The following points highlight the six main approaches to the theories of personality. The approaches are: 1. Type Approaches 2. Trait Theory Approaches 3. Type-cum-Trait Approach 4. Psychodynamic Approach (Psychoanalytic Approach to Personality) 5. Behavioural and Learning Approach 6. The Humanistic Approach.
Approach # 1. Type Approaches:
This focuses on people’s (character) characteristics like stubbornness, shyness and so forth and how these characteristics are organized into systems.
One of the first ‘type’ theories that was proposed around 400 BC by Hippocrates, a Greek physician known as the Father of Medicine. He grouped people into four temperament types.
Sanguine—cheerful, vigorous, confidently optimistic
Phlegmatic—slow moving, calm, unexcitable.
Since the time of Hippocrates, other ways of grouping people into types have been tried. The grouping or sets of types or typologies.
A type is simply a class of individuals said to share a common collection of characteristics. For example, introverts could be described as people who share characteristics such as shyness, social withdrawal and a tendency not to talk much, while extroverts share a tendency to be outgoing, friendly and talkative.
Ernst Kretschmer’s Theory:
Ernst’ Kretschmer is a German psychologist who initiated scientific investigations and attempted to correlate physique and characteristics. He classified individuals into four types, namely pyknic, asthenic, athletic and dysplastic. From his study of mental patients he found that certain body types are associated with some particular types of mental disorders.
a. Pyknic body type:
Such individuals are short, rounded and associated with manic depression, have the personality traits of extroverts.
b. Asthenic body type:
Such individuals are siege and have the personality traits of extroverts. They are associated with schizophrenia.
c. Athletic body type:
Such individuals have strong body built, they are energetic and aggressive, strong, determined, adventurous and balanced. They are normally associated with manic depressive psychosis.
d. Dysplastic body types:
Such individuals have un-proportionate body parts and do not belong to any of the three types mentioned above (this disproportion is due to hormonal imbalance). Just as the body is un-proportionate, their behaviour and personality are also imbalanced. Though this classification of personality based on the body type has attracted the attention of many psychologists, the theory has been rejected since it was based on mental patients.
Sheldon being influenced by Kretschmer’s view proposed a new theory of personality correlating temperament and body type. The bodily components are endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy. The corresponding temperamental dimensions are viscerotonia, somatotonia and cerebrotonia.
a. Endomorphic (visceratonia):
The component refers to the prominence of visceral organs. These individuals are plump, soft, fat and round-sociable, even tempered and relaxed paunch indicates excess viscera as fat.
b. Mesomorphic (somatotonia):
This component refers to the bone and muscle. The athlete is predominantly mesomorphic having wide shoulders, narrow hips and rippling muscles.
c. Ectomorphic (cerebretonia):
This component is based upon delicacy of skin, fine hair and a sonotic narrow system. This person is tall, thin, steep shouldered, shy, fond of solitude and reserved.
Carlgustou Jung’s Classification (1875-1961):
The most famous of all the present day typologies is that of introversion, and extroversion was first described by Carl Jung. CG Jung, a prominent Swiss psychologist was originally a follower of Sigmund Freud, but later developed his own system of analytic psychology. According to Jung the extrovert is outgoing, extravagant, lively and towards direct action. The extrovert reacts positively to different situations and mixes freely with others.
He is talkative and expert on making social contact. He is very generous and outspoken and sometimes more couragious. He always likes outdoor games and does not pay much attention to details. He is always happy, lucky person. Extroverts usually spend a lot of money on others and try to get love and affection of others.
The introvert has the overall opposite behavioural qualities. He tends to withdraw into himself, especially in times of emotional stress and conflict, characteristics of introverts include shyness and preference for working alone. The introvert likes indoor games and engages in reading and writing books all alone in the corners.
He does not like busy (peoples) places. He is not that suggestible as other people are. He has some fixed ideas and thinks a great deal (with) before doing anything. He is very sensitive and does not spend much money on others as extroverts do.
This typology unfortunately shares the two major shortcomings of all simple typologies.
a. They put people into extrovert and introvert categories that apply to only a few individuals as with most dimensions of human variations. The graduation forms introversion to extroversion is a continuous one on which people are normally distributed. Most people fall in the middle of the dimension and show both introversion and extroversion to a degree.
b. In their simplicity, typologies ignore one of the most important facts about personality that is multidimensional and consist of many attributes.
c. These shortcomings have been partially overcome, in the work of a famous British psychologist Hans J Eysenck. Eysenck’s personality types are defined by three major dimensions.
Approach # 2. Trait Theory Approaches:
Traits are considered to be stable and consistent, descriptive attribute of individual. Traits are enduring tendencies to act in particular ways across a range of interaction. The measurable aspects of personality are referred to as personality traits are nothing but qualities found in the individuals behaviour.
The trait theories consider personality to be a collection of such traits. They dissect the personality into some components called traits. Cattell is (the) its principle founder. Traits are propensities to behave in a consistent and distinctive style. Regarding the consistency of traits, Cattle found a distinction between surface traits and source traits.
According to him:
a. The surface traits are the qualities of one’s behaviour that are observable directly in action.
b. The source traits (determine the surface trait) on the other hand, are the qualities found in the organism at a deeper level so they cannot be observed directly.
c. The source trait determines the surface trait. Surface traits are not so consistent because they are influenced not only by source traits but also by many other factors operating at a given time.
For example feelings of insecurity is a source trait. It cannot be observed directly unless it expresses through surface traits like restlessness, timidity, high emotionality.
Allport’s Trait Theory:
When personality psychologist Gordon Allport systematically leafed through an unabridged dictionary he came up with some 18,000 separated terms that could be used to describe personality. Although he was able to bring down the list to a mere 4,500 descriptions often eliminating synonyms, he was still left with a problem crucial to all trait approaches that is which of these were the most basic.
Allport answered this question by suggesting that there are three basic categories of traits such as cardinal, central and secondary.
A cardinal trait is a single characteristic that directs most of a person’s activities, for example, a totally selfless woman might direct all her energy towards humanitarian activities.
Most people, however, do not develop all encompassing cardinal traits. Instead they possess a handful of central traits. Honesty and sociability are the major characteristics of an individual, they usually numbered from five to ten in any one person.
Finally, secondary traits are characteristics that affect behaviour in fewer situation and are less influential than control or cardinal traits. For example, a preference for ice-cream or a dislike of modern art would be considered a secondary trait.
Approach # 3. Type-cum-Trait Approach:
HJ Eysenck identified the major components of personality as a number of personality types. Each type is made up of a set of personality characteristics. For example, people who fit Eysenck’s extroverts type are said to have such characteristics as sociability, liveliness and excitability. Each of these characteristics, according to Eysenck can be broken down into certain habitual response.
Pattern that habitual response patterns can be broken down further into specific responses within specific situations. This progression from broad, global types down to specific situation bound, responses is what makes Eysenck’s approach a hierarchical theory.
Approach # 4. Psychodynamic Approach (Psychoanalytic Approach to Personality):
This emphasizes on ongoing interactions among motives, impulses and psychological processes.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939):
According to psychoanalysts, our behaviour is brought about largely by powerful processes within our personality of which we are not aware. These hidden processes shaped by childhood experiences play an important role in energizing and directing our everyday behaviour.
The most important theories to hold such a view and one of the best known figures in all psychology is Sigmund Freud, an Austrian physician. Freud originated the psychoanalytic theory in the early 1900. Psychoanalytic theory has five major parts.
1. The motive force:
Basic urge or psychic energy or libidinal energy: Basic goal is to maintain tension-free state or state of satisfaction.
2. Structure of personality:
To describe the structure of personality, Freud developed a comprehensive theory that held personality consisted of three separate but interacting components the id, the ego and the superego.
The id, the most primitive part can be thought of as a short of storehouse of biologically based urges. It is the raw unorganized, inherited part of personality whose purpose is to reduce tension created by biological drives, related to hunger, sex, aggression and irrational impulses. The id operates according to the pleasure principle in which the goal is the immediate reduction of tension and the maximization of satisfaction.
Unfortunately for the id but luckily for people and society reality prevents the fulfillment of the demands of the pleasure principle in most cases. Instead, the world produces constraints. We cannot always eat when we are hungry. To account for this fact of life, Freud suggested a second component of personality which he called the ego. The id is usually bridled and managed by the ego.
The ego consists of elaborate ways of behaving and thinking which constitutes the executive function of the person. The ego delays satisfying id motives by acceptable outlets. It keeps a person working for a living, getting along with people and generally adjusting to reality of life.
It contrasts to the pleasure of seeking nature of id, the ego operates according to reality principle, that is the ego tries to satisfy the id’s urges for pleasure. Ego makes decisions, contracts action and allows thinking and problem-solving of a higher order than the id achieve. The ego is (called) also the seat of higher cognitive abilities such as intelligence, thoughtfulness.
The superego, the final personality structure to be developed represents the rights and wrongs of society as handled down by a person, parents, teachers and other important figures. It becomes a part of personality when children learn right-wrong and continue to develop as people begin to incorporate to their own standards, the broad moral principles of the society in which they live.
The superego actually has two components, the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience prevents us from doing morally bad things and the ego-ideal motivates us to do what is morally proper. The superego helps us to control impulses coming from the more virtuous. Although on the surface the superego appears to be opposite of the id, they do not consider the practical realities imposed by society.
3. Topographical aspect or structure or model:
a. Conscious aspect
b. Unconscious aspect
c. Preconscious aspect.
Freud proposed three levels of consciousness or awareness the conscious, the preconscious and unconscious. At the conscious level, we are aware of certain things around us and of certain thoughts.
At the preconscious level are memories or thoughts that are easily available with a movement of reflection, for example, what he had for breakfast, or our parents first names, the unconscious contain memory, thoughts and motives which we cannot easily call up. All of these; id, the ego and superego include material at all three levels of consciousness.
To Freud, conscious experience is just the bit of the psychological iceberg like the unseen mass of a floating iceberg, the material found in unconscious is very large. Much of people’s everyday behaviour is viewed to as being motivated by unconscious forces. Unconscious is a part of the personality of which a person is not aware.
The unconscious contains instinctual drives, infantile wishes, desires, demand and needs that are hidden from the unconscious awareness because of the conflict and pain they can cause us if they are a part of our everyday life.
Freud believed that personality develops through a series of stages during childhood. He says that experiencing difficulties during a particular childhood may lead to problems in adult personality. Each stage focuses on a major biological function which Freud assumes to be the focus of pleasure in a given period.
In the first stage of development called the (A) oral stage from birth, 12 to 18 months the infants centre of pleasure is the mouth as the child is interested in sucking, eating, biting, etc. From 12 to 18 months until three years of age where the emphasis is on (B) anal stage or toilet training stage the child enters the anal stage. Here the children derive pleasure from expelling and withholding faeces. At about age 3 the (C) oedipal or phallic stage begins where the child is interested in the Oedipus complex seen around age of 5 or 6, then children move into the (D) latency period which lasts until adolescence during which sexual concerns are largely unimportant. Then during adolescence to adulthood they enter the final period the (E) genital period which extends until death. In this period there is a re-emergence of sexual interest and establishment of major sexual relationship.
Approach # 5. Behavioural and Learning Approach:
BF Skinner’s Behavioural Approach:
Behavioural and learning approaches to personality focus on the outer person. To a strict learning theorist, personality is simply the sum of learned responses to the external environment. Internal events such as thought, feelings and motivations are ignored.
Learning theorists say that personality is best understood by looking at the most influential learning theorists. BF Skinner personality is a collection of learned behaviour pattern. Similarities in responses across different situations are caused by similar patterns of reinforcement that have been received in such situations in past.
If I am sociable both at parties and meetings, it is because I have been reinforced previously for displaying social behaviour not because I am fulfilling some unconscious wishes based on experiences during my childhood or because I have an internal trait of sociability.
Theorists like Skinner are interested in modifying behaviour in many ways. Their view is that humans are infinitely changeable if one is able to control and modify the patterns of behaviour. Other theorists would view behaviour as stable and unyielding can be changed and ultimately improved.
Albert Bandura’s Learning Approach:
Unlike other learning approaches to personality social cognitive approaches emphasize thoughts, feeling, expectations and values in determining personality.
According to Albert Bandura, one of the main proponents of this point of views, people are able to foresee the possible outcomes of certain behaviours in a given setting without actually having to carry them out. This takes place mainly through the mechanism of observational learning viewing the actions of others and observing the consequences.
For instance, children who view of the consequences of the model’s behaviour are seen to be positive. If on the other hand, the model’s aggressive behaviour has resulted in no consequences or negative consequences, children are considerably less likely to act aggressively according to social cognitive approaches. Personality thus develops by repeated observation of the behaviour of others.
Bandura places particular emphasis on the role played by self-efficacy and learned expectation that one is capable of carrying out a behaviour of producing a desired outcome. Self-efficacy underlies peoples faith in their ability to carry out a particular behaviour, the greater a person’s sense of self-efficacy, the more persistent he or she will be and the more likely it is that the individual will be successful.
Social cognitive approaches are distinctive in their emphasis on the reciprocity between individuals and their environment. Not only is the environment assumed to affect personality but people’s behaviour and personalities are assumed to “feedback” and modify the environment which in this affects behaviour in a web of reciprocity.
Approach # 6. The Humanistic Approach:
According to humanistic theories, all of the approaches to personality discussed so far share a fundamental misperception in their view of human nature. Instead of classifying people as controlled by unconscious unseen forces (as do psychoanalytic approaches), a set of stable traits (trait approaches), situational reinforcements and punishments (learning theory) or inherited factors (biological approaches), humanistic approaches to personality emphasizing people’s basic goodness and their tendency to grow to higher levels of functioning. It is this conscious, self-motivated ability to change and improve, along with people’s unique creative impulses, that make up the core of personality.
The major proponent of the humanistic point of view is Carl Rogers (1971). Rogers suggests that people have a need for positive regard that reflects universal requirements to be loved and respected. Because others provide this positive regard, we grow dependent on them. We begin to see and judge ourselves through the eyes of other people, relying on their values.
According to Rogers, one outgrowth of placing importance on the opinions of others is that there may be a conflict between peoples actual experiences and their self-concepts or self-impressions. If the discrepancies are major, so are the consequences. But if they are great they will lead to psychological disturbances in daily functioning such as the experience of frequent anxiety.
Rogers suggests that one way of overcoming the discrepancy between experience and self-concept is through the receipt of unconditional positive regard from others which refers to an attitude of acceptance and respect on the part of an observers, no matter what a person says or does. This acceptance, says Rogers, allows people the opportunity to evolve and grow both cognitively and emotionally and to develop more realistic self-concepts.
To Rogers and other humanistic personality theorists (such as Abraham Maslow) the ultimate goals of personality growth is self-actualization and it is a state of self- fulfillment in which people realize their highest potential, and people who accept reality achieve happiness and fulfillment.