Contemporary Theory & Research

Theory and Research in Contemporary Personality Psychology
Grand theories of personality - theories that attempt to explain ALL aspects of personality and individual differences in behavior.
biological approaches - at present, this is the fastest growing orientation in terms for research and interest.
Behavior Genetics - science that seeks to unravel the influences of heredity and environment on personality and behavior. Implicit in this
approach is the idea that genes and experience are constantly interacting in highly complex ways. Ryckman refers to this as the
"Interactional Temperament Model."
Evolutionary Theory - focuses on how behaviors and traits developed over our
evolutionary history (e.g., members of the species possessing traits that were "adaptive" were more likely to survive and pass on their
"Differential Parental Investment Hypothesis" - Male - female differences in approaches to
mating and procreation have their roots in our evolutionary past and function to promote
survival of both individual offspring and of the species.
1. males prefer many mates whereas females are more selective.
2. females are more "invested" in offspring because of the "nine month" vs. "nine minute" difference involved in procreation.
Some other mating issues:
1. youth, clear skin, lustrous hair, symmetry, etc. suggest greater reproductive ability.
2. for a male, an attractive mate
is a sign of "status."
3. males are concerned primarily with sexual infidelity whereas females are
concerned primarily with emotional infidelity.
the "Multicultural Perspective" - Personality psychologists are directing more attention towards which traits are consistent across cultures
and which are different.
For example, western cultures tend to be "individualist" (with people crediting accomplishments to their "natures" and blaming failures on
external factors).
Eastern and less industrialized cultures tend to be "collectivist" (with people attributing accomplishments to effort or luck and blaming
failures on internal factors such as lack of skill or effort).
Androgynous role - Individuals with this orientation possess both masculine and feminine traits. Some researchers suggest that this
orientation is positive and leads to greater flexibility in problem solving.
religion and personality - Increasingly, psychologists believe that religious belief
(especially with a "Mature Religious Orientation) has beneficial effects. However,
most psychologists have traditionally held negative attitudes towards religion.
At present,only 43% of psychologists are "believers," whereas over 90% of the American population in general are "believers."
The Five Factor Model - is currently the most agreed upon model of personality. However, Ryckman suggests it is NOT the definitive
model and does NOT represent a comprehensive "taxonomy of human traits."
1. The factor labels are not fully agreed upon (e.g., some insist on calling extraversion "surgency"
2. In contrast, the label "emotional stability/neuroticism is almost universally agreed upon.
3. Factor analyses by researchers such as Paunonen and Jackson (2000) suggest more than five factors.
4. Ryckman suggests that the Big Five are at present "Primarily Descriptive" and that they need to be linked to explanatory theoretical
frameworks such as Eysenck's.
Positive Psychology - is a new approach that focuses not on dysfunction but on those traits
which give people strength and enhance their lives. Leading proponents are Martin
Seligman and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (Mr. C).
Humanists - suggest that positive psychology is no different from humanism and that the new name is NOT needed.
Seligman and Mr. C - respond by saying that the difference is that Positive psychology is built on a solid empirical basis whereas
humanism is not.
"forgiveness" - is one example of a positive trait. Harrar (2002) found forgiveness to be associated with slower heart rate and lower blood
"self control" - is another positive trait. Children who experience "Authoritative" parenting (as opposed to permissive or authoritarian
parenting) tend to be higher in self control.
Life Story Techniques - Ryckman suggests that in the future, more personality data be collected via methods OTHER THAN self-report
(which can sometimes be inaccurate): "life story techniques" (narratives or diaries), interviews, behavioral observation, etc.