This week’s readings suggest that everyday conceptions of p…

This Ā week’s readings suggest that everyday conceptions of personality and Ā scientific theories share some things in common but also differ in Ā important ways.Ā What are the differences? In particular, what are some Ā things that the scientific personality psychologist needs to accomplish Ā that generally are not accomplished by a layperson who develops an Ā intuitive theory of personality? Distinguish the major theories of personality Contrast historical and current views of personality Combine current research to assessment and technique


The study of personality has been a topic of interest for both laypeople and scientific psychologists. While everyday conceptions of personality may provide some insights, scientific theories of personality strive to go beyond these everyday notions and provide a systematic understanding of the complexities of human behavior and individual differences. This paper aims to highlight the differences between everyday conceptions of personality and scientific theories, particularly focusing on the tasks that scientific personality psychologists need to accomplish that are generally not accomplished by laypeople. Additionally, it will discuss the major theories of personality and contrast historical and current views in the field.

Differences Between Everyday Conceptions and Scientific Theories

Everyday conceptions of personality are typically formed through personal observations, experiences, and cultural influences. They are often based on stereotypes, generalizations, and simplistic categorizations of individuals’ behaviors and traits. Laypeople develop intuitive theories of personality that guide their understanding and interactions with others, but these theories are often limited in scope and lacking in empirical support.

Scientific theories of personality, on the other hand, are grounded in empirical research, systematic observation, and rigorous analysis. They aim to explain and predict individual differences in behavior and provide a framework for understanding the complexities of human personality. Scientific personality psychologists need to accomplish several tasks that laypeople generally do not:

1. Define and operationalize personality constructs: Scientific personality psychologists need to clearly define and conceptualize the constructs they study. They develop precise definitions and operationalize these constructs through standardized measures and assessments. Laypeople, on the other hand, may use vague and imprecise language when describing personality traits or behaviors.

2. Test hypotheses and theories empirically: Scientific personality psychologists conduct research studies to test their hypotheses and theories. They use rigorous methods, such as experiments, surveys, and observations, to gather empirical data. Laypeople, on the other hand, rely on personal observations and anecdotes to form their beliefs about personality.

3. Engage in systematic observation and data analysis: Scientific personality psychologists engage in systematic observation of behavior and analyze data using statistical techniques. They aim to uncover patterns, relationships, and associations that inform their theories. Laypeople often rely on intuitive and subjective judgments without rigorous analysis of data.

4. Evaluate empirical evidence and revise theories: Scientific personality psychologists evaluate the empirical evidence supporting their theories. They critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their research findings and update their theories accordingly. Laypeople may cling to their intuitive theories despite contradictory evidence or lack of scientific support.

Major Theories of Personality

There have been several major theories of personality proposed throughout the history of psychology. These theories differ in their assumptions, focus, and explanatory power. Some prominent examples include:

1. Psychodynamic theories: These theories, pioneered by Sigmund Freud, emphasize the role of unconscious processes and early childhood experiences in shaping personality. They propose that personality is influenced by the interplay of different psychic forces, such as the id, ego, and superego.

2. Trait theories: Trait theories focus on identifying and measuring stable individual differences in personality traits. They propose that personality can be best understood through a set of distinct traits, such as extraversion, neuroticism, and openness.

3. Behavioral theories: Behavioral theories emphasize the influence of the environment on the development of personality. They suggest that behaviors are shaped through learning processes, such as operant conditioning and reinforcement.

4. Cognitive theories: Cognitive theories emphasize the role of cognitive processes, such as thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, in shaping personality. They propose that personality is influenced by how individuals perceive, interpret, and process information.

Contrasting Historical and Current Views

Historically, personality theories focused on explaining individual differences and predicting behavior based on broad and global traits or unconscious processes. They tended to overlook the complexity and context-dependence of personality. Current views, on the other hand, emphasize the dynamic and interactionist nature of personality. They recognize the influence of both stable traits and situational factors on behavior and highlight the need to consider individual differences within specific contexts and situations.

Combining Research, Assessment, and Technique

The field of personality psychology has evolved to incorporate a wide range of research methodologies, assessment tools, and therapeutic techniques. Researchers draw from multiple disciplines, such as neuroscience, genetics, and social psychology, to gain a comprehensive understanding of personality. Assessment techniques, such as self-report questionnaires, interviews, and behavioral observations, are used to measure personality traits and characteristics. Therapeutic techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, aim to address maladaptive personality patterns and promote psychological well-being.


In conclusion, there are significant differences between everyday conceptions of personality and scientific theories. Scientific personality psychologists aim to go beyond intuitive theories and develop a systematic understanding of personality through rigorous research and analysis. They define and operationalize constructs, test hypotheses, engage in systematic observation and data analysis, and evaluate evidence to revise theories. The field of personality psychology encompasses several major theories, each with its own focus and explanatory power. Historical views focused on broad traits or unconscious processes, while current views emphasize the dynamic and interactionist nature of personality. The field combines various research methodologies, assessment tools, and therapeutic techniques to advance our understanding of personality and its influence on human behavior.