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The Personality Puzzle 8th Edition

The Personality Puzzle (8th Edition)

Book Edition8th Edition
PublisherW. W. Norton

Chapter 1, End of Chapter, Think About It, Exercise 1

Page 17


The approaches to personality provide different understandings of an individual's personality in the following manner:

  • The trait approach of personality asserts that personality is composed of certain fundamental units known as traits that further determine an individual's behavior. The trait approach is focused on determining individual differences in terms of personality traits. In addition, it stressed the notion that knowing an individual encompasses conceptualizing, understanding, and measuring how different they are from others in terms of stable traits of personality.
  • The psychoanalytic approach asserts that one's behavior is influenced by childhood experiences and the unconscious mind. The psychoanalytic approach claimed that individual differences are derived from the early childhood experiences of an individual along with the internal conflicts arising within one's unconscious mind. These factors essentially lead to the development of an adult personality. As a result, perceiving an individual is essentially a reflection of their unconscious instincts and conflicts and unique experiences gained from the happenings or occurrences in their childhood.
  • The learning or behavioral approach indicates how behavior is a byproduct of rewards and punishments, and it evolved into incorporating a cognitive approach that focused on how covert mental processes influence one's behavior. The behaviorist perspective suggests that an individual's behavior is directly controlled by their environment, and in this way, individual differences in terms of personality arise from environmental stimuli acting on an individual's actions. As a result, understanding an individual well indicates the requirement of being aware of how an individual's personality is a function of their learning experiences owing to the environmental factors influencing their behavior. The cognitive perspective suggests that knowing an individual requires an awareness of their mental functions and cognitive processes such as memory, decision making, problem-solving, perception, and remembering.
  • The biological approach asserts that individual differences have biological causes rooted in physiology, genetics, and evolutionary processes. The biological perspective suggests that most aspects of human personality and behavior are inherited or genetically determined. Moreover, such behaviors serve an adaptive function to help an individual survive and reproduce. As a result, understanding an individual can be equated to how bodily mechanisms influence the way in which an individual thinks, acts, and feels.
  • The phenomenological or humanistic approach focuses on the conscious experiences of an individual. However, an extension to this approach, that is, the humanistic perspective, focuses on a more positive standpoint and deduces how each individual can realize their utmost potential. The phenomenological perspective suggests that in order to gain an accurate understanding of an individual, one needs to be aware of the subjective experiences of an individual. Similarly, the humanistic perspective suggests that the study of personality must be redirected toward the self. As a result, knowing an individual requires an understanding of their uniqueness and self-actualizing drive to realize their complete potential.

Sample Response

Personality psychology aims to uncover or study the three elements of the psychological triad, that is, feelings, thoughts, and behavior. The three facets often work in collaboration but may sometimes act in a contradictory manner. For instance, an individual who is aware of the harmful consequences of smoking on their health and well-being continues to do so as it tends to relax and de-stress them. Consequently, knowing or understanding an individual or oneself [self-awareness or self-knowledge] is difficult to accomplish as unpredictability lies between the three factors of the psychological triad. For this reason, the ultimate goal of this sub-field of psychology is to uncover, explain, or understand an individual in a holistic manner.

Depending on the following approaches, personality psychology can be conceptualized, which would aid in decoding individual personality traits:

  • Trait approach
  • Psychoanalytic approach
  • Learning and cognitive approaches
  • Biological approach
  • Phenomenological approach
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