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Personality Theories

Personality Theories

According to H. S. Sullivan, personality theory is a system of representations, of which the decisive role in the emergence of personality traits and psychological disorders is attributed to interpersonal relations. Typical interpersonal situations are the kind of matrices that form a certain type of person and are understood as a set of social masks. It is recognized that in case of change in social relations (interpersonal) harmonization of the person can be achieved (Evans, 1996).

Theory of personality consists of many “miniteories”, each of which focuses on the particular issues or topics, addressed in psychology as the structure of personality, motivation, personality development, psychopathology, mental health, personality changes with therapeutic effects.

At present, there is no agreement as to what approach should be applied to the study of personality to explain the key aspects of human behavior. In fact, at this stage of the development of personality, various alternative theories describing the person as an integrated whole coexist, at the same time explaining the differences between people. There are  seven fairly stable scientific combinations of personality regarding human nature and human behavior. Occasionaly, they are called the theories of personality, within which psychodynamic, analytic, humanistic, cognitive, behavioral and activity-permissive theories of personality are marked out.

Considering the cognitive and behavioral theories of personality it becomes clear that the cognitive theory of personality is close to the humanistic theory, but it has a number of significant discrepancies. The founder of this approach is the American psychologist George Kelly (1905-1967), according to who the only thing people want to know in life is what has already happened to them and what will happen in the future. The main source of human development, according to Kelly, is the social environment. Cognitive theory of personality emphasizes the influence of the intellectual processes on human behavior. According to this theory, every person is compared with the scientist, testing hypotheses about the nature of things, who makes predictions about future events. Any event is open to multiple interpretations. The main concept in this area is the “construct” that includes all the known features of cognitive processes, including perception, memory, thought and speech. Kelly discovered and described the main mechanisms of personal constructs and formulated the basic postulate and 11 corollaries. The postulate asserts that personal psychological processes are channeled in such a way as to ensure maximum individual prediction of the events. All other investigations clarify this basic postulate (Kelly, 1955).

From the point of view of Kelly, each of us builds and tests the hypothesis. In short, we fix the problem, making assumptions about whether the person is sports or non-sports, musical or non-musical, intelligent or unintelligent, etc., using appropriate constructs or classifiers. Each construct has a “dichotomy” (two poles), such as “sports – unsportsmanlike”, “musical-unmusical” etc. A man selects the pole dichotomous constructs, the outcome that best describes the event, that is, hasa better prognostic value. Some constructs are useful in describing only a small set of events, while others have a wide range of applicability. For example, the construct of “smart-stupid” is hardly suitable for the description of the weather, but the construct of the “good-bad” is suitable for virtually any occasion.

According to cognitive theory, the personality is a system of organized personal constructs in which the personal experience is reprocessed (perceived and interpreted). Thus, personality structure in this approach is regarded as an individual hierarchy of constructs. According to the proponents of the cognitive theory of personality, friendship, love, and other types of relationship between people are possible only when people have similar constructs. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a situation of successful communication of two people, one of who is dominated by the construct of “honest-dishonest” and the other does not have this construct at all.

Construct system is not a static form. It is in constant change under the influence of experience, i.e., the identity is formed and developed over a lifetime. In personality, mostly “conscious” dominates. Unconscious can only apply to remote (subordinant) constructs that in the interpretation of the perceived events are not often used by people. The question like why some people are more aggressive than others? will be explained by the cognitivists in the way that  aggressive people have a special construct personality system. They perceive and interpret the world in a different way, in particular, they better remember events associated with aggressive behavior (DiCaprio, 1983).

Kelly believed that a person has a limited free will. Construct system that has developed in a person’s lifetime contains the known limitations. However, he did not believe that human life is completely determined. In any situation, a person is able to construct alternative predictions. The outside world is not evil and not good, but it is designed in the way we make it in our heads. Inner world of the person is subjective and is, according to cognitive scientists, one’s own creation. Each person perceives and interprets external reality through his own inner world (Hall & Lindzey, 1978).

Speaking about behavioral theory of personality, we should say that it is known under the name “the educational”, as the main thesis of this theory states that our personality is a product of learning. There are two trends in the behavioral theory of personality: reflective and social. The first is represented by the works of famous American behaviorists Watson and Skinner (Watson 1913, Skinner 1984). The founders of the social trends are U.S. researchers Bandura and J. Rotter (Bandura, 1977). The main source of human development, according to both areas, is the environment in the broadest sense of the word. It seems to be similar to the cognitive behavioral theory. According to proponents of behavioral studies, there is nothing in the personality of a genetic or psychological inheritance, as personality is the product of learning, and one’s properties are nothing but generalized behavioral reflexes and social skills. In terms of behavioral theory, it is possible “by order” to form any type of person – the worker or a gangster, a poet or a merchant. Skinner argued that personality is a set of social skills, formed as a result of operant learning. According to Skinner, operant is any change in the environment that results from a motor act. Man seeks to commit the operands followed by reinforcement and tend to avoid those followed by punishment. Thus, as a result of a certain system of reinforcements and punishments people acquire new social skills and, consequently, new personality traits, such as kindness or honesty, aggression or altruism (Skinner 1984, Angyal 1956).

According to the representatives of the second direction, the important role in the development of the individual is not played so much by external but internal factors, such as expectation, purpose, value and so on. Bandura called human behavior, determinate by internal factors, as self-regulation. The main task of self-regulation is to provide self-efficiency. In other words, it is logical to behave only in the way that a person can implement, considering the internal factors at any given time. Internal factors operate under their internal laws, though sprung from past experience as a result of learning through imitation (Snyder & Ickes, 1985).

Behaviorists believe that the personality is formed and developed over a lifetime as it goes through socialization, education, and learning processes. However, the early years of life are seen as those more important. The basis of any knowledge and abilities, including creative and spiritual, in their opinion, is laid in childhood. In personality, the rational and irrational processes are represented in equal measure. Their opposition is not meaningful. It all depends on the type and complexity of one’s behavior. In some cases, person can clearly understand his actions and his behavior, in other it becomes difficult or impossible.

According to behavioral theory, a person is almost completely devoid of free will. It means that one’s behavior is determined by the external circumstances. Human beings often behave like puppets, not realizing the consequences of their behavior, as they have learned social skills and reflexes, which because of their long-term use become automated. Inner world is objective. Everything in it depends on the environment. Personality is completely objectified in the behavioral manifestations. There is no any “front”. The behavior is a person. Behavioral signs of personality are susceptible to objective measurement (Corsini & Wedding, 1989). It is the main fact that differs behavioral theory from the cognitive one, which speaks about the limited freedom of the will of man, claiming that “the destiny of man is in his hands”.

Deep analysis of the above considered main provisions shows that they to some extent conceptually overlap. Thus, it makes sense to turn to the sources of these guidelines and to find out where they originate from. We are convinced that they are one of the faces of the scientist’s world – they reflect his personality warehouse. Theoretical assumptions about human nature are an integral part of the personality, along with other beliefs, basic values, and attitudes. Thus, the assumptions as well as other beliefs of the theorist about the world are acquired and developed.



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