8 julio, 2024

Personality psychology: what it is, concepts, division and theories

What is the psychology of personality?

The personality psychology It is a branch of psychology that studies the character and differences between individuals. It studies the psychological traits that identify an individual or a group of individuals, their formation, structure and functions.

The classic representative of this discipline is the American psychologist Gordon Allport, with his book The personalityfrom 1936.

Personality is the pattern of feelings, thoughts, social adjustments, and behaviors exhibited over time, and it has a significant influence on personal perceptions, expectations, attitudes, and values.

This discipline must explain how personality originates, develops, organizes, and evolves through available theoretical developments and ongoing research.

Division of personality psychology

General personality psychology

It is dedicated to the study of processes and structures common to all people.

differential personality psychology

It focuses on the differences between individuals and/or groups from a normative, descriptive and quantitative perspective.

individual psychology of personality

Analyze the individual with respect to himself, without comparing him with his group, studying the person, his temporary changes and his constant elements.

elements of personality

There are a series of basic, stable and durable components that organize the personality of individuals.

This dimension is related to psychological processes such as motivation, cognition, emotion, etc.

Allport listed a series of elements that make up personality. Among them are: intellectual capacities, temperamental traits, unconscious motives, social attitudes, cognitive methods and functioning schemes, interests and values, expressive and stylistic traits, pathological tendencies and groups of traits.

The personality is manifested in any behavior that the subject performs. It is a global whole, it is organized and shows coherence.

It is influenced in multiple ways, since there are from biological to cultural and social influences. In addition, it gives distinctiveness and identity to the person.

behaviors in personality

Self-reference behaviors

They are those that are directed at oneself. Some of them are often called selfalthough they are not necessarily of a psychic type.

Social Presentation Behaviors

They refer to the characteristics of the presentation of oneself to another and are associated with the concepts of role and status. They derive from the concept of the mask as a representation and function as a simulation element.

Self-protection and coping behaviors

They are the analogy of biological immunological processes. Its main function is to deal with the environment to favor the survival and development of individuals.

Control locus

The locus of control (locus of control) is one of the best-known concepts in the field of personality psychology.

This concept refers to how the individual thinks and acts depending on the control they have over themselves (Internal Locus of Control) and the environment (External Locus of Control).

The first scientist to address this concept was Julian Rotter (1954) with his theory of social learning.

It is probable that a certain behavior will be produced depending on the expectation of a certain reinforcement and the value of this reinforcer for the subject himself.

The factors related to the internal locus of control are capacity, effort, strength, etc. In the external locus of control we find luck and destiny, as well as the power of others around us.

internal locus of control

That a person has an internal locus of control means that they consider that the things that can happen to them depend on it. These types of people tend to be more responsible and take control of their lives.

For example, people of this type, if they are actively looking for a job, will do everything in their power to find it. Also, when they work, they are committed people who have no problem taking on new challenges.

external locus of control

People with external locus of control, following the employment example above, are likely to give up more easily. In the case of not finding a job, they will attribute this situation to the crisis or to other factors that do not directly depend on them.

Normally, these people are more dissatisfied with their lives and believe that they will not be able to overcome the adversities that will appear throughout life.

Perceived self-efficacy theory

This theory is from Albert Bandura. Bandura stated that self-regulation begins with self-observation of the behavior and the judgment that the individual emits about himself, and that it concludes in a determined response that leads to the restart of the cycle.

That is, start over with the process of self-observation. The variable that mediates between the judgment and the response is the perceived self-efficacy, which is derived from the background or previous history of whether or not the individual has been able to carry out that action before and the results obtained.

Bandura did not relate perceived self-efficacy to expectation of results. He stated that it is difficult to estimate how capable a person is of doing something if he does not know why it happens (attribution) or who or what he depends on (locus of control).


This concept was introduced by William James in 1890, when he said that the self is the center of all experience. Human beings divide the world into “me” and “not me” (based on the comparisons we make).

According to the author, there were many selves depending on the context in which the individual was at the time. Some people have more and others less.

This concept has been widely studied throughout the history of psychology, is an important axis of psychological science and is present in the daily work of psychoanalysis and therapists who are based on cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The self makes sense in everyday life and within phenomenological experience. Often, it appears with other terms such as self-aware, self-esteem, selfish, etc.

All these dimensions are forged throughout the lives of individuals and make up their personality.

It influences the way a person interprets the world. It appears in childhood, when the self-concept begins to be created and the difference between the self and others begins.

This item is required. The self serves to understand what otherwise appear to be discrepant or unrelated findings. It also serves to understand the different moods, depending on a certain moment or situation.

trait concept

Traits are fundamental elements within the psychology of personality. They are the stable and transitional (pre)dispositions (occur at different times and contexts) of individuals to respond in a certain way.

This property is proper to the subject, that is, internal, and common to all individuals. The trait encompasses a wide range of behaviors. In this way, traits make it possible to define a behavior.

What differentiates one person from another is the value of each trait. This means that each person has a level (percentile) of each of the listed traits according to this theory.

There are various theories and authors who speak of traits. Some of them are the following.

Catell’s theory

This theory is the first to speak of features of lexical origin.

Through a questionnaire (16 PF) biographical data, self-report data (that is, the person completes it through a letter, or in an interview with the psychologist) and behavior observation are obtained.

In this way, three types of traits are obtained:

– Temperamental traits that regulate action.

– Dynamic features that ensure the operation of the system. They are goal oriented.

– Traits «Ability»: are the abilities, aptitudes and intelligence of the individual.

Pentafactor models

The origin of this model was to elaborate a classification of the basic dimensions of personality. Through correlations, different personality traits located between two extremes are shown.

Costa and McCrae developed various tests to find out the traits in the evaluation of the personality of individuals. Between them, they created the NEO-PI-R in which they stated 5 traits with their corresponding opposite pole:


Openness to Experience (Openness). This factor shows how the person seeks new experiences and uses creativity for her future. People who score high on this trait are drawn to art and aesthetics, like to try new foods, and like to travel.

In contrast to the openness to experience, there are people who are Closed to Experience. These types of people prefer to live the routine, without major changes.


Responsibility (Conscientiousness). It refers to whether the person is focused and disciplined to achieve the goal that has been proposed.

A high score in this trait speaks of organized people. The opposite is the lack of responsibility.


Extraversion (Extraversion). This trait tells us about subjects who like to be surrounded by people and feel comfortable with these situations. They tend to be cordial and assertive.

At the opposite extreme to extraversion, we find introversion. An introverted person is not the same as shy. Introverts don’t want to be around people, they are less impulsive and enjoy the company of a few people or being alone more.

Factor A

Agreeableness. It shows the degree to which the person shows trust, a conciliatory and altruistic attitude with those around him.

These types of people usually have a vocation to help others. On the opposite side is the opposition, which usually responds to a more aggressive pattern.


Neuroticism (Neuroticism). Also known as emotional instability. People with a high score tend to be anxious and show depressive symptoms.

In small doses, neuroticism does not have to be a problem, you have to learn to manage it properly.

At the opposite extreme is emotional stability, which is when a person is able to face the challenges that life throws at them and manages their emotions appropriately.

Each trait (or factor) is named after a letter for the first letter of that word in English. In this way, the theory known as The Big Five (the big five, referring to the traits) is given. As a mnemonic, the word OCEAN is used.


Cognitive and Social Approach. Julian Rotter. Recovered from actiweb.es.
PELECHANO, V. (2000). Systemic psychology of personality. Ariel.

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