Alan C. Elms
Personality Theory
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Personality Theory F.A.Q.

1.) Q: What is personality?

A: Most definitions of personality imply some fairly specific underlying personality theory, so I usually avoid giving a general definition of personality. If you insist, I'll quote myself from my 1976 book "Personality in Politics," page v: "I interpret personality as including any individual psychological variations that influence behavior." [See this website's Virtual Library, Books Online, "Personality in Politics," preface.]

2.) Q: Which personality theory do you advocate?

A: Whichever one appears most useful in understanding a given personality in a given situation. I don't assume that any one personality theory is generally applicable to everyone. Personality theories grow out of the personal experiences of their creators, as well as the creators' observations of other individuals. Freud's theories often give us insights into ourselves or others, but Freud was limited by his own experiences, his cultural background, etc., and the same can be said for any other theorist. I tend to use psychodynamic personality theories most often, i.e., theories that include the existence of an active unconscious as well as of conscious processing of experience. But sometimes I rely on certain aspects of theories that emphasize conscious information processing, of the sort currently popular in social psychology, and sometimes I even use Skinnerian concepts, such as positive reinforcement, which don't assume the existence either of conscious information processing or of a dynamic unconscious. Personality theories are to be used, not merely to be admired.


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