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Personality Psychology

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Personality Psychology

Personality psychology is the branch of psychology that strives to understand the traits and tendencies that make us unique.

Image by Gabriella Fabbri

Defining Personality:

Personality is made up the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person unique. It arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life. How exactly do psychologists define personality? What are the different components of personality? You can learn about the answers to these questions and more in this overview of personality.

Theories of Personality:

A number of different theories have emerged to explain different aspects of personality. Some theories focus on explaining how personality develops while others are concerned with individual differences in personality. The following are just a few of the major theories of personality proposed by different psychologists:

Trait Theories

Psychoanalytic Theories:

  • Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development
    Freud's theory of psychosexual development is on of the best known personality theories, but also one of the most controversial. Learn more about the psychosexual stages of development.

  • Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
    According to Erik Erikson, each stage plays a major role in the development of personality and psychological skills. During each stage, the individual faces a developmental crisis that serves as a turning point in development.

  • Horney's Theory of Neurotic Needs
    Theorist Karen Horney developed a list of neurotic needs that arise from overusing coping strategies to deal with basic anxiety. Learn more about these neurotic needs described by Horney.

Behavioral Theories:

  • Classical Conditioning
    Classical conditioning is one of the best-known concepts of behavioral learning theory. In this type of conditioning, a neutral stimulus is paired with a naturally occurring response. Once an association has been formed, the previously neutral stimulus will come to evoke the response.

  • Operant Conditioning
    Operant conditioning is one of the fundamental concepts in behavioral psychology. This process involves strengthening or weakening a behavior using reinforcement and punishment.

Humanist Theories:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs emphasizes the importance of self-actualization and is often pictured as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid consist of basic survival needs, while the top of the pyramid is focused on self-actualizing needs.

Personality Disorders:

An estimated 10 to 15% of adults in the United States experience symptoms of at least one personality disorder. What are personality disorders? A personality disorder is a chronic and pervasive mental disorder that affects thoughts, behaviors, and interpersonal functioning. The DSM-IV currently lists 10 different personality disorders, which you can learn more about in the following article: Overview of Personality Disorders

Personality Tests:

You can find a number of personality tests here on the About Psychology site. These tests and quizzes are designed to give readers an idea of how formal assessments are used. However, these personality tests are not intended for use in assessment or diagnosis.

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