Expanding Consciousness /
Personality Theory /
Personality theories are mainly concerned with the structure of the human mind or psyche, which subsumes
explaining how individual psychological processes are organized and made coherent. As such, personality
theories serve as the basis and synthesizing element for many other fields in psychology.
Intellectual Mistakes and Misinterpretations
Before proceeding much further, it's best to keep in mind that personality theorists often make intellectual
mistakes in their theories, even the geniuses like Freud. Just a few of these mistakes are outlined below:
- Ethnocentrism - biases due to one's culture. For example, Freud grew up in Vienna, not Tokyo or Africa.
Hence, we expect his theories to be influenced by Viennese culture.
- Egocentrism - biases due to one's individuality. These include temperament, genetics, family structure and dynamics,
special personal experiences, education, etc. It could be said, not without too much exaggeration, that every
personality theory may be explained in terms of the personality theorist's life experiences, and in fact,
is limited by them.
- Dogmatism - biases due to dogmatism; i.e. not allowing for questions, doubts, or new information.
Often, dogmatic people will employ circular reasoning to validate their theories.
In addition, when trying to make sense of a personality theory, people will often run into the pitfall
of misinterpretation. This is because words have many different associations and shades of meaning, and often
we encounter a word used by a personality theorist that we unintentionally assign all sorts of associations and
meanings to that the theorist did not have in mind.
For example, Freud's id, ego, and superego are all words used by his translators, though
the original German terms were es, ich, and überich, which would be more properly translated
as 'it', 'I', and 'over-I'.
In general, misinterpretations are prone to occur 1) when words are translated from other languages,
2) with neologisms (altogether new words), and 3) metaphors.
Evidence for personality theories comes in the following five varieties:
Philosophical assumptions underlying personality theories:
- Free will vs. Determinism
- Uniqueness vs. Universality
- Physiological vs. Purposive Motivation
- Conscious vs. Unconscious Motivation
- Nature vs. Nurture
- Stage vs. Non-Stage Theories of Development
- Cultural Determinism vs. Cultural Transcendence
- Early vs. Late Personality Formation
- Continuous vs. Discontinuous Models of Mental Illness
- Optimism vs. Pessimism
Classifying Personality Theories
- Psychoanalytic - the Freudians and neo-Freudians, who for the most part, attribute signifacance to
- Behavioristic - focus on careful observation of behavior and environment
and their relations. Behaviorists include Hans Eysenck,
B. F. Skinner, and Albert Bandura.
- Humanistic/Existential - focus on phenomenological methods and believe that the answers are to be found in consciousness
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