The discipline of psychology concerns itself with the study of human behavior and mental processes and with it comes the desire to understand the totality of the person not just as physiological beings but as thinking and feeling beings. The study of the human personality attempts to explore, know, and understand the inner workings of the self, the development of personality and how personality is manifested. Through the years, many theorists and theories had been proposed to the study of human personality, this have ranged from identifying personality traits, to psychodynamic theories, to humanistic theories, social learning and cognitive theories and self-theories. All of these theories had tried to explain something unique and profound about human personality and places importance on heritability, experience, personal goodness, learning, and self-awareness (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2007).
Trait theories had concerned itself with the identification and description of the different personality traits and types of the human personality. The earliest work had been a factor analysis of the different traits that the individual use to describe their personality. Later on, the work provided the theoretical knowledge that led to the formulation of personality tests such as the sixteen-personality factor test, the MMPI, the MBTI, and the Big 5. The trait theories were concerned more with the development of psychometric tests that would reliably identify the personality of the person taking the test. These theories offer little explanation on how personality traits are developed and where it comes from, instead they focus more on how universal the personality traits are and how it can predict human behavior (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2007).
The more academic theories such as psychoanalysis, humanistic, cognitive, social-learning and self theories deal with the development or origins of personality, the different conditions that helps and hinders a person’s personality, the manifestations of such personality behavior and the clinical disorders or adjustment problems that each personality might encounter. Fro example, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory says that personality is developed through the interaction of the id, ego, and superego, that childhood traumatic experiences cause personality maladjustments and issues, and that defense mechanisms are used to protect the self or personality form anxiety. On the other hand, humanistic theories of personality like Carl Roger’s person-centered theory where one’s personality will thrive and develop in an atmosphere of unconditional positive regard. The humanistic theory of personality supports the premise that all men are good and there is the natural need of man to seek growth and actualization. The social-learning and cognitive theories say that a person has the capacity to learn and think for him/her self but through the process of socialization, a person learns to be what he/she is. The theory posits that the person’s environment, culture, and religion shape his/her personality but that man always has the capacity to think and choose for him/her self. The more recent self-theories all center on the role of the self to the development of personality. This includes self-concept, self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. The self-theories postulate that an individual would only be able to know who he/she is as a person if he/she has discovered and understood his/her self. The self-concept is a construct, in which the person defines his /her personal philosophies, purpose, and direction in life in relation to other people. Self-awareness is the state of being in congruence with one is ideal and real self, it is an honest acceptance of who he/she is as a person, strengths and limitations and all. Self-esteem is the degree of positive self-regard that a person has for him/her self based on other people’s conceptions of his/her personality and behavior (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2007).
Considering that there are numerous theories that explain personality, not one can claim to be the most comprehensive or the most accepted, instead each theory tries to provide us with a different perspective in which we understand human personality. Learning about these theories gives us the opportunity to see through other people’s eyes and minds how they conceive personality and in what ways does, personality shapes our own beliefs and actions.
Gerrig, R., & Zimbardo, P. (2007). Psychology and Life 18th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.