Personality Theory


Purpose: Over the course of the semester you will learn about a number of different theories regarding what personality is and where it comes from. Undoubtedly you will have opinions about these theories—you will agree with some points and disagree with others. Psychologists know that the most innovative and novel ideas in psychology frequently come from individuals who have NOT been studying psychology for years—psychology is relatively new to them. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is because those individuals still question many of the assumptions and connections in the current theories. That is, they think outside the box. Because you are relatively new to the field of psychology you too think in novel ways about human behavior, including personality. The purpose of this assignment is to afford you the opportunity to think critically about how you feel about different aspects of the study of personality.

Directions: In this assignment you will write an APA style paper that details the following:

Create your operational definition of personality.
The components of your theory you believe are important, (and why), based on research, as well as a justification for why other theories do not provide an adequate account of personality (i.e. a review and critique of the literature).
A plan for how you would show validity of your theory (how you would test it).
A plan for how you would assess personality.
An analysis of yourself that uses your personality theory.
And an analysis of a character from a TV show that uses your personality theory.


1. Create your operational definition: An operational definition is a working definition. It is a statement of the way you will measure personality. So, if you believe personality is determined by preferences for colors, you would operationally define personality according to that: “In this theory personality is considered to be one’s preference for different colors, as determined by ratings of hue, saturation, and brightness.”

2. Determine what the components are. If you think that personality is based on color preferences, for example, then you would need to state what a preference for each color would mean, based on the literature. Make sure you justify your points—it is not enough to just say it is based on something without backing up with scientific evidence why you believe that. For example, I could something like: Palmer and Schloss (2010) argue that color preferences are strongly biologically based and have adaptive value. However, certain cultures prefer some cultures over others (Grozier, 1999). Furthermore, social factors such as school spirit leads some individuals to prefer certain colors over others (Schloss, Pogessi, & Palmer, 2011). Because individuals differ in terms of socialization, and personal experiences, it may be that personality is tied to color preferences” I am building up a justification for my idea that color underlies personality differences in individuals. Now I would need to specify what it meant if someone liked green, blue, red, and so on.

3. Remember that something is valid if it represents the construct you think you are measuring. In this case you are measuring personality, so you will want to show me how your theory is related to other personality theories, unrelated to theories that are not personality theories, and so on.

4. Your next step will be to determine how you would assess personality using your theory. If I think personality is based on color preference, then do I ask people rate their preference for certain colors? Do I ask them to identify it from a range of colors? Do I collect information on more than one color—for example, maybe their LEAST favorite color is more predictive of personality than their most favorite color?

5. Next you will want to apply your theory to yourself. Think about your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and discuss these elements in relation to your theory. For example, if I decided in my theory that a color preference is related to personality I would need to explain how that is manifested—so I would explain my penchant for wine and eggplant in terms of my preference for purple. Wherever possible, give examples so you can explicitly show the link between your personality and your theory.

6. Now do this but apply it to a TV character. You will need to watch at least 3 episodes to get a decent idea of their personality, so leave enough time for this step. Make sure you elaborate so that I understand that person’s personality in relation to your theory. Provide examples to help demonstrate your theory. Note that it is okay to show that your theory does not do a great job of predicting personality. If it really doesn’t, just support that using logic and evidence.

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