Personality Psychology

This area studies the assemblage of qualitative psychic characteristics which makes a person unique. Personality is partly an individual’s ‘mental’ face as it were, a persona or mask. What else is there behind the persona?

Personality Psychology studies abstract, qualitative characteristics; for example, it looks at emotional colouring, degree of introversion or extroversion, the extent to which people’s experiences are connected or dissociated, and the degree to which people are conscious of their own motives.

As a field in its own right, personality is very much a theoretical and research discipline of the university. However, clinical and developmental psychologists also require it extensively for their work. ‘Personality’ derives from the Greek word persona meaning mask, referring to the expressive facial coverings the ancient Greeks used in their plays to depict character types.

While personality psychologists are interested in characterizing how people present themselves to others and to themselves, they also strive to understand what is behind the mask, or behind behaviour. Thus, there arises a difficulty in understanding what exactly personality is if it cannot be seen.

Most people agree that personality exists however, but a concept of it often evaporates as soon as one attempts an objective definition. The first comprehensive personality theory was Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis mentioned above. Since then, there have been many other personality theories, including those from the humanistic approach.

As well, there are a multitude of tests for personality assessment. Among them is the famous Rorschach inkblot test used by clinical psychologists. Subjects are asked to express what they see in ten different nondescript ink blots; since the blots are almost completely unstructured, the personality psychologist assumes the patient’s responses are self-revelatory and not descriptive of the blot itself.

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