Personality psychology is an academic discipline that scientifically studies personality patterns and variations. This unique branch of psychology draws on theories from social, cognitive, behavioral and even evolutionary psychology.
What is Personality Psychology?
This branch of psychology studies how the personality is developed within the psyche and influenced by society. Personality psychologists strive to form a comprehensive picture of the individual while comparing the differences and similarities between people.
The concept of personality refers to the combination of an individual’s values, feelings, thoughts and behaviors exhibited over time. However, many major branches of psychology have their own exclusive theory of what exactly the personality is and how the personality is formed.
What are the Main Personality Theories?
From a historical perspective, Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts believed in the theory of psychodynamics, which stated that the personality was formed through psychic energy being transformed into behaviors. Freud also believed that the personality was divided into three parts: the id, ego and super-ego.
However, behaviorists were strongly opposed to these abstract conceptualizations of a person’s real world personality. Behaviorists believed that the personality was a person’s internal, mechanical-like reactions and subsequent conditioning to environmental stimuli.
Modern personality research started changing when Albert Bandura and other social cognitive psychologists provided an integrated view of personality formation. Their theories explore how memories, emotions, cognitive justifications and environment interactions influence the personality. The modern study of the personality has also been strongly influenced by the cutting edge fields of genetics, evolution and biopsychology.
How is the Personality Tested?
There are actually only two types of personality tests: objective and projective.
Objective tests are based on the assumption that the personality is cognitively assessable and self-measurable through in-depth questionnaires. Objective personality tests tend to be more scientifically sound because tests can be statistically analyzed through standard experimental procedures.
On the other hand, projective tests are based on the assumption that the personality is not cognitively assessable. Therefore, it can only be analyzed through measuring how individuals respond to ambiguous stimulus, such as ink blot tests. While these projective tests reveal very important information about the individual, they have limited scientific credibility.
What Education is Required?
The study of personality is a sub-field of psychology. Therefore, students usually earn a regular degree in psychology, which lays the foundation for understanding character traits and behaviors. Basic psychology courses also explore the various personal and social circumstances that shape the individual’s personality.
Students who wish to specialize in studying the personality will typically complete an advanced certification or master’s program that covers social, abnormal and cross-culture psychology. These programs will also explore human development, personality theories and psychological metrics and assessments. A master’s program allows the student to investigate complex concepts that influence the personality, such as social power, gender conditioning and the psychology of religion.
Where to Learn More?
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) is the premier psychology association that advocates for personality psychologists. They offer media, research and education resources to students and the public. They also host important networking and academic events for personality psychologists. Anyone seriously interested in pursuing a career to become a personality psychologist should consider joining the SPSP.
In short, personality psychologists analyze and study the similarities and difference between collective personalities. Personality psychology is an integrated discipline that explores how personalities are formed, changed and respond to external stimuli.