Human Psychology Theories on Personality Development

Human Psychology Theories on Personality Development


Personality is something that everybody has. It creates a boundary for an individual. It shapes an individual’s experience. Personality can expand or limit an individual’s experience. Personality is derived from the Latin word persona meaning mask or make-up that an individual holds on to. A layperson defines personality as a mere physical or external appearance. To define, Personality is a unique, relatively enduring internal and external aspect of an individual’s characteristics that influences an individual in various situations. Before we learn the theoretical aspects of Personality development, let’s try to understand certain personality-related terminologies.

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Temperament – biological way of reacting
Trait – stable, persistent and specified ways of behaving
Disposition – the tendency of an individual to react in various ways
Characteristics – overall pattern of regular behaviour.

Theory in the Study of Personality

Firstly, let’s learn what theory is. Theory can be stated as the well-substantiated explanation of certain aspects of nature and the world. To put it in simple words, the theory is a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena. It includes a set of principles that can be tested, and understandable and can help modify behaviour.

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Theories of Personality

1. Instinct Theory of Personality

Instinct is the basic element of personality. Instinct is one of the basic elements that involves transforming physiological energy into physiological excitation into a push or a driving force that would enable the satisfaction of the need. Famous Psychologist Sigmund Freud has a German terminology- Trieb. Every individual has a homeostatic approach which causes tension or pressure that would pave the way for personality development. Personality development includes Life instinct – libido or psychic energy and death instinct – destructive or aggressive energy that can expand personality development.

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2. Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalytic Theory is the one formulated by Sigmund Freud. He defines personality development through three different levels or structures: Id, Ego and Superego. Id is the unconscious, instinctual pleasure principle that can satisfy the needs of the individual. It involves immediate satisfaction. Ego is like a growing child. It can be the secondary thought that one has to deal with in the external world. It works on the reality principle. Super Ego is the third set of forces that works on morality principles. It doesn’t work for pleasure or upon realization. Through all these structures, personality development happens. Also, personality development happens through psychosexual stages: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latent and Genital stages emerging from birth to puberty.

3. Allport

Gordon Allport has given yet another theory on Personality development. Allport has provided three different categories of traits. Trait can be meant as the consistent and enduring ways of reacting to the environment. It includes Cardinal traits- pervasive and influential characteristics; Central Traits- the one characteristic that could best describe an individual and Secondary Traits- the one or few characteristics that remain least influential. Allport argued that genetics and environment influence an individual’s personality development.

4. Cattell’s Theory of Personality

Personality development or process has also been proposed by Raymond B Cattell. He has given Common and Unique traits; Common- are the most general and popular characteristics many of us would possess while Unique traits are something more specific to the individual. The other aspects of trait categorisation include Source Traits and Surface Traits. Surface traits involve the most observable characteristic of an individual while source traits are those underlying to them which would explain behaviour. Cattell’s theory formulates personality development in the form of a hierarchy with the Surface trait at the top, and the secondary trait leaning behind the source trait lying in the ground.

5. Eysenck’s Theory of Personality

Hans Eysenck is one of the renowned researchers in the field of Personality development. He has done so many years of research in understanding personality. He has proposed that Personality development happens in an individual with a biological basis influenced by Environmental and other factors. He identified two major dimensions of personality:

Extroversion and Introversion. Extroversion is a personality characteristic accounting towards sociability and leaning more towards the external world while introversion involves the various personality characteristics focusing towards one’s world. He has given these dimensions in a hierarchy with Extroversion and Introversion at both ends while Neuroticism lies in the middle of these. Eysenck also suggested that personality traits are viable towards change while the basic or ground of personality characteristics remains stable.

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6. Erickson’s theory of Personality development

Personality development was proposed by Erik Erikson. Erikson has a quite different view towards personality. He has argued that Personality development as emphasized by Erikson is through cultural and societal factors. He says that personality development happens through eight different stages: Trust vs Mistrust, Autonomy vs Shame and doubt, initiative vs guilt, Industry vs Inferiority, Identity vs Role confusion, Intimacy vs Isolation, Generativity vs Stagnation and Integrity vs Despair. Erikson further encourages us to view the personality development of an individual through various dynamic factors.

Certain other theories by various theorists
Alfred Adler

Adler is one of the prominent Psychologists in the field. He was the one who proposed Individual Psychology. He tells us that personality development happens as a result of one’s striving for superiority while overcoming one’s Inferiority complex. A superiority complex is nothing but one’s striving or desire to overcome inferior feelings and lead a complete life. He also emphasized the importance and influence of birth order on an individual’s personality development. Adler viewed personality development through the fostering of social interest and striving for superiority.

Karen Horney

Karen Horney is a Psychoanalyst. Horney has proposed that the personality development of an individual is influenced predominantly by the early years of experience. Those early years of development create anxiety which we call as Basic Anxiety. These feelings happen as a result of certain diversities in parenting. She also tells us that Early years of experience, unconscious motivations, and societal and cultural influences shape the personality of an individual.

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There exist so many theories that tell us the various aspects and dimensions of an individual’s personality development. The wide range of theories gives us insights into various aspects of personality development. Understanding the various theories like the Instinctual aspect, Psychoanalytical approach, behavioural approach, trait and type dynamics, learning and conditioning, environment and culture interplays and supports individuals with the understanding of personality development.

References +
  • BCcampus Open Publishing- › chapter › 11…12.2 The Origins of Personality – Introduction to Psychology

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