Personality Psychology: Theories And Terminology

The psychology of personality is one of the largest and most popular branches of psychology, psychologists strive to understand how personality develops and how it influences our thinking and behavior, also evaluate, diagnose and treat disorders of personality that can interfere with the daily life of an individual. In other words, this branch studies how personality develops within the psyche and influenced by society.

What makes you who you are? Certainly many factors contribute to the person you are today, including your genetics, your education, and your life experiences. Many might argue that what really makes you unique are the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that make up your personality, although there is no single agreed definition of personality , it is often seen as something that arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life, encompassing all thoughts, behavior patterns, and social attitudes that affect the way we see ourselves and what we believe about others and the world around us.

Understanding this term allows psychologists to predict how people will respond to certain situations and the kinds of things they prefer and value.

What are the main theories of personality psychology?

The psychology of personality is the center of some of the theories of psychology best known of a number of famous thinkers such as Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson, some attempt to address a specific area of personality, while others attempt to explain personality much more broadly.

Biological theories

Biological approaches suggest that genetics is responsible for personality, in the classic nature versus nutrition debate, biological theories of personality are on the side of nature.

Research on heritability suggests that there is a link between genetics and personality traits, twin studies are often used to investigate which traits may be related to genetics versus those that could be related to environmental variables. For example, researchers can look at the differences and similarities in the personalities of twins raised together compared to those raised separately.

One of the best known biological theorists was Hans Eysenck, who related aspects of personality to biological processes. For example, Eysenck argued that introverts had high cortical arousal, leading them to avoid stimulation, on the other hand, he believed that extroverts had little cortical arousal, leading them to seek stimulating experiences. Read more about biological theories. (Required item)

Behavioral theories

Behavioral theorists include BF Skinner and John B. Watson, they suggest that personality is the result of the interaction between the individual and the environment, they study observable and measurable behaviors, rejecting theories that take into account internal thoughts and feelings. . Complete content on behavioral theories. (Required item)

Psychodynamic theories

Psychodynamic theories of personality are strongly influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud and emphasize the influence of the unconscious mind and childhood experiences on personality, where they include Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stage theory and the stages of psychosocial development. by Erik Erikson.

Freud believed that the three components of the personality were identification, the ego, and the superego. Identification is responsible for all needs and drives, while the superego of ideals and morals, the ego moderates between the demands of the id, the superego and reality, Freud suggested that children progress through a series of stages in which the energy is focused on different erogenous zones.

Erikson also believed that the personality progressed through a series of stages, with certain conflicts arising at each stage. Success at any stage depends on the successful overcoming of these conflicts. Get more information on psychodynamic theories. (Required item)

Humanistic theories

Humanistic theories emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in personality development. Humanist theorists also focused on the concept of self-actualization, which is an innate need for personal growth that motivates behavior, they include Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Read more about humanistic theories. (Required item)

Trait theories

The trait theory approach is one of the most prominent areas within personality psychology, according to these theories, personality is made up of a number of broad traits. A trait is basically a relatively stable characteristic that causes an individual to behave in certain ways, some of the best known trait theories include Eysenck’s three-dimensional theory and the five-factor theory of personality.

Eysenck used personality questionnaires to collect data from the participants and then employed a statistical technique known as factor analysis to analyze the results, he concluded that there were three main dimensions of personality: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.

During his initial examination, he described two main dimensions of personality which he referred to as Introversion / Extraversion and Neuroticism / Stability. The first related to the way in which people tend to interact with the world, while neuroticism and stability are related to emotionality.

Eysenck believed that these dimensions combine in different ways to form an individual’s unique personality. Later, he added the third dimension known as psychoticism, which relates to things like aggression, empathy, and sociability.

Later researchers suggested that there are five broad dimensions that make up people’s personalities, known as the Big 5 personality theory, this theory suggests that the five main dimensions of personality are Openness, Consciousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. More on trait theories. (Required item)

Important terminology within the psychology of personality

Classical conditioning

A behavioral training technique that begins with a natural stimulus that elicits an automatic response. Then a previously neutral stimulus is combined with the natural stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the response without the presence of the natural stimulus, the two elements are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. Learn and read more about classical conditioning.

Operant conditioning

A behavior training technique in which reinforcement or punishment is used to influence behavior, an association is established between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. Complete content of operant conditioning. 

unconscious mind

In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, impulses and memories that are outside of our consciousness, most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences. Read the full content on unconscious mind.

Psychoanalytic theory of personality


According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, ID is the component of the personality composed of unconscious psychic energy that functions to satisfy basic desires, needs and desires, it works based on the pleasure principle, which demands the immediate satisfaction of the needs.


According to Freud, the ego is the largely unconscious part of the personality that mediates the demands of identification, the superego, and reality. The ego prevents us from acting on our basic impulses (created by the ID), but it also works to achieve a balance with our idealistic and moral standards (created by the superego).


The superego is the component of the personality composed of our internalized ideals that we have acquired from our parents and from society, it works to suppress the impulses of identification and tries to make the ego behave morally, rather than realistically.


An innate human need for personal growth that encourages behavior. Read more about psychoanalysis 

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.