals. All of these features describe aspects of personality .

Exercise

Think of someone you know well—say, a friend, family member, or roommate. Consider the many characteristics that make this person unique. List the five adjectives you think best capture this person's personality. For example, if you were to describe this person to someone, what five adjectives would you use? Now, ask your target person to list the five adjectives he or she thinks best describe that person. Compare your lists.

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