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Comparing Theories of Personality


Humanistic approach ... approach This class of approaches originates from Freud s psychoanalytic theory. ... as integrative and dominant in the literature. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Comparing Theories of Personality

Lecture 4
  • Comparing Theories of Personality
  • Dr. KV Petrides

Why science?
  • There are various methods for acquiring
    knowledge. For example
  • Intuition the act or process of acquiring
    knowledge without reasoning or inferring.
  • Authority a basis for accepting information
    because it is acquired from a highly respected
  • Rationalism the acquisition of knowledge through
    reasoning. Reasoning, however, does not always
    reflect reality. It is quite possible to reach
    contradicting conclusions by means of rational
  • Empiricism the acquisition of knowledge through
    personal experience. If I have experienced
    something, then it is valid and true.

What is science?
  • The best method for acquiring knowledge is the
    scientific method because the information it
    yields is based as much as possible on reality.
  • Science is a method (a logic of enquiry) to be
    followed in solving problems and acquiring a body
    of knowledge.
  • The scientific method comprises the following
  • Developing a theory
  • Forming a hypothesis
  • Designing an experiment and operationalizing the
  • Conducting the experiment and testing the
  • Interpreting the results
  • Feeding back and (if necessary) amending the

Assumptions underlying science I
  • Reality in nature What we see, hear, feel, and
    taste is real and has substance.
  • Empiricism is vital in science, wherein, however,
    it refers to accumulation of knowledge through
    the scientific method, rather than to personal
    experiences of events.
  • Rationality there is a rational basis for the
    events that occur in nature, which can be
    understood through logical thinking.
  • Rationalism is vital in science, however,
    scientists use the reasoning process not only to
    derive hypotheses, but also to test them.

Assumptions underlying science II
  • Regularity Events in nature follow the same laws
    and occur the same way at all times and places.
  • Discoverability Not only is there uniformity and
    regularity in nature, but it is also possible to
    discover this uniformity.
  • Note that insofar as these assumptions are
    incorrect in the realm of personality psychology,
    the utility and relative advantages of the
    scientific method are compromised.

Objectives of science
  • Description To portray a situation or phenomenon
    accurately and parsimoniously.
  • Explanation To provide an explanation of the
    phenomenon or situation, including why it exists
    and what causes it.
  • Prediction To enable the anticipation of events
    prior to their actual occurrence.
  • Control To manipulate the conditions that
    determine a phenomenon. When the antecedent
    conditions are known, they can be manipulated to
    produce a desired phenomenon.

Personality theories
Humanistic and psychodynamic approaches
Humanistic approach
  • This approach has its roots in the philosophical
    schools of existentialism and phenomenology.
  • It emphasizes that individuals have free will,
    personal worth, and a need for self-actualization.
  • The main impact of this approach has been in the
    areas of clinical psychology and counseling.
  • Major figures in the humanistic tradition are
    Kelly, Rogers, and Maslow.

Humanistic approach - Limitations
  • Overemphasizes the importance of appreciating
    personhood and maintaining close contact with
    your feelings.
  • Overlooks social and genetic determinants of
    personality and being.
  • Overemphasizes peoples construal of reality
    (e.g., self-actualization), which makes the
    theory impossible to evaluate because there are
    as many different construals as there are people.
  • Rejects the scientific method as a valid method
    for studying the human mind.
  • The mind is self-aware and therefore cannot be
    studied objectively because it knows it is being

Psychodynamic approach
  • This class of approaches originates from Freuds
    psychoanalytic theory.
  • Freudian theory has been highly influential in
    very diverse areas of enquiry.
  • Today, psychoanalytic theory continues to play an
    important role in psychotherapy, although its
    influence within mainstream psychology is very
  • Major figures in the psychodynamic tradition are
    Freud, Jung, Adler, Horney, and Erikson.

Psychodynamic approach - Limitations
  • Fundamental constructs of the theory are nebulous
    (e.g., psychic energy, thanatos, etc.).
  • Overemphasizes the importance of sexual drive and
    overlooks the role of social and genetic factors.
  • Its clinical effectiveness has been repeatedly
    called into question (Eysenck, 1952).
  • Theory is so general and vague as to be
    untestable and, consequently, unscientific.

Trait theories
  • Trait theories posit that personality is a
    constellation of dispositions that influence how
    people think, feel, and behave.
  • Major advantages of trait theories
  • Predicated on a vast body of empirical evidence.
  • Explicit, testable, and subject to falsification.
  • Results and observations are replicable.
  • Provide useful descriptions and assessment tools
    for research and clinical purposes.

Trait theories - Limitations
  • Strong on description and labeling, but often
    weak on prediction and, especially, explanation.
  • The same variance (factor space) can be
    conceptualized in many ways. This is due to the
    arbitrariness of factor analysis, which underpins
    all hierarchical trait theories.
  • Insufficient attention to behavioural variability
    across situations (Mischel, 1968).
  • Weak on explaining origins of traits.
  • Multiple competing theories seemingly enjoying
    considerable empirical support.

Giant 3 vs Big 5
  • Giant 3
  • H J Eysenck, J A Gray, C R Cloninger, M
    Zuckerman, A Tellegen
  • Big 5
  • P T Costa, Jr R R McCrae, L R Goldberg, O John
  • The study of personality attempts to discover how
    people differ and why. Giant 3 theories tend to
    be psychobiological and to focus on the why
    question. Big 5 theories tend to be descriptive
    and to focus on the how question.

The Giant Three
  • H J Eysencks
  • Extraversion
  • The extent to which people prefer to be alone or
    with others.
  • Neuroticism
  • The extent to which people experience negative
  • Psychoticism
  • The extent to which people are tough-minded.
  • J A Grays
  • Impulsivity (BAS approach and reward system).
  • Anxiety (BIS inhibition and punishment system).
  • Fight/flight (aggression or flight system).

Advantages of Giant Three theories
  • Advantages of Giant Three theories over Big Five
  • Strive to explain WHY individuals differ.
  • Attempt to bridge psychology and biology.
  • Able to accommodate individual differences not
    easily accounted for by environmental
  • Consistent with animal research findings.
  • May be able to support pharmacological

Disadvantages of Giant Three theories
  • Disadvantages of Giant Three over Big Five
  • Tend to be less comprehensive. There seems to be
    predictively useful personality variance not
    tapped by Giant Three models.
  • Limited methodology for assessing brain function
    and testing the theories.
  • Overemphasize biological factors at the expense
    of relevant social and cognitive factors.
  • Deterministic, allowing little scope for
    socio-educational interventions (although this
    may simply reflect reality).

The Big Five (FFM)
  • Extraversion
  • The extent to which people prefer to be alone or
    with others.
  • Neuroticism
  • The extent to which people experience negative
  • Agreeableness
  • The extent to which people are pleasant and
    well-liked by others.
  • Conscientiousness
  • Concerns the manner in which people complete
  • Openness-to-Experience
  • Has been variously described as a dimension of
    creativity, culture, curiosity, intellectuality.

Advantages of Big Five theories
  • Advantages of Big Five over Giant Three theories
  • Provide more comprehensive coverage of
  • Offer more thorough descriptions and assessments
    due to their scope and incorporation of
    lower-order facets.
  • They are perceived as integrative and dominant in
    the literature.
  • A major advantage, as it facilitates the
    accumulation of evidence and provides a reference
    point for substantive research.
  • O, A, and C have wider nomological networks than

Disadvantages of Big Five theories
  • Disadvantages of Big Five over Giant Three
  • Psychometric
  • The measurement scope and detail of Big Five
    models mean that some factors are internally
    heterogeneous (e.g., facets correlating more
    strongly with non-keyed factors than with their
    keyed factor).
  • Moderate-to-strong factor intercorrelations
    (e.g., A and C).
  • Explanatory
  • Especially weak in explaining findings.
  • Over-reliant on semantic (thesaurus-based)
    accounts of phenomena. Conscientious competent,
    dutiful, disciplined, etc.
  • Conceptual
  • Evidence of factors beyond the Big Five, which is
    a problem as regards comprehensiveness.
  • Evidence of developmental non-invariance (Mroczek
    et al., 1997), which is especially troublesome
    when origins of factors are unknown.

Eysenck versus Gray I
  • P-E-N theory advantages
  • Assessment is straightforward (mainly via
    questionnaires). In contrast, it is proving
    difficult to link BIS and BAS from Grays theory
    to behavioural or psychometric measures.
  • Overall, empirical evidence tends to be somewhat
    in favour of Eysenck, but results are often
    inconclusive or difficult to replicate (Matthews
    Gilliland, 1999).
  • Dearth of uncontested and conclusive evidence in
    support of Grays theory based on human data.
  • Eysenckian theory has far wider spheres of
    influence and application than Grays, which
    tends to focus on a relatively small number of
    specific paradigms.

Eysenck versus Gray II
  • BIS/BAS theory advantages
  • Much more detailed description of physiological
    mechanisms than P-E-N model.
  • Sometimes impressive evidence from animal studies
    (e.g., BIS-based explanations of the effects of
    anxiolytic drugs in the rat).
  • However, these results do not seem to be
    replicable in human samples. It is likely that
    human anxiety is much more amenable to cognitive
    control (self-regulatory processes) than animal

Eysenck versus Gray III
  • Because the two theories define the same factor
    space, anxiety can be recast as neurotic
    introversion versus stable extraversion and
    impulsivity can be recast as neurotic
    extraversion versus stable introversion.
  • Decisive factors can be parsimony and explanatory
    power (e.g., accuracy of underlying physiological

On the web
  • http//
  • Maintained by Professor W. Revelle
  • http//
  • The H J Eysenck official web page
  • http//
  • The R B Cattell memorial page
  • http//
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology