Is There a Grand Ultimate and True Theory of Personality

The field of biology contains a grand unifying theory—the theory of evolution by nat ural selection, originally proposed by Darwin (1859), and further refined in its neo Darwinian form as inclusive fitness theory (Hamilton, 1964). This theory is comprehensive, guides biologists to new discoveries, has led to thousands of empirical tests, is highly parsimonious, and is compatible with known laws in adjacent scientific disciplines. Evolutionary theory provides the grand unifying framewor within which most or all biologists conduct their work. Ideally , the field of personal ity psychology would also contain such a grand unifying theory . Alas, at the current time, it does not.

Perhaps Sigmund Freud, the inventor of psychoanalytic theory , provided the most ambitious attempt at a grand unifying theory of personality (see Chapter 9). And there have been many grand theories that have followed in Freud' s wake. But over the past several decades, most personality researchers have come to the realization that the field currently lacks a grand unifying theor . Instead, most have focused on more specific domains of functioning. It is precisely for this reason that our book i organized around the six domains—these represent the domains in which progress, scientific findings, and new discoveries are being mad

In our view , an ultimate grand theory of personality psychology will have to unify all these six domains. It will have to explain personality characteristics and how they develop over time (dispositional domain). It will have to explain evolutionary , genetic, and physiological underpinnings of personality (biological domain). It will have to explain deeply rooted motives and dynamic intrapsychic processes (intrapsy-chic domain). It will have to explain how people experience the world and process information about it (cognitive-experiential domain). It will have to explain how personality affects, and is af fected by, the social and cultural context in which people conduct their lives (social and cultural domains). And it will have to explain how people cope and function—as well as how adjustment fails—as they encounter the numerous adaptive problems they face over the inevitably bumpy course of their lives (the adjustment domain).

In this sense, although the field of personality psychology lacks a grand theor , we believe that work in these six domains will ultimately provide the foundations on which such a unified personality theory will be built


Trait-Descriptive Adjectives 4 Personality 4 Psychological Traits 6 Average Tendencies 6 Psychological Mechanisms 7 Within the Individual 8 Organized and Enduring 8 Influential Force 9 Person-Environment Interaction 9 Adaptation 10 Environment 10

Human Nature 11 Individual Differences 12 Differences Between Groups 12 Nomothetic 13 Idiographic 13 Domain of Knowledge 15 Dispositional Domain 16 Biological Domain 16 Intrapsychic Domain 17 Cognitive-Experiential Domain 17 Social and Cultural Domain 18

Adjustment Domain 19 Good Theory 20 Theories and Beliefs 20 Scientific Standards for Evaluatin

Personality Theories 21 Comprehensiveness 21 Heuristic Value 21 Testability 21 Parsimony 21

Compatibility and Integration across Domains and Levels 22

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