Personality Theories

Personality is a branch of psychology that deals with how individuals portray certain variations regarding traits. The study of the personality involves three major areas that include the assessment of the nature of human beings and similarities and differences that exist between individuals. Human beings possess different psychological processes that make them either fall into the category of introverts or extroverts. Personality psychology also aims to explain the construction of a coherent and clear picture of individual characters inclusive of their primary psychological dimensions. Personality is influenced by individual traits, past experiences, and social life.

Analysis of the Personality Concept

Personality as a concept of psychology is dynamic in the sense that it recognizes sets of characteristics that are possessed by individuals. The characteristics directly influence individual surroundings. The characteristics also uniquely affect the motivations, cognitions, emotions, and behavioral science in several circumstances. The term personality derives its origin from the Latin word persona, which means mask (Mischel, Shoda, & Smith, 2004). Some of the areas that touch on personality comprise thoughts, self-perception, attitudes, values, feelings, and social adjustments. Personality psychology also tries to explain how individuals react to certain situations like stress, problems, and even other people. Many theoretical traditions try to explain personality in broad and varied terms. Some of the theories that are widely used include the trait theory, humanistic, evolutionary and social learning, psychodynamic, behavioral, and biological theories (Engler, 2009).

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Theories in Perspective

Personality psychology has put the focus on illustrating the essential insight that despite the differences between different individuals, they are similar in certain ways. However, some contemporary psychologists share the common opinion that Personality is that pattern of particular thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that distinguish one person from another and that persists over time and situations (Strobel, Tumasjan, & Sporrle, 2011, p. 46). The main theories that have explored the concept of personality in different ways, hence, improving understanding of this area include the trait theories, the type theories, and the psychodynamic theories among others.

Trait Theories Socially Motivated Models

The trait theory of personality looks into building blocks that make individual human beings. It explains some of the characteristics that promote people to do what they do in everyday life. The theory is a classic approach that can help psychology students better understand personality from all perspectives. Some of the main areas of this theory include what leads to the development of anxiety, shyness, and openness to things that are not familiar. All the traits, as mentioned earlier, are different from one individual to another (Engler, 2009). For example, some people are outgoing by nature and, therefore, can share a lot with everyone (extroverts), but others are secretive (introverts). All these categories of people, according to the trait theory, have adopted such characteristics because of either environment they are living in or genetic determinants.

Strengths of trait theories. The underlying power of this theory is based on the fact that it allows psychologists to categorize individuals easily using their behavior. Researchers have found out that an assessment of behaviors of people gives a direct relationship with their traits. The observation of behaviors of different people over a certain duration in various circumstances provides evidence of the common personality traits as classified in the trait theories. The other advantage of this theory is that it uses objective procedures and criteria aimed at classifying and measuring the behavior of individuals. Different trait theories were initiated autonomously by each other when the analysis highlighting specific traits that differentiate one individual from another was revisited.

Limitations of trait theories. Many personality psychologists have often criticized trait theories for their predictive value. They argue that trait theories have not been accurate in predicting the behaviors of individuals, especially in different circumstances and scenarios. Some of them say that situational variables like environmental factors have been ignored by the theory; yet, they are strong determinants of people’s behavior (Mischel et al., 2004). In contradiction with what the theories purport, critics have the belief that a combination of traits and situational variables is the core determinant of behavior and that traits and situational variables are dependent on each other.

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The critics have gone a step further to highlight that patterns of variability of situational factors are important in determining personality. Ignoring such factors, therefore, can create essential differences in individuals that may not be real. A good example to illustrate this is the case with two children named Brian and John (just an assumption case with names being tentative). Brian does not respond aggressively even if he is teased a lot while John frequently responds aggressively even when he is not teased. Analyzing the case above according to the trait theories, one would conclude that children’s traits and personalities are the same; yet, they are not equivalent if other factors are considered.

The other disadvantage of trait theories is that they need personal observations or individual indicators that have to be measured over time (Holder & Klassen, 2010). The measurement may bring problems given that individuals are required to be introspective enough so that they can understand their behavior. It is not possible, and they require another person to study someone else’s behavior in different situations to give an accurate assessment, which is also not easy. It, therefore, means that the observations cannot be accurately taken and assessed due to individual biases. The trait theories have also failed to illustrate why individuals behave in the way they do. The theories comprehensively give information about people, traits, and what kinds of traits influence behavior. However, the interactions of such behaviors are not explained vividly. For example, an outgoing person finds pleasure in interacting with different people, and they are very optimistic and positive about seeking out social interactions (Joshanloo & Afshari, 2011). However, the trait theories have failed to give an explanation why this might occur or why an introvert would avoid such situations.

Psychodynamic Theories Memories

This model of personality came as a result of Sigmund Freud’s works, especially about the primary causes of mental illnesses, which was the main concern of most psychologists. Psychodynamic psychologists made several attempts in the nineteenth century to provide answers on what causes psychological disorders, ranging from demons to physical illnesses. However, Freud had a diverging opinion on the psychodynamics of humans. In the view of Freud, what people think and have a conscious feeling of is only a small fraction of their actual emotions and thoughts.

There are things that one can see and talk about, for example, the sea full of big tides. However, in people’s subconscious, there are more thoughts and feelings that they do not express. Another concept of Freud that helped in shaping the psychodynamic theory is the belief that problems that people have today are caused by something that happened in the past (Engler, 2009). For example, adults who have become addicted to alcohol and lazy may have been influenced by the lives that they used to see or experience in the past.

Strengths of the psychodynamic theories. An example that can best illustrate the strength of this theory is based on the case of one’s alcohol addiction. Those who have become addicted to alcohol feel lonely and sad when they are sober. Seeking the help of a psychologist may attract some questions that can make one open up and start feeling some unusual patterns of thought. In case someone’s father showed them a proper level of care, love, and affection only when he was drunk, this can make one subconsciously directly associate alcohol with fatherly love. It is one of the strengths of the psychodynamic theory given the fact that it explains how a person’s behavior in childhood can affect their future. Another advantage of this theory is that it recognizes the existence of the subconscious and explains how it affects behavior. Psychodynamic theories comprehensively and deeply look at the personality and make an effort to restore what is good, unlike other personality theories that only focus on the surface behavior and feelings (Holder & Klassen, 2010).

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Weaknesses of psychodynamic theories. Despite many advantages of the psychodynamic personality theory, it has some disadvantages. The theory tries by all means to ignore the biological factors that influence some problems related to consciousness, feelings, thoughts, and anxiety (Joshanloo & Afshari, 2011). By the example of the father addicted to alcohol who influences his son, the theory only explains how that affects the subconscious, but it does not explain how the son can inherit the trait of addiction.

The Social Learning (Cognitive) Theory Emotional Reactions Influencing Cognition

This theory highlights that learning and cognition are some of the primary factors that lead to differences in human personality. The theory explains that some parts of individuals’ knowledge acquisition can be linked with the method of observation of individuals in the context of social interaction, accumulated experience, and influences that are outside the context of social media (Lombardo & Foschi, 2003). It gives an implication people can learn from observing others as well as from their experiences. In personality development, the environment and individual traits play a critical role, as emphasized by this theory.

Strengths of the social learning (cognitive) theory. Some of the major advantages of this theory include the fact that it emphasizes many critical human social behaviors and that it is not rigid. The theory is open to change, and it recognizes the dynamism of personality. For example, one can be a supporter of social interactions at a younger age, but later, he or she becomes an introvert who is typically independent and unfriendly. The theory also puts more emphasis on the importance of reward in learning and gives reasons why behavior stability promotes a healthy personality irrespective of the type.

Weaknesses of the social learning (cognitive) theory. One of the major weaknesses of the social cognitive theory is that it is not systematic in explaining the behaviors of humans. The theory is loosely organized, which has made it come up with some controversial issues. The theory has utterly failed to explain how self-efficacy directly relates to broader personality, for instance, how smoking affects one’s personality and whether extroverts or the outgoing are the only smokers in society. The theory has also ignored such areas as maturation and changes that take place in an individual (Lombardo & Foschi, 2003). Some people develop certain personality traits like engaging in theft and bribery, the traits that were absent in them when they were young. The theory of cognition also pays less attention to motivation, emotions, and conflicts.

Reasons for Choosing Personality Psychology

I ended up with this topic because of my stage in life; I am a young person maximizing my social life. As a result, I meet diverse people every day, and the only way I can understand them is by analyzing their personalities. Therefore, I set to research personality to understand how different personalities develop and the factors behind them. I wanted to answer the question why some of the people I meet in my everyday life behave the way they do. As such, I intended to gather knowledge.

Personality theorists believe that human beings’ actions are directly influenced by the environment. However, cognitive theorists have the belief that humans are more active in their roles (Holder & Klassen, 2010). To improve the weaknesses of trait theories, I would study how patterns of variability of situational factors are important in determining personality and propose that the theory should acknowledge such factors. To become more relevant and comprehensive, the psychodynamic theory should emphasize both biological and behavioral or environmental factors that bring about problems related to consciousness, feelings, thoughts, and anxiety. Finally, to make the social learning and cognitive theory more relevant, I propose that psychologists should concentrate their efforts on making their views systematic in explaining the behaviors of humans.


Personality as exhibited by human beings can be explained in three ways: individual traits, past experiences, and social life. The natural traits that a person is born with determine the personality they will portray in their life. Additionally, past life experiences influence the way people react to others and engage life in the present day and the future. Finally, the social context in which an individual lives shapes their reaction to others and the environment. Summarily, personality is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

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