The eight perspectives of personality psychology are psychoanalytic, neo-analytic/ego, biological, behaviorist, cognitive, trait, humanistic, and interactionist. Each perspective identifies important elemental contributions, which when combined allow deeper understanding of the complex construct personality. These perspectives represent an evolution of scientific thought and analysis from simplistic categorization of personality as either nature versus nurture, or some variant thereof. In fact, rather than one or the other, the perspectives seem to present a continuum of nature and/or environmental influences, which may be visualized as a pendulum swinging from side to side. For instance, the psychoanalytic perspective emphasizes unconscious contributions, which may be the result of biology, genetics, or nature, but also may result from social or situational interactions learned or evolved over time. The biological, humanistic, and trait perspectives also appreciate the influence of unconscious influences such that the biological perspective focuses on genetic or heredity influences, the humanistic perspective incorporates human spirituality, and the trait perspective identifies stable traits, skills, or temperament of the individual. Seemingly, in contrast, the behaviorist, cognitive, interactionist, and neo-analytic/ego perspectives represent environmental influences on personality. For instance, the behaviorist perspective emphasizes learned behavioral responses to outside stimuli, while the cognitive perspective emphasizes the mind’s function in understanding one’s environment. The interactionist perspective emphasizes iterative functioning of the individual within its social and environmental relationships, and the potential variability dependent upon contexts. Lastly, the neo-analytic/ego perspective focuses on the interaction between internal drives and/or emotions with outside (environmental) or social demands. Although these perspectives reflect environmental influences, they do not necessarily obviate unconscious processes at work, i.e., nature’s influences. In fact, the neo-analytic/ego perspective specifically relates to unconscious (emotional/drive) processes in relationship to external influences or contexts, thusly incorporating both nature and nurture aspects.
McCrae (2011) argues passionately for predominant presentation of trait theory in personality psychology coursework, pointing to the many strengths of theory such as credibility of self-report assessments, consistency of traits over time evidenced by longitudinal studies, genetic evidence, and cross-cultural similarities in personality traits. Michalski and Shackelford (2010) suggest personality should be understood through an evolutionary lens, pointing to equally significant supportive research regarding biological adaptation, environmental adaptation, and sex differences. Although contemporary theorists may argue for one perspective over another, particularly within their particular research domain, our text suggests a more inclusive approach to personality psychology because each perspective offers unique strengths and weaknesses through which to inform the complex construct (Friedman & Schustack, 2012).
Thus, an inclusive approach to the study of personality incorporating the eight perspectives indicated above proves to be the most useful approach because it serves to include all aspects without neglecting any individual perspective thereby allowing deeper understanding of the overall construct. Further, an inclusive view from multiple perspectives encourages original and creative thinking regarding the theories and perspectives, which may not otherwise occur.
As a personal example, reading about the historical influence of Western religion traditions on personality psychology provided additional insight into other concepts such as understanding information from recent readings in apologetics, which is the logical defense of Christianity. According to my readings, Western religiosity decreased significantly over the past few decades, but has made a recent comeback. It is possible to postulate this decrease negatively correlates to increased emphasis on reason and logic because the church has historically focused on faith and emotion over proof and reason. Although there has been a resurgence in both reasoned and faithful belief in Christianity, there is a deeper understanding of the difficulties faced by religion. It is possible that in addition to the negativity imposed by nonbelievers, there is also a perceived battle between a culture of reason and sense of individuality. In fact, it is one of the reasons I became interested in apologetics. I am a devout Christian, but I am also a researcher, and have a strong science background. Hence, I needed a stronger foundation of understanding, based on reason, to validate my faith. It is a credit to inclusive education that presents all the valid information to students so that they may integrate it into their current understandings of not just the construct under scrutiny, but other domains as well.
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
McCrae, R. R. (2011). Personality theories for the 21st century. Society for the teaching of psychology, 38(3), 209-214. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0098628311411785
Michalski, R. L., & Shackelford, T. K. (2010). Evolutionary personality psychology: Reconciling human nature and individual differences. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(5), 509-516. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2009.10.027