The goals of psychology as a discipline are concerned with
describing, explaining and predicting people’s behavior, with the aim of
supporting and helping people with their lives (Poznań , 2014). One way of
approaching those goals is by studying individual differences, which are split
into two categories, traits and states. Traits are concerned with personality
and ability whereas states are concerned with mood and motivation (Cooper, 2010).
Personality is comprised on an individual’s usual pattern of
feelings, thoughts and behavior (Cooper, 2010). Prior to the emergence of personality
theory however, psychologists in the 20th century had what was
called the person-situation debate, where they debated whether the person’s
distinct characteristics determined behavior or the specific environment the
person is in, or situation is a better determinant of behavior (Epstein, 1985). Modern psychology
places somewhat equal weight on both the person and the situation (Judge & Zappata, 2015).
Also throughout the 20th century, there were several
approaches that dealt with personality theory, from both the quantitative and
the clinical or therapeutic schools of psychology. Since psychology as a
science was not well developed in the beginnings of the 20th century
(Chung & Hyland, 2012), personality was
first approached by schools that belonged to the therapeutic tradition. Some of
the most notable schools were the psychodynamic and the humanistic schools of
psychology (Laureate online education, 2016).
The psychodynamic school of thought was founded by the famous
Austrian psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theory focuses on the dichotomy
between the conscious and unconscious mind and their respective dynamic conflicts
Freud also proposed two personality models, the topographic and the structural
models. The first is composed of the mental layers, the conscious,
pre-conscious, and the unconscious. The structural model includes the id, ego,
and superego. Both models overlap, where the id and the superego are
unconscious drives, and the ego is the conscious mind that mitigates between
the unconscious desires of the id, and the unconscious moral compass of the
super-ego. When the dynamic conflicts of the unconscious can’t be resolved, a
state of neurosis presents itself. Freud also developed the concept of defense
mechanisms, and the role of defense mechanisms is to prohibit undesirable
unconscious thoughts from entering the conscious mind. Most Freudian theories
do not meet the scientific standards of modern psychology because they have
been very difficult if not near impossible to test. However, some defense
mechanisms, such as denial and reaction formation have substantial scientific
literature to back them up (Twenge & Campbell, 2017).
As for the humanistic schools of thought, it was founded by Abraham
Maslow and expanded by Carl Rogers, it was formed to some extent as a rebuttal
to psychodynamic theory and the early 20th century behaviorism.
Humanism focused on the idea that humans are conscious beings whereas the
others focused more on unconscious drives (Twenge & Campbell, Self-actualization and humanistic psychology,
Carl Rogers developed the Self-Theory, which is split into two modes, the
congruence and the incongruence modes. In the first the ideal self is equal to
the true self. In the later there are the ideal self, self-image, and
true-self. Most people are incongruent and aim to be congruent (JP, 2018).
Even though both humanistic and psychodynamic schools are
unscientific by modern standards, they have certainly contributed greatly to
the advancement of personality psychology.
Chung, M. C., & Hyland, M. E.
(2012). Evaluation of the idea that psychology is a science: what is science ?
In M. C. Chung, & M. E. Hyland, History and Philosophy of Psychology
(pp. 76 - 79). West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Incorporated.
Cooper, C. (2010). Introduction to individual
differences. In Individual Differences and Personality (pp. 1-6).
Deal, K. H. (2007). Psychodynamic theory . Advances
in Social Work.
Epstein, S. (1985). The person-situation debate in
historical and current perspective. Psychological Bulletin ,
JP. (2018). Revisiting carl rogers theory of
personality. Retrieved from Journal Psyche:
Judge, & Zappata. (2015). The person-situation
debate revisited: effect of situation strength and trait activation on the
validity of the big five personality traits in predicting job performance. Academy
of Management Journal, 1149–1179.
Laureate online education. (2016, November 10).
Week 5: conceptual and historical paradigms in psychology: a critical analysis.
part 1. gestalt psychology. Mind, Brain and Behavior. Netherlands:
Laureate Online Education B.V.
Poznań . (2014). On the method of psychology. an
introduction to the comparative methodology of scientific research. Poznań
studies in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities, p. 61.
Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2017).
Psychodynamic approaches. In Personality Psychology: Understanding Yourself
and Others (pp. 142-176). New York: Pearson.
Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2017).
Self-actualization and humanistic psychology. In Personality Psychology (pp.
189-191). New York: Pearson.